Sharing the physics fun

6 March 2017

This academic year the Exeter & East Devon Ogden Partnership has benefited from the appointment of a Teacher Fellow - Dr Sarah Usher, Head of Physics at Colyton Grammar School. Sarah's enthusiasm for physics knows no bounds and as a Teacher Fellow she has been able to share this with other schools in the area through regular outreach sessions. Every fortnight she visits a different primary school, delivering workshops such as Launch Pad Rockets, Mysterious Materials, Terrific Temperature and 'Crazy Colour' which link to and extend the primary science curriculum.

Mysterious materials
Mysterious materials

Recently she spent the morning at Sidmouth Primary School, working with all 80 of their Year 5 pupils delivering a Mysterious Materials workshop (pictured above). Supported by four sixth-formers from Colyton - Annabel, Damon, George & Jemima - the children enjoyed investigating different aspects of materials and their properties through hands-on activities. They looked at Hydrogels and found out the amazing amount of water they can hold; discussed why solids, liquids & gases have the properties they do; discovered the thermal properties of a polymer called Polymorph; and experimented with some weirdly behaved cornflour slime...

A key part of these outreach activities is the involvement of older students from Colyton and the other EED partnership schools. For example, two sessions have been run with Exmouth primary schools and on both occasions A-Level students from Exmouth Community College assisted in the delivery. In the evening, Sarah led a Science Ambassador training session at Exeter School for 7 students & 3 teachers who are keen to do the same. They learned about the different demonstrations, hands-on science and 'make & takes' that Sarah delivers and considered some ideas for using in a Science Club with their own feeder school, such as competitions and extended investigations. Of course there were plenty of fun and practical things for them to puzzle over and try out, including some curious spotty spinning tubessound sandwichesloop-the-loop cupscoin drop and how to make a drinking straw fly!

Sixth Form Ambassadors prepare for the Loop-the-Loop launch as they assist Dr Usher in her outreach activities.
Sixth form ambassadors prepare for the loop-the-loop launch as they assist Dr Usher in her outreach activities

So far this year, Sarah has delivered nine workshops to 350 Year 3-6 pupils in 10 different primary schools, with another nine planned, and trained 40 Ambassadors from three secondary schools. In an area like this, with a sparse population, large distances between schools and a lack of science opportunities, these kinds of engaging outreach sessions are eagerly received and have been rapidly booked up. The gains for younger students are evident in the enthusiasm at the sessions and their positive feedback afterwards. Staff at the primary schools have also stated how helpful they find the workshops: giving them confidence to try out practical activities they would not have undertaken before and the opportunity to see their students working and learning in a different context. There are additional benefits for the older student assistants, many of whom have cited the positive effect that being involved with science outreach has had for them personally: helping them develop confidence, communication and interpersonal skills; as well as providing evidence of extra-curricular involvement for their CVs and university applications.

Sarah says "I'm very grateful to The Ogden Trust and my school for allowing me this opportunity to share all the fun of physics with local schools. It's so rewarding to see how much the primary pupils get out of the sessions, and also to see other teachers and students developing their skills, confidence and enthusiasm for science."



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