Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Science Week STEM event: Dough day!

Graphic designer, Lindsay, has 2 children, ages 9 and 7. As well as being a governor at her children's school, she designed and administers the school website. Last term she ran an after-school animation club, showing pupils how to make stop-motion films using an iPad app.

The early-years teacher at Lindsay's school, Claire Eagling, heard from some of her pupils how much they were enjoying Lindsay's club. Claire wanted to organise a "STEM" day during Science Week, specifically for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. She had read about the "Electro-dough" activity on the School Gate SET website. Also, one of her pupils' favourite activities is a "dough disco", which promotes fine motor skills. All these ideas came together in her head and inspired her to plan a "Dough Day".

The children would be divided into groups and cycle round several dough-themed STEM activities: electro-dough; stop motion "clay" animation; making play-dough; cornflour goop; and the dough disco. The day would begin and end with a discussion: asking all the children what it means to be a Scientist or Engineer, and seeing if their answers changed over the course of the day.

Lindsay ran the animation activity, with help from another two parents. As the school is local to me, and as I recently registered as a STEM ambassador, I went along to help with the electro-dough activity.  The teachers and classroom assistants delivered the other activities.

Some of the children’s ideas before the day:

  • “Science is making potions”
  • “Science is finding out about bones and dinosaurs”
  • “Science is doing experiments”
  • “Science is concentrating”
  • “Technology is making electric stuff that can change the world”
  • “Technology is things that have plugs like computers and iPads and ovens”
  • “Engineering is fixing stuff that’s broken – Iron Man does engineering”
  • “Engineering is making stuff that people have never seen before”
  • “Maths is adding up and finding what it is”

 And during the day:

“You take pictures and move your dough a little bit each time and when you’ve taken loads of pictures you’ve got a film. We did 208 pictures!”

 “Quicksand sinks but you don’t sink all the way into it and I experimented with the animals in the cornflour and they sunk but not all the way down. It was wet at the top and stiff at the bottom.”

“The electric goes through the dough to make the bulb light up!”

 At the end of the day:

The children really enjoyed their STEM dough-day. One 6-year-old girl said “I wish it could be like this every day. I’m going to be a scientist when I grow up!”; while one of the boys said “I am a scientist now! They do electrics!”

Feedback from the teachers and teaching assistants was also positive:

 “I didn’t realise that dough would conduct electricity. It’s exciting to have some expert help to teach this as I’m not very confident teaching Science.”

“The children have got so much out of the day today. The fresh ideas that the parents have brought to the table have proved very successful.”

In fact the teaching assistants, who had previously expressed a preference to stay with the same activity all day, said that, in retrospect, they wished they had had a chance to take part in all the activities and share the children's experiences.

If you are interested in organising your own "dough day", or similar event, Claire has made her planning available here. It includes links to the National Curriculum and to the School's topic for the term, Africa.

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