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A masterclass in primary physics

Published: 25 March 2019

“All of the lessons were so fun and because of that I can’t pick a favourite. I definitely won’t forget this experience EVER!”
Eleanor, West Charleton

Sixth Form students at Kingsbridge Community College, hub for the South Devon & Torbay Ogden Partnership, have recently completed the Ri Maths for Physics Masterclass series. The team of Year 12 and 13 science ambassadors completed an RI training day and then worked with partnership co-ordinator Phil Atherton to plan their own lessons. Over six weeks, the students delivered the student-led masterclasses to local primary students and it has been a “brilliant” experience. Phil explains more.

The primary students have completed, and triumphed over, many difficult and detailed physics and maths topics and have enjoyed being challenged in ways they would not normally be at school. Over the six-week period, the primary students have learnt a range of physics topics from optics to rockets and even nuclear fission!

“I love this because it is very inspirational and I have learnt how to do very difficult maths that sixth formers have just learnt! Wow!!!”
Aydil, Blackawton Primary School

It has been a fulfilling experience too for the sixth form students who led most of these classes. They learnt a huge amount about communicating and teaching complex subjects in a fun and engaging way.

In the first week, a member of the Ri masterclass team led the session which saw the primary students learning algebra, the sizes of planets, and how to calculate distances in space. This lesson provided a fabulous foundation for the sessions that were to follow and gave the sixth form students an insight into how the lessons could be run.

“I learnt how far away from the earth the moon is and the mass of the sun. I’ve had so much fun doing all the classes. All in all, I loved my experience.”
Nia, Blackawton Primary School

During the second week, sixth form students Maddie, Theo and Fab stepped up to take the class. They worked with the primary pupils as they made camera obscuras and telescopes; teaching them all about light and optics. Density was the topic of the third week, put together by Lulu and Abi; the primary pupils were wowed by a demonstration of bubbles floating on dry ice and then went on to design and build their own boats.

“Today we were nuclear physicists and did a lot of jazzy calculations.” Penny, West Charleton Primary School

“I liked doing all of the maths that we did. I liked the whole experience of our science days. We did hard maths.”
Ruby, West Alvington Primary School

The fourth week, led by Beren and Fleur, centred on atoms and nuclear physics. It involved very complex maths which the primary students completed brilliantly! In the fifth week, the final student-led masterclass was put together and delivered by Peter, Josh and Emily. The primary children made their own rockets and had a competition to see who’s travelled the greatest distance – the furthest flew the length of the basketball courts!

In the final week, Dr Jenny Sharp of Plymouth University concluded the programme. The primary students used ultrasonic detectors connected to a graphical calculator to construct different graphs of motion by walking the pattern. They were able to challenge other groups to walk each other’s graphs.

Overall, this has been an amazing experience for both the primary students and the sixth formers who prepared and taught their lessons – so good in fact there are talks of a follow up session in the future.

We are exceptionally thankful to the Royal Institution who facilitated these classes and who provided people to take the first and final classes, and to The Ogden Trust who provided the funding to resource the sessions.

“My favourite moment was when we added a lot of dry ice to hot water and the bucket exploded with steam.”
Alex, East Allington Primary School

The Royal Institution’s purpose is to encourage people to think more deeply about the wonders and applications of science. Ri Masterclasses are a series of enrichment workshops which offer students in-depth investigations of topics in areas outside of the school curriculum, combining theory with interactive exploration. The aim is to open students’ eyes to the world of the subjects, allowing them to deeply explore a range of ideas and applications and hopefully to inspire them to continue their engagement in these areas.

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