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Reading + writing + arithmetic = great science

Empiribox launched last year aiming to revolutionise teaching in primary schools

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 12, 2015 | Teaching

Empiribox Primary Science Trust, a social enterprise and Community Interest Company (CIC), have introduced specific, topic-based sets of science training (four each for physics, chemistry and biology) that cover the new National Primary Curriculum and enriches it across all teaching areas. 

While the creator of Empiribox, Dan Sullivan, was determined to make science teaching in primary schools fun - not just for the children but for the teachers as well - he also recognised that everything done in primary schools must have multiple benefits, particularly for progression in literacy and numeracy. Time and resources are limited; youngsters are demanding in their hunger for interesting lessons. 

Sullivan says: “Effective science teaching at primary school needs to be consistently exciting, interactive and investigation-based. That can only happen when teachers feel confident and their knowledge of the science that underpins each lesson helps make learning fun and relevant for pupils.”  

The system includes suites of equipment, with accompanying schemes of work and lesson plans. Freethorpe School in Norfolk used Empiribox resources as a core part of a cross-curricular, two-week project based on the book Itch by Simon Mayo. 

Robbie Houghton, the school’s deputy head teacher, said: “This provided an amazing start to the year - the school was able to link literacy, maths, art, design technology and drama in order to immerse the children into the exciting world of elements. The cross-curricular writing produced throughout the week was of a very good standard, as the children were exposed to a high level of practical activities prior to completing their own work.

“Enthusiasm was harnessed from the start, producing a wide range of writing, including poetry, diary extracts and reports. Children used extensive scientific language in their everyday conversations. The immediate impact was to boost the confidence of all children in the class.” 

Jennifer Iwantschak, a Year 6 teacher at Globe Primary in London, also says her pupils are applying the science skills they’ve developed to learning across other subjects: “It’s been fantastic. We do some big writes for literacy and before, when we did science writing, they didn’t have enough knowledge to really elaborate on it in a big piece of writing. Now they do – they are really enthused about it.” 

Empiribox Primary Science Trust C.I.C. is a social business; surpluses will be reinvested for the benefit of the primary education in England and Wales. And, as a social enterprise, it has a valuable role to play in helping create a strong, sustainable and socially inclusive primary school education system. 

Teachers using the Empiribox suites get full training and access to topic-based class sets of training. The depth and breadth of the topics not only covers the new National Primary Curriculum but significantly enriches it, says Sullivan. 

“As teachers enhance their subject knowledge and its application,” comments Sullivan, “they learn how to make critical observations about pupils and become better equipped to design lessons that might stretch those children that show an aptitude not just for science, but reading, writing and arithmetic as well.” 

Jen Iwantschak’s pupils’ results speak for themselves. “I was observed in a science lesson when OFSTED came in, and they were really excited about it – they hadn’t seen a primary lesson before where the kids had so much knowledge.  Not only was it clear they had knowledge, but they were also able to explain what they were doing to the OFSTED inspectors, and they were amazed by the experimental and investigative skills that the children had.” 

Sullivan points to a number of management indicators he believes will be improved through the introduction of Empiribox into schools, namely the removal of stress, time and anxiety around planning the annual science curriculum, locating and paying for equipment and pressure in lessons for KS2, especially important for non-science qualified teachers.    

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