Awards for teachers who go the extra mile


PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS will receive awards over the next few weeks in recognition of their efforts in promoting science. There are 654 schools included in the ceremonies this year, the largest number yet - and an increase of 30 per cent on last year.

The first of 20 award ceremonies, which are organised by the Discover Primary Science programme, was held yesterday in Croke Park.

"The programme started in 2004 with 528 teachers. The aim is to support teachers with the social, environmental and scientific education (Sese) science curriculum," explains Oonagh Meighan, manager of Young People's Programmes in Discover Science and Engineering, who runs the Discover Primary Science programme.

This year there are about 3,500 teachers involved, representing more than 90 per cent of all primary schools.

"We want to support teachers and generate activities for them to include in science teaching. We have curriculum writers who put together activities. The teachers then come to education centres where they get hands-on training in these activities," says Meighan.

Some of the activities include splitting white light into its various wavelengths with a prism, demonstrating acids and bases using substances like fizzy drinks and baking soda and basic chromatography.

"We do have a slight bias and emphasise physics and chemistry more. Typically only around 11 per cent of students choose these for Leaving Cert, as opposed to 50 per cent who choose biology," says Meighan.

"The awards are to recognise the teachers who have gone the extra mile. They have four steps to go through to qualify for the awards and they keep a log book which they then send to us," explains Meighan.

A number of activities must be completed, as well as a visit to one of the designated science centres to be included in the awards. "There is a network of bio-discover centres which schools can visit, including Dublin Zoo, the National Stud and Galway Atlantaquaria. The visits are a good science experience for the children and they're curriculum-aligned."

The awards will next travel to Navan, Athlone, Sligo, Galway, Waterford, Limerick and Cork. The ceremonies will include a science magic show and interactive displays from local industry, universities and science centres.

"The industries, universities and science centres were invited to provide a hands-on display. The zoo could bring animals, or a recycling centre could bring recycled materials. We'll also have our mascot, the scientist Molly Cool at the ceremonies to meet the children," says Meighan.

Molly Cool features on the Discover Primary Science website which includes interactive activities and games which appeal to children as well as more information on the awards.