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Science and Maths Excellence Award Winners

Hundreds of schools from all around Ireland have won Awards of Science and Maths Excellence for their endeavours on the Discover Primary Science and Maths Programme.

Each year we are amazed by the amount of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) work in primary schools all over the country. Each year it is so encouraging to see both schools that have really captured a whole school approach to engaging students in science, and schools that are starting this journey with a few of their classes.

This year to ensure we continue to recognise all this effort, we have split the awards into two categories:

  • A Certificate of STEM work in School
  • A Plaque of STEM Excellence for deeper engagement, whole school involvement and external science engagement

 

Winning School Profiles

Take a look at these profiles of some of the amazing schools that have earned 9 or more Science Foundation Ireland Discover Science and Maths Awards and are working their way towards their tenth.

Martin Mulligan from Highpark National School, Sligo, discusses their experience from being involved in the SFI Discover Science and Maths Awards. He says that ‘In the school we feel that the DPSM programme is an excellent initiative and provides a goal and a focus for the children throughout the year. We start collating our work/science experiments in September, planning speakers, school trips etc. which culminates in a Science presentation just before the deadline for submission of the project. Science education in our school is now no longer textbook based but rather gained from a multiplicity of sources. Children, also through the class speakers and visits have gained invaluable experience and see the relevance of science and technology in everyday life. Furthermore the Awards programme integrates excellently with the use of I.T. as the children take photographs, summate their experiments, scan their drawings, create a logbook using word and present their work using PowerPoint, to the wider school community.’

From trying a range of experiments over the past few years, Martin Mulligan states how the ‘children enjoyed the balancing clown activity and had great fun trying to place their coins in the correct position. They also enjoyed designing different types of bridges and calculating the weight of the load needed to collapse the different bridge types. We also enjoyed the electrical activities over the years, creating different types of circuits, adding propeller motors, buzzers and different types of switches. We also enjoyed making the electrical quiz game.’

‘Initially it was just the senior classes that were involved but when all the school saw how enjoyable Science really is at our Science presentation at the end of the year when the children were showcasing their work, all classes were interested and anxious to get involved. As such all classes in the school are now participating and all present a resumé of their work at the end of the year to the school wide community.’

As part of the programme, Highpark National School have had a variety of guest speakers talk to the classes ranging from Biologists to Engineers. They have also visited the SSE Airtricity Windmill farm Kingsmountain Co. Sligo, Dunmoran Strand for an investigation of the flora and fauna and Portavade Shoreline / Streamstown Ballisodare to examine the birdlife. Every year since their initial participation, they have showcased their work to the entire school wide community. This involves the children presenting and demonstrating different experiments that they have done throughout the year. They also show a Powerpoint presentation of their work and include photographs of any trips etc. Some of the pupils have attended Sligo IT Science fair and other Science presentations held there and found them both interesting and informative. From participating in the awards, Martin Mulligan claims that ‘it has enhanced the children’s I.T. skill, made Science more relevant and interesting, improved the children’s presentation skills and fostered a positive disposition towards the subject within the children.’

Top tips for success in the SFI Discover Science and Maths Awards:

  • Start your project early which will reduce pressure as the deadline looms!
  • Try and incorporate examples of science in action from the local area as this will make it more interesting and relevant for the children.
  • Check if some of your parents or other individuals from the local community have scientific expertise and may be only too willing to help.

Check out Highpark National Schools dedicated Science Page on their school webpage.

Derrylamogue first got involved in the SFI Discover Science and Maths Awards when one of their teachers, Emer Doyle, attended a Discover Primary Science course in Birr castle 9 years ago, and thought that this programme was a great way of ensuring that a variety of science would be carried out at all levels. Emer explains that, ‘As a school we are far more involved in carrying out hands-on practical science work in our classrooms. I like to see the videos of the experiments with my class before we carry them out and then I show it again after our own efforts. Children love things that might explode or have some form of movement e.g. flying rockets, bursting balloons.’

Over the years, they have invited in various speakers from engineers to retired local teachers who have a great knowledge of their local flora and fauna. They have also visited Lullymore, Clara bog, Birr castle, Castlecomer along with many trips to their local Slieve Bloom Mountains. Every year Derrylamogue National School hold a science display where it’s supported by their parent body and local community as well as past pupils. Emer also adds that they ‘have visited several Discovery Centres over the years and all have been successful – Birr Castle, Castlecomer, Lullymore and Clara bog’. They hope to visit Cloncannon Biofarm or Recreate in Clough Jordan, or bring a different class group to Clara bog this year.

Emer along with her school feels that participating in this programme ensures that science is covered in all areas at all class levels. Our children are involved in science and being scientists for 8 years. We work as a whole school body, everyone cooperates by participating in this programme and all classes have partaken since day one’.

Top tips for success in the SFI Discover Science and Maths Awards:

  • To involve all classes.
  • To do it continuously over the year.
  • Build up the log gradually covering all the sets.

Courtenay School are currently on their 9th award. Geraldine Meaney discusses their experience with the awards so far. They first got involved in the awards because 'We wanted to raise the profile of Science and Maths in the school. We felt it would be very beneficial if teachers and pupils were rewarded for their work in Science and Maths'. Since entering, their approach to science teaching has changed. 'The children are more involved and there is less emphasis on books and copies. Recording the activities is mainly through photographs. The hands on activities are the most enjoyable and the ones the children learn most from. All children partake regardless of academic ability. Paper helicopters is their favourite because the children assemble the helicopters themselves and they have great fun figuring out how to get them to spin faster or how to slow it down. They love Dancing Raisins because it is so visual. All classes are involved now. About half the school was involved initially but when they saw the enjoyment to be gained, the other classes were very happy to partake.'

Courtenay School have also engaged with external resources to both, meet criteria for the awards and to help broaden the student's ideas about STEM. Scott Ziglinski is an engineer and he has covered activities from all the strands over the years. Geoff Hunt is their local Bird Watch enthusiast. He has taken classes to examine wildflowers and insects in the school courtyard and in the local demesne. As part of the programme they have gone on trips to the Demesne, the River Arra and to University of Limerick. Sixth class visited the R.D.S. and took part in the Young Scientists Exhibition. They have also held their own Science Show in their school. Geraldine explains that 'each class was allocated a table where they could demonstrate their activity and answer questions. Representatives from each class manned their table for the day. Each class got a time allocated to them when they could visit the Science Fair. The local school community and parents and all pupils attended.' They have also arranged school tours to two of our Discover Centre’s including Tralee Bog Wetlands and Killarney National Park, and describes both of them as 'excellent'.

Geraldine registers the school for Discover Science and Maths each year and assembles the log for Discover Primary Science but states that 'it is very much a whole school effort.'

Top tips for success in the SFI Discover Science and Maths Awards:

  • Get as many classes involved as possible.
  • Plan well in advance.
  • Discuss the activities with the teachers and ensure all four strands are covered.
  • Ensure all necessary resources are available.

She also adds that by entering the awards ‘It highlights the school’s participation in Science and Maths and the award reflects the school’s efforts. It gives a good structure to these subjects. It is a collaborative effort with all pupils and all teachers involved. Science and Maths become fun subjects!

Take a look at these profiles of some of the amazing schools that have earned 10 or more Awards of Science & Maths Excellence.

We believed it to be a very worthwhile scheme that would provide an impetus for a whole school approach to the teaching and learning of Science and Maths. It’s also great to get recognition by way of the award at the end of the year.

We are more likely to do the hands on experiments and to record our science activities in a more structured way so that we will have them to submit for AOSME. It has also encouraged us to display and showcase the results of our work to parents.

Regarding DPSM activities, different classes have different favourites among which are the dancing raisins, design a bridge, design a boat and rocket launch. The activity movies are also a fun and exciting way of presenting activities to our classes.

The children most enjoy the hands-on activities. The children enjoy them because they provide an opportunity for them to think creatively, to work collaboratively and to experiment. It also gives them the opportunity to work through their ideas and to discuss the results of their experiments with their teacher and classmates and to record their results and then to see their work displayed.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • Get every class involved.
  • Appoint a co-ordinator at the beginning of each year.
  • Divide up the workload and book speaker/school trip early.

Over the years activities such as science fairs mean we engage more in sharing our learning with the whole school. We also undertake more shared activities such as table quizzes during science week, all classes participated in “hour of code” at their own level. We also love the opportunities to attend workshops and have visitors to our school to learn about Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology.

The changes in the awards over the years from Science to Science and Maths and now to STEM fit well with the cross-curriculum nature of the primary curriculum, facilitating the learning of skills which can be used across many subject areas.

I really like the balancing activities from the DPSM website, the children are so surprised by the results and I love the fact that it can be done so easily in the classroom and no resources are needed other than things that are readily available.

Over the years the children have enjoyed loads of the activities. One of their favourite activities seems to be the helicopters and without a doubt they love making their own rockets.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • Have fun and photos are the easiest way of recording achievement

I believe that Discover Primary Science and Maths supports teachers in teaching Science and links Math and Math skills into the lessons. It promotes the child centred SESE curriculum. This programme has encouraged the hands on approach of the teaching of Science in our school. Teachers no longer rely on text books to teach Science. They have become more creative in their teaching of Science. It also has encouraged curricular links and integration in planning and teaching as each science activity contains suggestions for links to other strands of the science curriculum and suggestions for integration across the primary curriculum.

I like the activities from the forces section of DPSM especially the electricity section. The students can develop their knowledge of circuits to make and design many projects. I have started off with The Lighthouse activity and, using this knowledge, students enjoyed making The Electric Quizzes (the quiz is usually linked to math) and traffic lights. Last year the students in my class loved the Lava Lamp activity. I think this was due to the chemical reaction and the end result of the experiment.

I organised a facilitator from DPSM to come to the school to deliver a workshop for the staff. This was part of Croke Park hours and took place after school. The facilitator was excellent. She clearly outlined the structure of the awards and presented experiments for the staff to carry out. I believe that by doing the experiments themselves and enjoying the hands on experience they were encouraged to implement DPSM in their classrooms, on a more regular basis.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • At staff meeting in September explain and remind teachers of the AOSME, so that they plan to include DPSM in their yearly plans and that they match activities to their class.
  • When you have decided what activities you are going to do with your class, make a list of everything you will need. Ask the children to bring in as much as they can.
  • Check for new activities.
  • Plan out the steps for the awards in the first term e.g. what Discover Centre you plan to visit.
  • Invite your principal or colleagues to visit your class to see a presentation of the activities.
  • Take photos of each experiment as evidence for your Discovery Log.
  • Make out a blank report template for the students to record their work after each experiment.
  • Assign one member of staff responsibility for compiling the Log Book.

Our school got involved to help children develop an interest in science and to realise that science is everywhere in their environment e.g., air, water, engineering , living things etc., Our school participates in the the Green School project and the DPSM programme compliments this perfectly. We have just been awarded our 6th Green Flag.

We used the classroom activity pack as a catalyst to stimulate the pupils interest and get them involved in hands on science experiments. Over the years the pupils have developed scientific skills such as questioning, predicting, observing, measuring and recording. One of our aims is to develop the child's ideas and to encourage them to answer their own questions.

My favourite activity is the Design A Bridge project. It involves investigating and experimenting and can be integrated across the primary curriculum e.g. history, geography and maths. One of the pupil's favourite activities is working with magnets. They enjoy watching and making the Magnetic Car move using the repelling force between the like poles of two magnets.

Some of the field trips that we have been on as part of the programme include:

  • The North Slob, Co. Wexford
  • Mayglass Water Tower, Wexford
  • Holmestown Recycling Centre, Wexford
  • Carnsore Wind Farm, Wexford

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • Our top tips are to use the classroom activity pack as a guideline to getting started
  • Keep a photographic record of the experiments
  • Get as many staff as possible involved

The school has been involved with DPSM since it began in 2005. We have 2 teachers on staff trained in DPSM. Through the AOSME the children have developed their scientific and maths skills.

Since first beginning the AOSME I like to use more hands-on and practical, visual activities to develop the skills and content. I also encourage the children to write out the experiment correctly and use labelled diagrams, which is good training for Science in Secondary School.

I like the foam rocket, initially I came across the activity in a summer course, and then the video was posted online in the autumn. It shows the children how everyday materials can create a rocket and of course the results are great too and encourage the children to think outside the box when they are making it, and once completed, to get the best results. The children enjoy the chemistry activities, making slime, making bouncy custard balls. The children like to be involved in messy activities, but these messy activities can also produce something worthwhile.

The pupils benefit from a hands-on and practical list of activities, which build on scientific skills along with numeracy and literacy skills. The children work together and learn with each other for different experiments too. The school has benefited from the programme also; some of our past pupils have gone on to represent their secondary schools at the BT Young Scientist. We believe their interests began in primary school with us.

Top tips for success in achieving an AoSME:

  • One of my top tips would be to stay organised; we try to follow a plan within the school to ensure the different aspects of the programme are completed by different classes.
  • Always have a camera to hand, there are always moments to capture in any science lesson and this is just as important as the written elements.
  • Make sure the activities are suitable and accessible to all the children in the class.

Our school first became involved in the DPSM programme in order to foster and develop an interest in science in our pupils. We were interested in finding a way of creating a child-friendly introduction to the importance of science and an effective way to normalise science for the pupils, to show them that science is an everyday subject, they themselves have prior knowledge and use ‘science’ in their everyday lives. Becoming involved in the awards process was a way to validate the children’s experiences with science and encourage their interest further.

The children seem to enjoy the activities from the Living Things strand in particular the Human Life strand unit. They thoroughly enjoyed the Exercise your Heart, Exploring Lungs and How Much Air Can My Lungs Hold activities. They also enjoyed activities from the materials strand Materials - Dyeing with red cabbage, soap and vinegar. The pupils happily investigated and experimented with acids and alkaline, using an indicator etc.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • Organised whole school planning to develop a set of interesting lessons and to ensure engagement from other classes, parents and relatives.
  • It is important to pick a set of activities that are linked and integrated for each group to ensure deeper understanding of a theme.
  • It is essential to ensure all children are actively engaged in each experiment and are allowed the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the results of the experiments.
  • Keep the experiments and activities relevant to the children’s everyday lives and environments.

Ms O’Connor tells us: Our approach to science teaching has changed since first entering the AOSME. Science has become a more hands on subject. More emphasis on predicting results and the whole discovery element in experiments – What’s going to happen? What should have happened? Why didn’t that happen? Children are more aware of science at work in their own environment and the importance of maths in science.

My favourite activity from is the Make a Rocket Activity – this activity generates a lot of excitement amongst all classes. The 'not knowing what\’s going to happen' - the element of surprise as to when the rocket will take off has the children hooked from the beginning.

Our favourite activities from the DPSM website are the Design and Make activities. The children really enjoy gathering the materials and equipment needed, working together and assembling the projects and then comparing each other’s and reflecting on their work. There is a great sense of achievement when the finished product is presented. Some of the Design and Make activities completed are Design a Water Pump, Design a Boat, Design a Hovercraft and Make a Rocket.

Participation in the AOSME has always been a whole school undertaking from the beginning. St. Brendan’s N.S. feels that it is just as important to foster an awareness and a love of science and maths in the junior classes as well as middle and senior classes. There is a great sense of pride in the school at the fact that we already have 9 awards and this motivates us to work every year on award. The children have a better awareness that maths and science are very much a part of everyday life. The experiment and information available on the DPSM website make the teaching of science and maths much easier throughout the school.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • Success in AOSME is down to planning
  • Each class follows a set science theme every month
  • We have made resource boxes to go with each theme - teachers just grab the box and go
  • The DPSM website is also an invaluable resource with lesson plans, experiments and integration with maths at all teacher’s fingertips
  • Spiral Curriculum throughout school as we have a different theme every month

The awards give us a goal to strive towards in a structured manner. As the awards have evolved so has our awareness of the importance of integrating the use of technology as part of our school work and to give the children the opportunity to investigate engineering in school and in our locality. We avail of the many interesting events available during Engineers Week and Maths Week in our locality.

The Balloon Rocket activity which demonstrates the power of air pressure proved a great hit this year. Having recorded the distance travelled by our rocket in the classroom, we were curious to try and launch it out the window into the yard. After many attempts and great laughter we finally succeeded and eventually located our rocket in the yard.

Participation in the AoSME has encouraged a whole school approach to the teaching of science and maths. Most importantly it makes children see the relevance of science, technology and maths in the world around them. The hands- on approach allows children to focus on the process and not just the product and above all it engages and motivates them to learn and have fun in the process.

From a teacher’s point of view the criteria involved ensure that individual teachers engage in the science experiments in the classroom.

Down through the years we have invested considerably in science and maths equipment and partaking in the project ensures the use of existing resources which are organised and labelled in different containers making participation easier.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

  • Plan early to ensure all steps of the programme will be covered.
  • Create a folder on the shared drive for teachers to upload their work as it is completed.
  • Document all outings and visitors to the school which are science related.
  • Maintaining an inventory of resources organised into the different strands in both maths and science for easy access.
  • A sign in /out book is essential to keep track of the resources.

We considered it a great way to garner more knowledge about Science. DPSM provided so much needed Experiments and Explanations. They carefully structured the experiments and linked them to Science Curriculum. We were doing Science without feeling too overwhelmed. Then as our confidence grew it was marvellous to see AoSME pushing out the boundaries a bit more. We too consider Science and Maths a hugely important area of the Curriculum and we so wanted to give our pupils the best possible chance to experiment and investigate and see how both disciplines are inter-related. We feel this Programme is so worthwhile. We also availed of the opportunity of embracing all the STEPS Engineering Projects on offer over the years. What a pity they didn’t continue. Whilst they were challenging they were a great way to get children designing, experimenting and creating.

Initially we confined ourselves to the experiments outlined in DPSM Booklet. However, as we got more experience we ‘spread our wings’. Now I think it’s fair to say we encourage the children to be Investigators. We ask them to design 'Fair Tests'.

When we started out I guess we were interested in Experiments such as Diving Drops and Sinking Feelings etc. I feel as children get older they can still benefit from engaging in these experiments as their body of knowledge has increased they should have a better understanding of why things behave in a particular manner. I think the experiments on Motors and Vehicles are always challenging as our students really enjoy designing and making. We have worked on the Traffic Lights Experiment and Electric Quiz and they have yielded great satisfaction too. Dyeing with Red Cabbage, Soap and Vinegar is always good when the sun is shining we head outdoors and experiment. Children have brought in their tee-shirts and engaged in a spot of dyeing themselves. Designing and Making Rockets has proven to be a popular activity too with many of our students. Kitchen Chemistry is also fun and testing How much air our Lungs can hold never fails to impress and entertain!!! I also think since the Activities outline how Maths could be integrated into the fun activity even more learning is happening. Every class embarks on a spot of planting in the Spring.

Top tips for success in AoSME are:

Don’t be afraid to get involved. Science & Engineering is all around us. It is good to investigate, to experiment and to see what happens. We can learn from our successes AND from our Failures!! There is so much information at our fingertips. We can’t know everything but isn’t it super to be able to surf the www and see what others have done? AoSME is a fantastic way to get involved. They have great ideas in their Activity Pack and even if you have exhausted those ideas there is still loads of wonderful opportunities all around us that need to be examined and explored. Tune into SFI and their newsletter usually has some very interesting articles.

Science has always been area of particular interest for us in Robertson. We have always felt that Science is an exciting, vibrant area of the curriculum that offers pupils vast and diverse opportunities for learning. The Discover Primary Science and Maths programme gave us a fantastic opportunity to make Science and Maths work in our school a special area of interest where everyone in school could become involved in working towards a common goal. As the awards have grown and changed over the years, so has our passion for Science! We have become even more enthused and active in our approaches and activities to ensure our school’s continued success in this important area.

Since entering the AoSME our approaches to Science have become much more child centred, practical and hands on. Our pupils have become more involved in the investigations taking place and their suggestions, questions and ideas lead the investigations we engage in. The children have become better at thinking things through, solving problems and reflective as a result. This has led to an enhanced and enriched learning experience for all concerned. A personal favourite for me is the Design a Boat activity. This activity is always a fun activity in my infant classroom as it creates lots of ‘sinking’ problems, which pupils are encouraged to work through and solve resulting in a beautifully floating boat (which we then sink again with ‘pea passengers’!) This activity offers children the chance to be hands on in their learning and ask questions such as ‘why?’ and ‘how?’.

Our school has always placed an emphasis on Science. We felt that the time was right to widen the curriculum of science in our school to include more chemistry and physics while retaining the strong teaching always received by our pupils in the area of living things. When the Discovery Primary Science award began we were immediately interested as it gave structure and direction to what we were already trying to achieve. The use of recyclable materials and the fun aspect of teaching important scientific principles really appealed to us.

As a result of entering the AoSME we have moved away from textbook teaching. We use an experimental approach when teaching science. We do not have or feel the need to use science books. We find the DPSM lessons and videos most helpful. Personally, I love the Make a Lighthouse and Make an Electric Quiz lessons. When children understand a simple circuit and parallel circuit, these lessons allow their knowledge and imaginations to flow.

We do our own science week activities and we also attend science workshops in the locality. We look forward to Engineers Week and enjoy learning about the work of an engineer from different past pupils and parents each year.