When it comes to the appliance of science, these leading attractions provide pupils with the opportunity to reach for the stars, get involved in hands-on experiments and find out how science impacts on every aspect of their world.
At-Bristol is one of the UK’s biggest interactive science centres, attracting more than 50,000 school and group visits each year. Situated on the harbourside, with a convenient coach pick-up and drop-off point, teachers can pick from a range of options across all Key Stages.
There are discovery trails around the hands-on displays that cover topics such as brains, bubbles, DNA and animation, plus exciting presenter-led shows in the dedicated science studio with plenty of audience participation.
The programme of school workshops is constantly evolving, and new additions include The Water Cycle with water-based experiments for KS2; and Explore Your Universe: Atoms to Astrophysics for KS3, which uses a variety of intriguing equipment not found in the classroom. Round off a visit with one of three shows especially designed for schools in the planetarium.
2.Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium
Located three miles from Winchester in Hampshire, Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium is a hands-on science and discovery centre dedicated to sparking curiosity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Workshops range from the fun Egg Drop challenge, exploring gravity and resistance, for KS2 to KS3; to the new Bacterial Evolution session for older students who step into the role of a clinical bacteriologist and use research-grade laboratory equipment to investigate DNA samples.
All workshops can be incorporated into a visit to the centre’s main exhibition area or the awe-inspiring planetarium. For teachers who want to extend the space theme, the centre hosts special events for KS2 upwards during World Space Week which takes place annually in early October.
3. Life Science Centre
Newcastle’s Life Science Centre aims to inspire curiosity and raise standards in Science education for young people. It is also home to the largest planetarium in the north of England.
A key part of the education programme is Lifelab, reportedly the largest provider of schools Science workshops in any European museum or science centre, providing over 40,000 educational experiences to students every year.
Teachers have a choice of more than 100 workshops, with topics including Show-off Science, where KS3 and KS4 pupils learn how to perform some easy but impressive science-inspired party tricks; and DIY cosmetics to learn about the science behind the beauty industry. There are also new ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ sessions best suited to two 30-minute time slots rather than a full 60-minute workshop.
4. The Living Rainforest
Explore exotic climes at the Living Rainforest, which welcomed 20,000 schoolchildren last year. Situated at Hampstead Norreys in Berkshire, the attraction is home to 700 species of plants and animals, including colourful butterflies, birds and lizards that roam free in tropical glasshouses.
The education programme offers four tours that are all linked to the Science curriculum. The most popular, suitable for KS2 to KS4, is Amazing Adaptations focusing on how plants and animals have adapted to suit living in a rainforest environment.
Another tour for this age group is Sustainable Future, exploring the idea of sustainable development and its implications for different peoples, places and environments. Edible Forest introduces younger pupils to the wide variety of foods that can be found in the rainforest.
5. Magna Science Adventure Centre
Housed within a former steelworks in Rotherham, south Yorkshire, Magna is a unique attraction with four gadget-packed pavilions themed around the elements of air, earth, fire and water.
The centrepiece Big Melt multi-media show incorporates spectacular pyrotechnic effects to recreate the site’s steel-making history. Closer to home, the extensive choice of workshops include the Kitchen Sink Show, suitable for KS1, KS2 and KS3, that takes pupils on a curious and often messy journey around the kitchen. Many of the thought-provoking experiments use familiar and inexpensive everyday materials that might otherwise end up in the rubbish bin.
And when it’s time to let off steam the Sci-Tek and Aqua-Tek outdoor play areas offer Science-themed fun.
6. Observatory Science Centre
Home to six historical telescopes that were left behind when the Royal Greenwich Observatory closed its doors at Herstmonceux and moved to Cambridge in 1990, the Observatory Science Centre in east Sussex offers something for all Key Stages.
Every school group will normally participate in the bridge building workshop where pupils work as a team to construct, test and disassemble a bridge. Afterwards they can try their hand at the 80 exhibits arranged in six themed areas, including The Earth and Beyond gallery that has had a complete facelift for 2013.
Outside the centre there are large-scale exhibits in the Discover Park, Water Planet and Water Play areas. Schools also have the option of booking a tour into the atmospheric telescope domes led by a member of the science centre staff.
7. Science Museum
Founded in 1857, London’s Science Museum is world-renowned for its historic collection, immersive galleries and inspirational exhibitions. The museum hosts teachers’ courses and provides fact-filled resources to make the most of any educational trip.
A visit to one or more of the galleries is a good starting point. These include a special hands-on exhibition for the under-eight’s; for older pupils there is Atmosphere, covering curriculum-based topics such as the carbon cycle and the greenhouse effect; and Antenna, pitched at secondary-aged students and presenting current science stories in a clear, engaging style.
Workshops with costumed characters are always popular, and students can enjoy quizzing Sir Isaac Newton about how an apple changed the world, and how his discoveries have changed their lives.
Blast off on an incredible journey at Spaceport, a £10 million Merseyside attraction dedicated to space and space travel.
As part of the visit pupils become virtual astronauts in the incredible 360-degree Space Dome, and explore space from our own solar system to distant galaxies. Subjects that can be explored include the position of the planets, phases of the moon, what creates seasons and if life can be sustained on other planets.
Spaceport has primary and secondary education packs and visits can include a trip on the iconic Mersey ferry. Teaching resources include a KS2 and KS3 quiz sheet that can be completed during or after a visit.
An absorbing destination for pupils of all ages, Snibston comprises an interactive museum, historic railway and country park on the site of Leicestershire’s former Snibston Colliery.
The museum celebrates the success of local pioneers and provides an interactive insight into Science, Technology and Engineering with exhibits that include lifting a Mini car. A colliery tour takes in preserved buildings, a mining equipment trail and the railway, one of the earliest built in Britain that was used to carry coal. Workshops on magnets and push and pull toys are available for younger pupils, while KS2 Science sessions include Rock Detectives where students identify local rocks and minerals and use detective-style notebooks to jot down their findings to take back to school.
10. ZSL London Zoo
A visit involving animals is always going to be big hit with pupils and there are more than 750 species waiting to be discovered at London Zoo, set in the heart of the capital at Regent’s Park.
The education team provides learning sessions for all ages and abilities, and many workshops involve interacting with live animals. Science-based studies include Hands On for KS1; where children investigate real animal hair, scales and feathers, from animals ranging from lions to crocodiles, and learn how they can be grouped. For KS2, Endangered Animals examines topics that threaten animals, from fur coats to disappearing habitats; while older students can participate in the Investigate Animal Groups session, introducing the science of classification.
The zoo offers a downloadable presentation to prepare pupils for their visit plus activity sheets to encourage observation and discussion before and after visits.