More than just a 'Wow'?
We are often invited by teachers to come into schools to be part of a 'wow' moment for their pupils - something that they can use to launch their science topic in a big way, or as a grand finale to allow the children to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.
But we wanted to know, beyond the excitement of the day, can the experience have a lasting effect on the learning of the children?
We have anecdotes of students currently studying at university who attribute their passion for science as stemming from visits from Explorer Dome at primary school... but to actually prove that Explorer Dome shows and workshops directly impact STEM subject and career choices of children post-16... is a litte tricky to demonstrate!Plus it would be rather remarkable if swathes of children were choosing to study astrophysics at university because they once went into a planetarium (no matter how engaging)!
But we argue, that to concentrate only on the educational choices of pupils after their GCSEs slightly misses the point. What of the huge benefits of a more scientifically literate, critical thinking and curious young generation? Perhaps a more appropriate long-term impact for a hands-on science show would be an improvement in a pupil's confidence in ability to understand science, their improved perspective towards their science topic, or a greater identity with science as valuable and relevant for society or the future of our planet.
With this in mind, over the last year or so, Explorer Dome Midlands has been asking teachers about the wider impacts of our shows with the question: "Beyond the excitement of the day, do you think the experience inside the dome will have a long-term impact on the learning of the children?". We have had 86 responses to date, and 85 of these 86 (98.8%) have responded YES! We also asked teachers to explain their response and here are some of the comments:
“Already, children have been looking at the stars and discussing what they could see on the Y5 residential visit after the dome visit. I think it has sparked an interest in the Solar System."Assistant Headteacher, Bordesley Green Primary School
"We will continue to investigate forces for this half term. The nature of your delivery, visual impact and practical resources will enable the children to retain the information and vocabulary."Assistant Headteacher, Aldermoor Farm Primary School
"Now we are writing letters from space, making constellations out of edible materials and exploring further materials in science"Teacher, Christ Church Primary School
"They will always remember how food is digested with the interactive experience they had"Teacher, Four Oaks Primary School
From these responses it is clear to see how the great creativity of the class teachers can be further inspired by our visits. A huge benefit of what we do is supporting all of the work that teachers do in channelling scientific experiences and engagements in the classroom...
And this is perhaps where the real influence on subject and career choice can be made.
Jim Bell, who runs our Birmingham-based, Midlands Dome discusses these findings further in the latest issue of the Association for Science Education Primary Science Magazine (Issue 15)
For a PDF of the full text of this article, follow this link.