Our Teacher in the Field

Hi! I’m Mel McLain, I’ve been teaching since 1994, and at my present school, St Michael-in-the-Hamlet Community Primary for almost 12 years now. I’m Science coordinator and STEM Lead.

I love getting hands-on and messy, and love sharing those experiences with our children. I love the excitement and ‘Wow!’ that science can generate.

Since we returned to school in September, we have seen more children interested in careers as scientists or working in the NHS, and we are building from this to raise pupils’ Science Capital. We want all our children to realise that science is relevant for them, and that it underpins daily life.

This picture is from an activity that we did to investigate the rate of flow of different liquids when we were learning about why volcanoes are different shapes. I’m amazed my jumper stayed so clean! In the background, on our Role Models and Heroes board, you can just make out a photo of Maggie Aderin-Pocock, one of my science heroes.

As All About STEM’s Teacher in the Field, I’m going to share some ideas and resources I’ve found useful.

I love these STEM Person of the Week Posters from NUSTEM and the STEM Role Model Posters from Nevertheless.

And this book arrived just in time for British Science Week! We’re using the stuff about Miranda Lowe, the cover star, to inspire our British Science Week home / school comp. It’s more primary friendly than a lot of other resources I’ve found online.

Earlier this year, I attended the STEM Club Champions ‘Getting Started’ workshop. I found this course really useful in terms of guiding my thinking around running a STEM Club, and making sure it was systematic. The access to resource lists etc has, and will be, very useful.

This year, for World Book Day, each year group took a book as inspiration for activities for the whole day. Year 3 used Simon Mayo’s ‘Itch’, the story of a teenage element hunter. I borrowed a school blazer, wore a periodic table t-shirt and safety specs, and used lots of hair spray to make my hair stand up, like I’d been in an explosion. I did draw the line singeing my eyebrows off.

We also learnt about Marie Curie, a real-life element hunter. We used the symbols from the periodic table to crack codes.

Then we used an idea from the Royal Society of Chemistry, making and testing red cabbage indicators. Lots of oohs!  Their website resources are organised by Key Stage making it easier to find activities for different age groups.

The resources on the PLAN website (many free) will save you hours and hours of work. There are lots of progression documents, including knowledge grids, which show prior learning, next steps, common misconceptions and a basic vocabulary. There are also some examples of work from different year groups. 

All this year, I have been looking for video clips about STEM careers, to match with each year group’s science topics. This is a really useful resource that helps you find short videos of scientists talking about their jobs. The clips are sorted into the National Curriculum areas, which really helps you build them into your curriculum delivery.

I hope some of these ideas are useful! If you have ones of your own to share, email them to [email protected]!

More ideas from Mel coming soon…