With London schools re-visiting sites that proved to be successful last year, new schools coming onboard and Leicester University Botanical Gardens successfully introducing adapted London Outdoor Science (LOS) activities to local schools, the LOS project has achieved a lot in two years. The website now hosts all key resources that have been trialled at sites with schools across London. These are freely downloadable and can be adapted easily for individual needs.
Although much has been learnt over the last two years, one area that has been a concern is the lack of curriculum development in fieldwork resources. Many outdoor activities have not changed over the last decade, nor have the teaching methods to support them.
With the support of AstraZeneca funding, a team from FSC and King’s College London will address this issue. Over the next year a series of outdoor science activities will be developed with elements of Assessment for Learning (AfL) and Cognitive Acceleration (CA) strategies enthused into them. Teachers, many of whom have already been involved in the LOS project, will develop, trial and evaluate resources with pupils and through CPD workshops. The final resources will be made available on-line.
Mid-February saw, alongside snow falling in London, 50 King's College London (KCL) PGCE Science students descending on Juniper Hall Field Centre in Dorking, Surrey.
This was the first time for KCL that a residential field weekend had enabled all science trainees, including Chemists and Physicists, to gain hands-on experience within the outdoor classroom. While the biologists concentrated on how terrestrial habitats could best be used for the teaching of A-level Biology, the other trainees considered how aquatic habitats could enhance their KS3 teaching.
Similar to last March in collaboration with the Science Learning Centre London a one-day INSET was held for local teachers in how to utilise urban space in the teaching of SNAB A-level Biology. The course was run by Mark Ward and took place at the Soanes' Centre SETPOINT located in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.
Finally, again similar to last year local schools - St. Paul's and Langdon Park - ventured out to Tower Hamlets Cemetery where pupils from Year 7, 8 and 9 helped to collect date for the biodiversity project. Instead of collecting data in a traditional fashion, pupils' trialled PDAs with identification key and data spreadsheets software installed (Wildkey). Pupils were found to be increasingly engaged in aquatic invertebrate identification and counting due to the use of the PDAs. Where previously results may have gone missing prior to the post-fieldwork session the tutor, Ruth Deforges, up-loaded and sent the data directly to the class teachers. How this data will be used is yet to be seen. but watch this space!
Through the ASE conference in Birmingham the London Outdoor Science project shared its growing resources with teachers nationally. A workshop titled Outdoor Science: through the door was run in conjunction with a series of workshops titled Outdoor Science: through the window and Outdoor Science: through the gate. Attendees spent time outside investigating how outdoor activities could be incorporated into the new KS4 science courses.
Jayne Barber at Mile End Ecology Park has been running departmental INSETs at local secondary schools explaining the benefits of using the new facilities offered at the park. Bow Boys' School recently experienced the park's potential and spent a short session studying trees for signs of air pollution.
This autumn has seen the development of the London Outdoor Science website. The site now lists many of the activities that have been developed in partnership with school teachers and environmental tutors. These activities focus on KS4 and can be searched under examination specification, London Borough and topics. The site is still in its early stages. New resources at more local sites will be added over the forthcoming months.
In December 2005 it was reported that PGCE Science students from King's College London enjoyed a days training in the urban outdoor classroom. A similar day was run in November 2006, but this time had grown to include PGCE Science students from the Institute of Education London.
The day started inside at the Science Learning Centre London. Between the rain-bursts students explored the potential science found in London squares. The day was completed investigating water pollution in the ponds and canals around Mile End.
By the end of July 2006 the project had successfully worked with 15 secondary schools. Appropriately 65 outdoor sessions have taken place, involving 48 differing classes located across nine field sites.
In total approximately 1000 pupils have been taught science at local field sites during spring and summer terms 2006.
The outdoor classroom was clearly a resource previously under-utilised by many of the participating departments.
To enable such a substantial number of pupils to have these opportunities, 38 science teachers - many for the first time - led and taught, or team taught, sessions. Six environmental education officers supported some of these schools in their delivery at local sites.
London Outdoor Science has produced site and KS4 curriculum specific activities that have supporting pre- and post- fieldwork materials.
To continue regional dissemination a well attended workshop was given at the ASE South East regional meeting held in Guildford at the end of June.
The schools now working with London Outdoor Science include:
Through the Science Learning Centre East Midlands the project has set up links with the education team at Leicester's Botanic Gardens. The education team will trial resources from the London Outdoor Science project with secondary schools in Leicester. The education team will work with teachers and pupils sites local to schools. By developing the project in other cities the needs and potential barriers arising from differing communities can be highlighted. Resources and methods can then be found to help remove obstacles so that science can be learnt in the 'real world'.
The last few months have seen increased outdoor science activity at secondary level focusing on Hampstead Heath. La Sainte Union have continued to inspire their after school club with a sequence of sessions on the Heath. The group have studied aquatic invertebrates, been bird watching and identified grassland invertebrates. Acland Burghley's Year 9 students have been introduced to the new KS4 OCR GCSE through an air pollution study, again based on the Heath. Students have been seen studying trees for pollution along a belt transect, hoping to collect evidence to support a claim that more pollution is found at the bottom of the Parliament Hill.
In Waterlow Park near Highgate St. Aloysius Year 9 boys have been considering the effects of shade on plant adaptations. They have been out with plant identification keys, quadrats, light meters and pH soil kits to sample areas under trees in this park. The teacher in charge said that, "the boys were very excited about what they had done in the park, and the activities were focused so behaviour was very good".
Down in Tower Hamlets both the Cemetery Park and Mile End Ecology Park have had visits from Central Foundation Girls School. The school has started the OCR Gateway specification with a practical hook and has been teaching the girls how it is possible to sample differing habitats. Some 14 sessions are planned for the year group over the next 2 months; this obviously has taken some planning but has been felt to be key to increasing the pupils understanding about science in the real world.
Science Week, held in March, saw the first schools getting outside to investigate urban science. Central Foundation Girls School in Tower Hamlets used the week as an opportunity to generate excitement in the KS3 ecology units and build confidence in the science department for the forthcoming curriculum changes.
Year 7 pupils looked closer at an aquatic ecosystem at Mile End Ecology Park, and were surprised to find so much life in the ponds considering the conditions. Year 8 pupils at both Central Foundation and Langdon Park School took part in a national biodiversity survey run by SETNET (www.setnet.org.uk).
The pupils, after a crash course in woodland invertebrate identification, sampled a site located in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. The pupils also recorded abiotic conditions, using a data-logger, so findings could be analysed and compared nationally with other schools.
Finally, La Sainte Union Girls School (Camden) science club kicked off this week with a Spring Watch Nature Detective session. Supported by Hampstead Heath Education team the pupils went out in their school grounds in search of the first signs of spring. Girls could be seen creeping silently around the school grounds with binoculars intent on observing the first swift nationally.
Results so far from the survey sent out to all secondary schools in the 5 pilot boroughs are showing that very little outdoor work is being completed at KS4 in science presently. This though has meant that many schools have shown a great interest in the project especially as the new science specifications for KS4 want to incorporate more science understanding and less learning of facts. Thus the outdoors is at last being seen by many as a resource that will allow more of this type of learning.
The project has been brought to the attention of Heads of Department not only through mail outs and the ASE newsletter but also through presentations at secondary science cluster meetings in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. 15 schools have already shown an interest including Acland Burghley, La Sainte Union, Cardinal Pole, Plashet School, Bishop Challoner, Langdon Park Community School and Clapton Girls Technology College. Closely located outdoor sites to these schools have been audited and specific specification activities are being designed so Year 9 pupils at these schools can start the new GCSEs with excitement in May 2006.
At the start of the month 15 Physics and Chemist PGCE students whom are enrolled on Booster sessions at King's College London got the opportunity to visit several local urban sites to consider the practical aspect for science teaching that such sites offered. Mile End might not immediately spring to mind when you think about aquatic life studies, plant adaptations due to grazing or lichen studies but these were all practicals successfully completed during the day within this East London area.