Ambassadors for physics

26 March 2018

The Science Ambassador programme at Gillingham School, Dorset began this academic year with funding from the Ogden North Dorset & South Somerset Partnership. Sixteen Year 8 Ambassadors have been running science clubs at three local primary schools; a fourth primary school will be hosting a club during the summer term.

“The original idea came from Phil Atherton’s [South Devon & Torbay Partnership] talk at Rugby [Ogden Partnership meeting] two years ago and my desire to increase the uptake of girls taking physics,” explains Jason Blake, who co-ordinates the initiative at his school with the support of science technician Lesley Love. “I needed to make it obvious and visible that girls do science.”

“I wanted to start the process early, so I had the idea of making Year 8s ambassadors rather than KS4 students or sixth formers. Gillingham School ran a STEM day for Year 7 in July 2016 and at the end of the day, when the students were enthused about science, I launched the new ambassador scheme. When the students started Year 8 in the following September they were invited to apply to become Science Ambassadors for the school. I was able to select four boys and twelve girls from the applications.”

Ogden consultant, Dr Alison Rivett, trained the new recruits in the art of science busking and they attended a partnership lecture given by Maggie Aderin-Pocock so the team could enhance their presentation skills by seeing this science communicator in action. Jason provided some further lunchtime sessions to help familiarise the ambassadors with the activities they would be demonstrating; he also ensured he had the support from his Senior Leadership Team and built closer working relationships with local primary schools. He was able to use Ogden funding for the North Dorset & South Somerset Partnership to help support transport costs and to buy the resources needed to deliver the science club sessions.

The students have now been out to local primary schools sharing their skills and enthusiasm at after school science clubs. Each club has been run for six weeks giving the students time to impart a wealth of knowledge and fun physics! Amongst other things, the sessions have included a busking circus with balloon kebabs and a straw oboe orchestra; telescopes and pin-hole cameras; colour puzzles and secret messages; and pendulum clocks!  

“There is such a focus on numeracy and literacy that science often gets little curriculum time, these clubs have given the students a chance to investigate and do practical work - they loved it!” concludes Jason.

It was the best thing ever!
Student, St George's Bourton

Science Club Sessions

  • Session 1 - The Busking Circus (balloon kebabs, straw oboe orchestra, etc)
  • Session 2 - Magnetism (Suspend a paper clip and make Gauss guns)
  • Session 3 - Electricity (Wire up a model house with a ring main circuit)
  • Session 4 - Lenses (Make a telescope and a pin-hole camera) 
  • Session 5 - Light/Colour (use filters to make colour puzzles and secret messages)
  • Session 6 - Movement (make a pendulum clock with 1s oscillations or make Bloodhound models)

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