Before your visit

Essential reading before you begin.

We recommend that you insist that a teacher accompanies you at all times whether you have been CRB checked or not. Many schools are now insisting on a CRB check.

It is advisable to become a Science and Engineering Ambassador (SEA).

First - contact the school

  • Always discuss your visit, in advance, with the teacher concerned. Whenever possible meet the head teacher. School science co-ordinators are good first contacts.
  • Read the webpage on safety, discuss and agree them with the class teacher.
  • Always reach an agreement with the class teacher that she will be present throughout your visit. This will mean that the teacher will know what you have done, and learn as you speak to the children. Also the material may be incorporated in future lessons.
  • Check whether your talk is happening in a wider context which you may link with; such as a science week.
  • If you need apparatus e.g. magnets or Newton-meters, arrange this in advance so that they will be available. (Sometimes these things may be present in a school but known by a different name.)
  • Discuss and agree how you will present the material.
    • Many schools have interactive whiteboards in some classrooms. Then you can bring your presentation on a disc or memory stick. Check which can be used on their computer.
    • If you do put your presentation on a memory stick, CHECK before the visit that it is all there and runs successfully.
    • If you take a laptop make sure the data projector will display your material.
    • Check your presentation will be visible in near-ambient light conditions.
    • Note that in most primary schools it is impossible to get a decent blackout.
  • Arrange to arrive at least half an hour before the start time for the session and make sure that you are taken to the EMPTY classroom by the teacher who will be with you. This often means that your session will be during the first lesson in either the morning or afternoon.

Preparation

  • Try all the activities out well before your visit. There might be a trick to learn. Presentations should run smoothly otherwise you may lose the children’s attention.
  • Print out the plan and risk assessments. Read any footnotes to the PowerPoint.
  • Make a brief list of the activities you will do – to check during the session.
  • Modify the PowerPoint presentation if you will not use all of it.
  • As far as possible be self sufficient. Bring as much as possible with you and spares. Even bring a bottle of water, if needed. (Few primary classrooms have sinks and taps. Then any items that you have requested form the school can be quickly checked before the start.
  • Try to avoid showing small-scale demos etc. Bring brightly coloured objects that are large enough for the class to see without moving from their places. Scaling simple demos up makes them more fun.
  • On arrival in the classroom:
    • Check that everything will work.
    • Make sure the surface you have demos on is visible to the whole class and their view is not blocked by the data projector or overhead projector. A table may have to be moved or a trolley cleared to act as a "demo bench".
    • If you want the class or some children to move – for example into a large circle - or to help you - discuss exactly where they will stand with the teacher BEFORE the session. Tables may need to be moved.
    • Place everything so that you can reach it easily and the children cannot.

The presentation

  • Once you begin your session with the children – don’t start by talking – do something interesting! This will catch their attention. (Each topic starts in this way).
  • Primary age children have relatively short attention spans so use the material on this site to give a varied set of activities.
  • The children will ask questions. Allow them time for this at points during the session. They gain a clearer understanding and you will learn what they already know and have done. Be ready for some good questions and if you do not know that answer – say so and send the answer later.
  • Once an activity, for which they have been given apparatus of any sort, is finished collect in all the apparatus or they will ‘fiddle’, lose concentration and might misbehave.
  • Remember that generally the image of scientists is poor among children from media portrayal as being nerdy. Be a lively friendly visitor to whom they can relate. They will be impressed to meet a real scientist.
  • You may want to think of questions to ask the children as this can be a good way of engaging their interest – try to have a mixture of questions some where you ask for opinions and some where you are asking them to think.
  • Finally, tell them about recent discoveries and enthuse them with the idea that there are still a lot of questions unanswered and, if they take science, there are interesting careers with opportunities to make discoveries.

Feedback

  • Afterwards ask for feedback. This will help you to prepare for your next school visit.
  • You may want to get the teacher to hand out evaluation forms (see the EPSRC Partnerships for Public Awareness: Good Practice Guide for guidance on this).
  • Let us know your thought about the session – very soon after it has happened.
    • Would you recommend that anything is modified?
    • Which parts were most successful?
    • How did the children behave?
    • Advice to others using the material.
  • Let us know the teachers comments about the material/ children’s reaction/ points they liked best.
  • Provide the teacher with your phone number or email address so you will be able to answer (or find answers to) questions relating to physics in the future. (Try to raise the teachers’ confidence about this because, they have no means of knowing which of the children’s questions are simple and which are really difficult - so the answers are not known.)

Legal points

  • It is advisable to become a Science and Engineering Ambassador (SEA).
  • Anyone who joins STEMNET’s Science and Engineering Ambassadors (SEAs) programme must be CRB checked (please visit www.crb.gov.uk for further information). The CRB Standard Disclosure check is free of charge to all SEAs as they are volunteers. If you become a SEA as part of your employment or study course then you (or your employer) will be required to pay for the check. Once you are an approved SEA you will be entitled to be covered by STEMNET’s SEAs insurance but only if you inform the local SEAs Management Contract-Holder (SMCH)to which you are registered of the details of any activity you are undertaking in advance.
  • STEMNET ask all SEAs to attend a short induction session to introduce them to the programme, when their CRB Disclosure application will also be processed. Once individuals are fully-registered SEAs, they are asked to take part in a minimum of one activity a year to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to young people in order to remain registered with the programme.
  • If you do not become a SEA you can go into some schools without being CRB checked but a teacher must accompany you at all times and actually many schools are now insisting on a check even when a teacher is present - we strongly recommend this. If a school asks for a CRB check, becoming an SEA is the best route.
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  • Be aware that most organisations have Children and Vulnerable Adults’ Protection Polices, often know as safeguarding policies. Check at your place of work. If your visit to a school is linked to an IOP Branch activity the IOP policy is included in the Guidelines for Branch Officers. Alternatively, contact the HR department for a copy. The policy promotes good practice as well as including information on how to avoid putting yourself or your colleagues at risk.
  • In addition, if your visit is linked to an IOP activity, you should be aware that there is an IOP Volunteer Policy which is also available in the Guidelines for Branch Officers and from the HR department.
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  • Note that all mains powered equipment taken into a school must have an up to date portable appliance test (PAT). This includes laptops. You may therefore prefer to use a school computer.
  • Note that photographs may not be taken of children unless prior parental permission has been granted for ALL the children.
  • Avoid touching the children if possible.

DO HAVE FUN!

Physics is FUN

Physics is in everything!



Related information

Guidelines