Getting teachers thinking about how to extend classroom activities into the home

When designing learning resources, activities and events as part of the Enterprising Science project, we have repeatedly tried to create connections between science and students’ homes, families and local communities. This isn’t easy, but it’s always at the forefront of our minds.

We have recently created three twilight CPD sessions for teachers that we run in schools. One of these sessions is called Hook, Inform, Enable, Extend. This is an approach that we use at the Science Museum to create engaging resources, events and progammes. During the course we share this and work with teachers to inspire them to use the approach in the classroom.

The ‘hook’ gets the audience’s attention either by connecting to something personal and relevant for them or by being surprising or thought provoking. We work with teachers to create powerful questions or statements which link the topics they are teaching to their students’ specific interests.

‘Inform’ is all about providing your audience with stimulating content in a variety of formats. We talk with teachers about using images, objects, news articles, games and short films to provide science knowledge in a variety of different ways. These formats can help demonstrate real life applications of science and make abstract content more visual and relevant to students’ lives.

‘Enable’ describes getting your audience to do something active with the content. During this part of the course we share one of our classroom activities, such as Rocket Mice, with teachers but this could be anything that gets people physically doing something or actively discussing a topic.

Finally ‘Extend’ is about making the experience last longer than the activity itself. This could include setting further challenges in the classroom but should also be about encouraging further discussion or engagement with science with students’ friends in the playground, their family at home, and the people in their local communities.

When we first started piloting this twilight session, it was at this point of the course that we ran into a problem. We would ask teachers to discuss the following with each other and come up with some suggestions:

How would you extend the activity…

  1. in the classroom
  2. beyond the classroom (linking to students’ daily lives, home, culture and/or community)

They generated lots of interesting ideas of how to extend the activity in the classroom; creative challenges, investigations running into subsequent lessons, and even making it into a whole school event during science week.  However, when we asked them for ideas of how they could extend the activity beyond the classroom there would be silence, everyone would look around at each other, and eventually someone might suggest some research students’ could do at home.

Luckily we would have a few ideas up our sleeve that we could share. We would write these up on the board and discuss them but by giving out answers we felt that teachers hadn’t really understood this section.

So, in order to try and solve it, we broke the questions down so that only one appeared at a time and rephrased them to make them a little more conversational:

extend
Extend slide from our twilight CPD

We also realised that we hadn’t explained to the teachers why they should be thinking about creating these extension ideas. So, before revealing the second question we began to clearly explain the importance of this step. We know from research that the majority of students enjoy science but they don’t see it as something that is for them. It is something other people do. So, for students to be able to see science as a subject that is for them, they need to be able to recognise that science is all around them, it isn’t just relevant to the classroom, it affects everything in their lives, in their homes and their communities. They need to share their science learning with their family and friends, so that science becomes normal and they have a group of people around them who support their science learning.

These small changes made a big difference. Teachers now share lots of ways in which they could ‘keep the conversation going in the classroom’ and they are far more on-board with the idea of extending learning beyond the classroom, having lively discussions with their colleagues and sharing some great ideas.

Hopefully, we can start building up some teacher generated ideas to share with other teachers and inspire our own practice.

How could you help extend your visitors experiences in your museum or science centre into their every day lives?

Have you tried anything already? What worked well, and what wasn’t so successful?

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