By Maria Rossini, Head of Education at the British Science Association
It’s been a long and pretty dark winter for many of us, and for our students too, as we have juggled the challenges of remote learning and key worker provision. Providing quality and accessible learning for all young people has been a challenge that nobody has had the perfect answer to.
But now we have a roadmap ahead for a resumption of classroom teaching for all students around the UK – with phased returns planned for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and all children in England returning to the classroom from week commencing 8 March. The various plans will come as both a relief to some, but will also bring their own logistical headaches for teachers, parents and young people. Education providers will not only need to plan for a safe and smooth return to the classroom, they will also need to identify ‘gaps in learning’ and help their students ‘catch up’.
We all know that even at the best of times, every child in our classroom brings with them a mixed bag of personal experience, knowledge, needs and emotions that affect their capacity to engage in lessons. Coming back from another lockdown, that is going to be even more evident. Students may be anxious, bereaved, confused and fearful, as well as excited to see their peers after months of isolation and loneliness. Some young people will have had a rich home learning experience, whilst others may have struggled hugely. Students may have gaps not only in their curriculum learning but also social skills, and key skills like turn taking, sharing ideas, working in groups and problem solving.
Whilst we all know that young people are fantastic at adapting and overcoming all sorts of situations, the needs of this COVID generation of learners are going to be particularly challenging, and I genuinely believe that the best approach to ‘filling in the gaps’ and ‘catching up’ will be to welcome them all back to the classroom in a way that is reassuring, fun and accessible to all.
Some might think that the last thing anyone wants to worry about right now is an ‘extra’ thing, such as British Science Week – I know the timing is not ideal for everyone. However, I truly believe that the Week can provide a fantastic welcome back to the classroom for both teachers and students alike, offering a chance to celebrate the return to school. The British Science Association have done a lot of the hard work already – developing easy to run activities that are free to download, fun and cross-curricular. We are also working on a timetable of online content that can be accessed from both inside the classroom and remotely, which we will be publishing later this week.
What better way to foster a sense of hope and positivity as students return to face-to-face learning, than to focus on ‘Innovating for the future’? Why not have the whole school imagine a better world and design posters for our poster competition? Our activities can also help address the pandemic directly, for example by using our ‘Herd Immunity Jenga’ activity to help children understand the power of a vaccination program. Or, for those who want to emphasise the importance of handwashing, our CREST Discovery ‘Stop the Spread’ activity can be delivered either as a one day challenge or over a few shorter sessions, and is a great way to get students engaged in a practical way, whilst developing numeracy, literacy and group-work skills.
Science has been at the forefront of the news this year like never before, and it has been pivotal in the development of our understanding, tracking and, ultimately, how we will tackle COVID-19. Involving your students in British Science Week, is a perfect way to give them a positive and hopeful outlook on learning and the future ahead, and I hope that you will join us in the celebrations this March.