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Sparking excitement

Published: 28 July 2021

Over the past year, The Ogden Trust has supported Lightyear Foundation with an initiative to deliver science-themed active learning workshops and lesson plans to help break down barriers and get more disabled people into STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine).

A ‘virtual lab’ summer club was successful launched at the height of lockdown, but students from New Fosseway School, Bristol (a mixed ability SEN school) have been getting hands-on in the virtual lab with their electricity investigations over the past term.

For many of the students electricity was a new topic to explore, and under the guidance of Lightyear STEM lead Dr Sarah Bearchell, they thought about things which use electricity and where the electricity comes from, and they used an energy tube to make a human circuit. The students loved making their own individual human circuit but were delighted as they formed a larger circuit with more staff and students!

The students learned Makaton signs for circuits and their components, made circuits using specially adapted components and thought about switches, including making foil switches so the students became part of the circuit.

Students and their teacher using Makatron in their practical science lesson.
Using Makaton to sign conductor

“By the end of the first building session, all the students were able to use the equipment to make their own circuits without staff help, giving them a wonderful sense of achievement,” enthuses Lightyear CEO, Catherine Sparkes. “One student quickly grasped the colour coding of the wires and was able to complete his circuits before all the instructions had been given! The students then made circuits to test materials for insulating and conducting properties and we finished with sensory scented playdough circuits to make a firefly with a light up bottom!”

“It was all really worth it. So lovely to see the students so engrossed in a new activity.”

“The Virtual Lab was a great way for them to access science in a way that I would not probably be able to teach in class without some preparation and training.”

Dr Sarah Bearchell also worked with Ogden Teaching and Learning Lead Jackie Flaherty to deliver a session at the BIG Event (for science communicators) called “Sparking Interest in Electricity”. Jackie shared expectations, misconceptions and ideas for creative activities using the Phizzi electroscope and coin battery activities. Sarah then talked about the specialist kit she has developed and how it actually makes circuit work easier for everyone (SEN or not). The people who attended were really receptive to the ideas and keen to make similar kit of their own.

73% of attendees said they would consider making accessible circuit equipment for their work. The remaining delegates said this was not applicable for their workplace.

Students working independently on their circuits.


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