Celebrating UNESCO World Science Day

Celebrating UNESCO World Science Day
Jennifer Wallace
Our STEAM Days, organised around UNESCO World Science Day on Thursday 10th November, and led by our STEAM coordinator Océane Stanek, celebrated the skills and knowledge students develop when they engage in projects that combine science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. There are so many advantages to emphasising the links between these subjects and we know that together, these areas push society forward. 

As Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at MIT Media Lab, and founder of the popular coding programme Scratch, said at Bett 2019, the annual meeting of the global EdTech Community: “[The ability] to act creatively is essential to success and happiness in today’s society. Children need to be able to come up with innovative solutions to the unexpected and unpredictable situations which they will confront as they grow up.”

We know that the demand for STEAM oriented job skills is high and that introducing children to STEAM from a young age can improve their development in crucial areas ranging from rational thinking to everyday social and emotional skills.

How is STEAM different from learning about science, or technology in a more traditional way?

The STEAM method is open-ended, collaborative, and there is never one right answer, as the creative thinking, and trial and error process, is more important than the final product or result. As you already know, STEAM Education isn’t a one-off event in our school, and during each term students have many opportunities to engage in project-based learning across the curriculum, engaging their interest and finding out what sparks their curiosity.

Read more about each group's activity below:

PY5 students were challenged to create a boat that could hold as many marbles as possible whilst floating on water, using only one sheet of aluminium paper. Using the design process, students predicted how many marbles their boat could hold while staying afloat. Then they tested it. Students were able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their boats, and as part of the design process, they revised their plan and made some adjustments based on their own boat's floating abilities as well as observing their classmates' boats. After their second test, many students noticed a significant increase in the amount of marbles that their boats were able to hold. 

PY4 spent the afternoon building their Create-ures. They had to first draw what they imagined their Create-ures to look like, and then recreate their sketches using materials in our Hub. Once the challenge was completed they discussed facts about their Create-ures, such as which habitat they would live in, how they were adapted for this climate, and could they protect themselves against predators. They also reflected upon the materials they chose for construction, and what worked well and what could have been improved.

Our PY6 students have been studying the human brain and our nervous system. They have learnt about the 'upstairs and downstairs' brain: the upstairs brain is linked to rational and logical thought, and the downstairs brain is our subconscious automatic reactions to stimuli, the famous 'fight or flight' instinct. To visualise their learning, they created a two-storey house with an electrical circuit that would switch a light on upstairs and downstairs. They also had to write strategies on the stairs leading up the first floor to calm the brain, as part of their social and emotional development. Working in groups of three, they had to design and create their house within a timed setting using only one sheet of paper. As they are also learning about careers, they studied a day in the life of an electrical engineer that worked for NASA.

PY2, as part of their unit on human evolution, studied birds' beaks and bills and how they were adapted to their diets. Around The Hub, stations were set up with different types of bird food, and various tools such as chopsticks, spoons, pliers and tweezers. The students had to experiment with different tools to pick up the food, and then choose the best tool for the food, and explain why it was perfectly adapted. They also learnt about a day in the life of a bird biologist - an ornithologist - which inspired one student to declare that's what they wanted to be when they were older!

Finally, PY1, connected to their recent book of the week about a penguin, were challenged to create a nest that would protect an egg when it was dropped. They used cotton balls, pipe cleaners and other items to try to make it as soft of a landing as possible. This was a fun challenge as PY1 got to test it out outside. Seven out of the nine eggs unfortunately did not make a soft landing!