Science week

March 7th-16th is National Science week in the UK. This is the 10th National Science week and its aims are to show people how science plays a role in our every day lives. This week sees events throughout the UK in schools, places of work, shopping centres and in museums and many other exhibition centres. If you have been involved in any activities or events in previous years use this experience to show students how Science week works. Did your school do an experiment? Did you visit a museum?

There are many ways to introduce scientific content and discussion on scientific issues in the language classroom. This Essential UK offers suggestions for all types of students and age ranges. There are also web links with activity suggestions for this month.

Note: There is no class version this week.

Ways to introduce scientific content

  1. Give students a diagram or photo to label: the human body, the features of the landscape, a weather cycle diagram, the food types in a fast food meal. Use this diagram to introduce a topic like climate change or healthy eating habits.

  2. Give students a picture of a machine and ask them to tell you how it works or match a description of how it works to the parts of the machine. Give each group of students the name of another machine and they plan a presentation on how it works to the rest of the class. Possible machines: a game boy, a mobile phone, a video recorder, a washing machine, a microwave. Look at the language of imperatives and/or cause and effect using conditionals: If you press the first button the machine willÖ.

  3. Describe a process and look at the language of passives. How our bowl of cornflakes gets to our breakfast table. Challenge pairs or groups to describe how another process works: how a music CD is produced, how a big Mac is made, how a chocolate bar is produced and reaches your local shop. Use flow charts and line drawings if possible.

  4. Use a topical article from the news to introduce ideas before leading in to a discussion on issues which effect our lives from cloning to technology in the classroom.

  5. Use a fun quiz to explore knowledge and ideas related to science: How much do you know about alcohol? The effects of smoking on the body? The calories in the food you eat? The ways you can cut energy in your home life?

  6. Ask students to make quiz questions to test scientific general knowledge in their class. Use the student generated questions to play a team game. Give categories to guide: everyday objects, food and health, the environment, inventions, animals and nature, technology.

Web links and activities

Find out from this searchable database what is happening in the UK and your area. There are over 100 hands on activities and many talks, fairs and exhibitions. Make a short list of events (from your town or a certain type i.e. hands on). Ask students in pairs or groups which activity most appeals to them. For example: a workshop on how to build toys from recycled materials, a games and puzzles fair for maths enthusiasts, a visit to a real farm to find out about farming methods, a workshop with real forensic scientists on how to solve crimes using science, a closer look down microscopes with an expert, or a visit to a costal area to discover the animals and birds which live there.

Try the British Councilís site for science and technology for material and topics suited to older teenagers and higher levels. Examples from this month are:

    Design lab: Why do rockínírollers think wooden guitars are best? Researchers in Britain show plastic guitars are best or how can mathematicians predict the outcome of football matches?

    Digital lab: teachers are using virtual games to learn how to behave in the classroom. How do the games work? Is it good to train teachers this way?

    Fashion lab: Look at the new fashion accessories which can change colour depending on your mood. Would you wear them?

    Music lab: Find out about new technology which might make DJs redundant!

Resources for secondary at different age levels. Discussion activities on mobile phone technology/recycling can be found and useful links to articles from the UK media on mobile phones safety and crime. Other resources on this site cover environmental topics like banana production/trade.

The science and nature section on the BBC home page will take you to a whole range of material aimed at adults and schools. There are links to the science sections in the education section of the site too.

Try: Three accessible and short case studies of black Britons who had their DNA traced to find out their roots. Use just one case study or two in contrast to introduce the following types of talking point:

    a. Who are your family? Where are you from? What are the origins of people in your country? Use your own family as an example and try to also give realistic background to the racial origins of people living in the UK today.

    b. Nature versus nurture is upbringing more important is shaping your personality/identity? One person in the case studies thought roots were essential but changed their mind when DNA studies revealed their biological origins. Is it our genes that make us who we are?

    c. How dangerous is genetic information? How helpful? Should we all have access to our DNA data?

Look at the games and quizzes section in BBC science for ideas and for quizzes that can be printed up. An example quiz: What sex is your brain? A fun quiz to see if you think like a male or female can introduce a range of topics for all levels and ages.

    a. Are girls or boys naturally more scientific? Are girls encouraged to take up sciences in your host country? How can everyone be encouraged? Are any scientific fields dominated by males or considered masculine? Why?

    b. Gender and intelligence. Do you agree that there are male and female ways of thinking? How much do toys in childhood influence this? Have their parents encouraged them to conform to models: boys donít cry, girls tidy the house? Do teachers expect the same from boys or girls?

    c. Same sex schools: is a good thing to educate girls and boys separately? Girls usually do better at science in a same sex classroom.

In the chat about science section there are hot topics to bring science in the news to the public. Try the science of chocolate or the role of science in football.

BBC Newsround has a science and technology section which lower levels and lower secondary students can cope with. Current topics are the science of sleepwalking and the people who claim they have been abducted by aliens. There are easy and fun quizzes here to start lessons too.

Free resources from The Guardianís award winning site for schools. The On the web section will give you good places to go for scientific content including interesting and very topical areas like space tourism.

You can use the story in statistics pages for facts and figures to introduce conversation topics or complement lessons on issues to be debated. Topics range from body image statistics to fast food data for the UK.

Inside the news brings topics which could stimulate older teenagers. This month there is a history of codes and code breaking. How do secret codes work? What role have they played in history?

What is the daily routine of British scientists living in Antartica? This is accessible for lower levels too. This special schools site has plenty of short texts and activities. This topic could lead to a class pair or group discussion/decision making task: You are going to visit the Antartica team. What would you pack for your trip? Choose five essential items.

A resource for machines and diagrams. How do video games work? Ask how things work.

Lots of articles for upper secondary with plenty of follow up activities and discussion pointers. Thereís a good archive and helpful links for each topic.

The World Wildlife fund has excellent teaching resources for teachers on endangered species and many other topics.


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