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Whenever I’m given a challenge, I try to rise to meet it.
This year, the challenge has been becoming STEM lead at St Bede Primary Academy in Bolton. Leading science is something that primary teachers can find daunting because in a lot of cases, it’s not our subject specialism. But instead of worrying about it alone, I decided to reach out to my fellow science leads.
I wanted to begin a culture of sharing and supporting our pupils’ science journey across Bolton.
My research into primary science didn’t stop at the teachers. I also asked my pupils what they wanted from their lessons and how we could help them reach their dream goals. The school is in a challenging area, and our children need and deserve a curriculum that is as engaging and inspiring as possible.
We knew we needed practical activities, inquiry-based learning and resources to support the five lines of scientific enquiry.
I decided to build a space curriculum that we could share across primary schools in Bolton. As busy teachers, if we don’t share then we all end up building resources from scratch.
The process was incredibly exciting and I received such positive feedback from colleagues in other schools that I decided that we would create Bolton’s first ever ‘space week’ to launch the new curriculum.
My first step was to pitch a space week for EYFS to Y6 children to the Institute of Engineering and Technology. I was absolutely thrilled when we won a £15,000 grant. This meant we could create a ‘space bundle’ for every school taking part, containing lights, planetariums, drones, and kits to make space suits and moon buggies.
In a previous teaching role in Washington DC, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a NASA astronaut, who is now going to talk to the Bolton children live and answer all their questions about what it’s really like to go to space.
For these children, having the chance to interview a real astronaut is extraordinary and will be a great way to experience science first-hand and bring their learning to life.
As part of the St Bede Teaching School we’ve also created a ‘science centre’ where teachers can access free online CPD and workshops. We share what’s really working in our lessons, such as resources from Learning by Questions which have been a revolution for our children.
I’ve never done so much presenting and have enjoyed learning from and sharing with so many educators in the UK.
One of the best things about creating Bolton’s first space week and our science centre is that it has inspired other teachers to share their knowledge and resources.
My colleagues have been inspired to set up truly remarkable initiatives, including a maths centre to engage and support SCITT students and teachers with maths mastery, and an outdoor learning centre to improve children’s wellbeing through utilising nature in education.
By working together, science leaders and teachers no longer feel on their own. By opening our classroom doors, we can all join in the conversation and be part of a cluster of teachers supporting each other and providing the spark to ignite pupils’ enthusiasm for learning in science.
Kate Penarski has been a primary teacher and leader for over a decade and was awarded Enthuse Primary STEM Teacher of the Year in 2020. She is also an ambassador for Learning by Questions. Follow Kate on Twitter at @kpenarski.
Everything you need for every subject across Key Stages 1 and 2.