By Lorna Libreri, Principal Teacher of Science, Breadalbane Academy
Breadalbane Academy is a combined junior and senior school (age 3-18 years) in Perth and Kinross. In November 2015, our school ran its first Gopher Science Lab. These events empower pupils to experience teaching as part of their own learning process. Through Gopher Science Labs secondary school teachers guide their 1st year (S1) pupils (age 12-13 years) and show them how to safely demonstrate, teach and explain a range of practical activities to pupils in the final year of primary school (P7 – age 11-12 years) as part of a transition programme.
We started by inviting all of our feeder primary schools. We are in a rural location and our catchment is geographically large. In total, 65 P7 pupils attended from the Royal School of Dunkeld, Kenmore Primary School, Breadalbane Primary School and Glenlyon Primary School, as well as additional primary pupils from Logierait and Bankfoot.
We then asked all S1 pupils at Breadalbane Academy to volunteer to train as ‘teachers’ and run the event. We have 71 S1 pupils in total and 44 pupils volunteered. We designated 38 pupils as teachers, 4 pupils as technicians and arranged for 2 pupils to video the event. Prior to the Gopher Lab day, we trained the S1 pupils to deliver the 10 Gopher Lab experiments. This involved the pupils trying out the experiments, asking questions, problem solving and generating questions to use with the P7 pupils.
On the day of the event, the S1 pupils set up their “laboratory” in the assembly hall and prepared for their activity. Some pupils delivered their experiment on their own and some worked as pairs. They displayed real self-confidence and exceptional ability. When the P7 pupils arrived, they were placed in groups and participated in 6 or 7 of the experiments on offer. The feedback from primary staff was really positive, stating how impressed they were with the level of science demonstrated and the questioning skills of our S1 pupils.
The P7 pupils were also informed that they would be teachers next year for the next round of P7 pupils. We are really pleased that this event will be running again, having secured funding for the Gopher Lab Day 2016. All pupils were aware that this was not just a science day, but also a transition event and they were encouraged to engage with each other to find out more about life at secondary school.
Pupil evaluations were extremely positive. 95% of primary 7 pupils enjoyed the day and would recommend it for the primary 7s next year. 85% of the pupils said they would like to be teachers when they are in S1. The S1 feedback was excellent and letters were sent home to parents congratulating them on their contributions. The day was also videoed and a copy of the video was sent out to the primary schools.
Funding for the 2015 and the future 2016 event was provided by the Biochemical Society & Royal Society of Biology.