The Ri's STEM enrichment grant programme provides students with an experience above and beyond what the school may be able to offer itself. With £35,000 worth of grants awarded each year it has the potential to make a substantial difference in the lives of UK primary and secondary schools and FE college students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We spoke to a teacher from Purwell Infant and Nursery School in Bately, near Leeds, about what receiving a STEM enrichment grant has meant for her students:
Purlwell School and Eggucation
Please could you tell me who you are?
I’m the lead teacher in Reception here at Purwell. I made the grant application to the Royal Institution along with my colleague, Alison Houlker and coordinated the funded activity.
Can you tell me about the STEM activity that you chose?
We booked with a company called Eggucation to provide activities for our entire Reception – 90 pupils in total – based around live chickens. They delivered a clutch of chicken eggs, which hatched within two weeks. The chicks were collected another two weeks later. During this period, the children learnt and consolidated everyday language such as size, shape, weight and so on. This led on to counting and recording chicks when they began to hatch and weighting them so comparisons could be made. Children learnt about life cycles and food chains and properties such as hard and soft were explored along with habitats for different animals.
How did the day itself, when the eggs were delivered, take shape?
They gave a presentation specifically for our Reception children to set the scene for the programme and introduce the concept of the life cycle of the chicken. They talked about how the egg incubator (which they left the school with) would replicate nature and gave each class a countdown calendar to show the children what they would expect to see each day prior to the eggs hatching. After the presentation, children took it in turns in smaller groups to ‘meet and greet’ some hens. They fed them and saw first-hand what the eggs would grow into.
Why did you choose this activity?
Our school is located at the heart of the Asian community in Batley. There are high levels of deprivation in the area and most of our children never venture beyond the locality of the school. Opportunities for our children to experience wildlife and nature are very limited. This activity was chosen because we believed our children would be inspired to see a real life cycle in front of their eyes. We want to widen their views of the world around them and in particular the value of caring for living things and each other.
What was the impact of the day on your pupils?
The activity developed speaking and listening skills far beyond our expectations! For example, one child is an elective mute. As a result of the activity he now engages with others and is more confident in speaking. Children have a greater understanding of life cycles and are now looking at the life cycle of caterpillars and butterflies. The activity gave our children an opportunity to experience something they would not have been able to do normally. Children learnt how to care and look after living things and how to respect animals.
Do you have any plans to build on the activity in the future?
A visit to a farm is planned for later in the summer term where children will be able to see other animals and compare their size, shape, weight, food and so on.
If you are a teacher and would like to apply for a STEM grant, then sign up to the Ri’s education newsletter to hear first when a grant scheme opens.
For further information, visit the STEM directories webpage. The next grant scheme, which is maths-specific and funded by the Clothworkers' Foundation, is due to open in October of this year.
The Ri is grateful to the funders of our STEM Directories, the Clothworkers' Foundation and Causeway Foundation, for making activities such as these possible.
The Royal Institution joins 45 leading science organisations in a letter to European policy makers to highlight that an open exchange of people and ideas is crucial for science.
Posted to Talking science on17th February 2017