Going on visits

Science centres provide a wealth of help and advice for teachers taking a trip out of school. Special activities can get booked up so will need to be planned well in advance, however, a self-directed trip can be just as beneficial.

Organising your visit

Go to Ecsite for advice on a great science centre visit and to find your nearest one. Look at the education pages of the individual websites to find out what’s on for school parties.

Another hugely motivating aspect for children interested in science is to go to an establishment where science is being done. Health and safety implications often prevent children from being allowed into laboratories, but it is sometimes possible to view scientists at work and then talk to them about their work. Look out for the opportunity to visit ‘behind the scenes’ during National Science and Engineering Week in March when many facilities open their doors. Or you could take your group to open days at local specialist colleges such as agricultural colleges, where they can see some science going on.

Think of ways to engage the children with the exhibits in imaginative ways – devise research projects rather than worksheets with an opportunity to feed back to the rest of the group at the end, or allow children to communicate their new-found information in a fun way back at school. Small groups with an adult facilitator, a parent, volunteer or a teacher, work well with some guidance from the leader.

The Learning Outside the Classroom website has lots of general advice and examples of good practice for all subjects.

The Institute of Physics have put together ‘A Guide to Industry Visits for School Groups’ (available to download below), which outlines the benefits not only to the students but also to the school to organise and take part in such visits. It also provides hints and tips for arranging these events.

Health and Safety

Risk assessment

Your school will already have a risk assessment and risk management procedure to cover the health and safety aspects of visits out of school and inviting visitors into school. You should familiarise yourself with this and complete a risk assessment form in the format approved by your school. You will need to keep your risk assessments on file.

For more advice on risk assessment see the Health and Safety Executive website and specifically their publication ‘Five steps to risk assessment’.

Child protection issues

Your school and local authority will have a child protection policy in place, which includes carrying out a criminal records check on all members of staff in contact with children. If your speaker is a Science and Engineering Ambassador with the STEMNET scheme they will have already undergone a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. However, other speakers may not have a recent CRB certificate and it can be impractical to ask them to complete one for a one-off event. Check with your school and local authority what you should do if this is the case.

Much more advice on running activities for young people beyond the curriculum can be found on the British Science Association’s website. The Science and Engineering Club Handbook (© HMSO 2007) which can be found there is an excellent source of advice.

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