Getting pupils hands-on during Science trips

Date Posted: 30/05/2017

STO unearths some school trips that allow pupils to really get hands on with Science. 

Earlier this month, Katherine Mathieson, the chief executive of the British Science Association, said that schools were failing their pupils' education by building Science lessons around textbook learning rather than practical experiments. 

In a blog post, Mathieson likened learning Science to playing football, commenting that children would not be expected to learn to play the sport by reading about it in a textbook.

“Current curricula do usually offer opportunities to build scientific thinking skills, but they can be overshadowed by the mountain of facts, emphasis on English and Maths, lack of specialist teachers and the myriad of other pressures on teachers,” she said.

Thanks to budget pressures that lead to a squeeze on equipment, and time constraints, it's not always possible to work practical experimentation into every Science classes. 

With this in mind, STO unearths five Science trips that put hands-on learning and investigation at the centre of the experience. 

The Centre of the Cell, London

Based at Queen Mary University of London, Centre of the Cell is said to be the first science education centre in the world to be located within working biomedical research laboratories. Schools visiting the centre will be joined by a trained 'explainer' as well as, wherever possible, a medical or dental student. 

The centre is suspended above actual working labs, so pupils can observe research scientists in action. Visits are available for pupils in Key Stages 2 to 5. Visits include curriculum-linked interactive games grounded in cell biology and the research happening in the labs below and around the world. Depending on the age range, during a trip, children will get the chance to use microscopes to look at cancer cells, take part in virtual experiments, and have their cells counted. 

L’Oreal Young Scientist Centre, London

The L'Oréal Young Scientist Centre is a modern laboratory at the Royal Institute of Science where young people aged seven to 18 can explore all aspects of science and technology. In workshops, students become a scientist for the day, testing their own ideas by designing creative experiments. Sessions include Cosmetic Chemistry for Key Stage 2, which gives students the chance to make their own bath bombs and lip balm in order to learn about chemistry. Another option is Colour Chemistry, in which Key Stage 4 and 5 pupils learn about chemistry by synthesising their own dyes. 

The Look Out Discovery Centre, Berkshire

The Look Out Discovery Centre offers pupils more than 90 interactive activities. In the Forces and Movement Zone children can launch a hydrogen rocket and a hot air balloon. In the Body and Perception Zone they can test their reaction speeds. In the Light and Colour Zone they can take part in activities that teach them about shadows and lasers. In the Woodland and Water Zone they can observe leaf cutter ants and experiment with boats.  

Eureka, Halifax

Eureka runs workshops for Early Years and Primary school children. From June to July the attraction will put on a new Energy Show for pupils. The session involves explosive experiments and hands-on Science demonstrations and is designed to teach classes that energy is everywhere and can never be created or destroyed, only changed. Participants will use their own bodies to complete an electrical circuit and experience a chemical reaction igniting in their hands.

Forensic Outreach, London

Forensic Outreach delivers workshops in various locations around London to teach children about the Science used in crime scene investigations and security operations. Experimentation is at the heart of what the company does. 

Example sessions include Fascinating Adventures in CSI, in which students venture into their own crime scene and conduct a series of experiments. These include fingerprinting, blood spatter tests, and fibre analysis. Another option is The Remarkable Journey of a Speeding Bullet, which lets pupils investigate topics like velocity using Nerf guns. 

The school tour operators NST and WST both offer off-the-peg trips that feature Forensic Outreach's work. Teachers can also contact the Forensic Outreach team directly to keep up to date on their workshops at locations like The Science Museum. 

School Travel Organiser's Guide