Aim: The initial aims were about improving the skills and future aspirations of the individuals involved, but during the work the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in Plymouth received funding for ‘Citizen Science’ style projects and so the nature of the project evolved.
Background: The College has a general philosophy to extend higher ability students in whatever manner possible. Additional enrichment and extra-curricular activities are a very strong thread that runs right through the College. Driven by interested staff within the Science department, the aim was to broaden the horizons of some of our more enthusiastic scientists.
Students embarked on shore surveys and ‘Marine Biologist for a Day’ sessions with the MBA to learn general skills and to consider the work of scientists. Year 9 and Year 12 students were chosen to help inform progress and choices from GCSE to A Level and A Level to degree respectively. Initially attitudes to the studies were measured in terms of retention and ongoing commitment to the project. Seven staff received training on the MBA NVQ Aquarist course.
A ‘Citizen Science’ aspect of the project naturally emerged and the Year 9 participants were retained into Year 10, whilst a new group of Year 12 were selected. The MBA started to work with the group to consider how the community might be involved in studies and data collection. The students studied other wildlife applications for smart phones, and thought about how they might produce a seashore survey programme. Outcomes of this work were: a ‘Seashore Code’ video teaching people how to explore rock pools safely and without causing harm or damage to the environment, and a consultation with a local app developer. Students shared the outcomes of the project with the community at two local science fairs.
Years 3 & 4:
More of the work was focused on methods for surveying particular species on the shore and how this would be implemented into a digital survey app. It was decided to focus on crabs, however finding specific funding for the app slowed progress.
Evidence: Student questionnaires, subject choices.
Impact: 80% of those involved at GCSE went on to study science-related subjects at A Level. In addition to this 40% of the students involved through to A Level, or those who were involved in Year 12, went on to study science disciplines at degree level. There was some indication that students from the project had better outcomes than others, around 70% of them doing better than a comparison. The best outcomes came from the original group coming back to work with new students in Year 12. In the first year the school received a schools’ project award at the local Big Bang Fair.
Reflections: We have had to be flexible in terms of our focus, as the MBA shifts its focus and work to meet requirements and stipulations of the agencies from whom it receives its funding. My personal view is that, in this case, the benefits outweigh the barriers, and it is worth being open minded in terms of your outcomes, and patient in terms of the results.
Contact: Nick Kerswell, Science Teacher, email@example.com