As part of her honours project Mary Roughley visited Mosspits Lane Primary School in Wavertree, Liverpool, during Science week. She has spent an afternoon with each year 6 class and engaged with the pupils on topics such as scales in the universe, the concept and calculation of magnification and the power of using microscopy in biology. As part of her honours project, Mary has planned the session and developed the supporting worksheets and instruction protocols. After a short presentation, the whole class went out onto the playground to collect their own live samples to view under the microscope, the class were then split into three groups to rotate between the three exercises that were organised. The most popular activity was collecting and viewing their samples. The pupils were given magnifying glasses and also had access to the Zeiss stemi labscope to enable them to examine their specimens. They collected insects, worms, leafs, bread crumb, aphids, hairs…They really enjoyed this activity and were fascinated and very excited by what they could see with a microscope: worms digestive tubes, tiny unsuspected hairs on insect legs and “a starry night sky” (salt imaged with transmitted light)!
The pupils also made their own magnifier using water in petri dishes. They learnt how to calculate magnification and used this knowledge to calculate and compare the magnification of a magnifying glass and the magnifier that they made. They realised that their magnifier made with a drop of water was as good as a commercial magnifying glass.
For the third activity, the pupils used the schools computers and an online programme to learn more about scales. The software showed objects of different sizes ranging from galaxies to a proton nucleus. This activity reinforced the idea that microscopes are essentials to biologists, as many things are much too small to be seen with the naked eye. This is what Mary says about her experience: “I received excellent feedback from the pupils. They thoroughly enjoyed the session and some mentioned that they would like to become biologists. They particularly enjoyed using the microscope and collecting their samples and a number of pupils said that the only bad part of the session was packing away! As a proof of the success of the half-day, the teachers had to fight for the children to go out at playtime. They preferred observing their samples under the microscope. I have personally really enjoyed delivering the sessions, I found the experience very rewarding especially when the pupils said they wanted to be biologists! The experience has also made me consider teaching as a career.” This is what the children wrote about the session: “‘I wish the session was longer!!; I liked seeing the intestines in the worm, it was gross but cool!; The bacteria in the pond water was really cool.” It was a very enjoyable experience at all levels: for the children, the teachers, the undergraduate student involved and me, the academic supervisor. Thank you to Mosspits Lane to have worked with us on this project.
Violaine Sée, IIB
By Luciane V. Mello
One way we can contribute to young people’s enthusiasm for science is by working with their teachers, e.g. through continuing professional development schemes like STEM Insight.
Last February in partnership with the Biochemical Society we received Maria Saeed, from Blackburn College, for her Insight into University experience placement.
The week was a great experience and I am now putting into practice what I have learnt. For example, I am working on developing a numeracy skills pack for all learners, and I am hoping to do several practical sessions in the same format I saw at the university that worked very well… I believe the scheme has been invaluable in developing my own teaching practice and the links between the college and Liverpool University in the long-term.
I’m delighted to report that Maria Saeed was nominated for the ENTHUSE Further Education Award, an event organised by STEM Learning and the Wellcome Trust to recognise the impact that teachers and technicians have on their pupils, colleagues, schools, colleges and peers. I would like to thank all members of staff who helped me to offer Maria a wonderful experience during her week in the Department of Biochemistry (IIB) and in the School of Life Sciences: Amal Abdulkadir, Fabia Allen, Peter Alston, Andy Bates, Rob Beynon, Elaine Connor, Caroline Dart, Claire Eyers, Pat Eyers, Karen Fitzsimons, Blair Grubb, Phil Harrison, Keith Hatton, Joscelyn Sarsby, Jerry Turnbull, Susanne Voelkel and Mark Wilkinson.
A successful team work! We are now prepared for other teacher visits so if you are interested, get in touch.
On January 8th, IIB’s Prof Greg Hurst attended the Association of Science Educators (ASE) annual conference in Birmingham. The ASE is the annual gathering of primary and secondary educators – teachers, trainee teachers and professionals involved in curriculum design and delivery.
Greg contributed to a one day symposium ‘Science in the Real World’ sponsored by the Society of Biology, with a representative of various learned societies giving 40 minute talks where research in one area of the curriculum is highlighted and updated to its current practice and applications. He represented the British Ecological Society, where he has served on the Education committee for the last four years.
His talk was about the importance of microbiomes in the biology of individual animals, and from this their impact on animal population and communities in natural population. Highlighting first of all how human digestion and physiology is a product of both the animal and the microbes within their gut, he then gave case studies of a wider range of animals where microbial function was even more key. Microbes allow desert rats to feed on the toxic creosote bush in the Mojave, aphids to eat plant sap devoid of amino acids, and tse tse flies to live on blood, that lacks B vitamins. Many ways of life that exist would not exist without symbiosis with microbes.
The talk provoked a lively discussion, with questions ranging from the role of breast feeding in initiating microbiomes (Answer: no man should ever tell a woman how to feed their baby), through to the big question: why can’t/don’t animals carry out these metabolic functions for themselves?