ASE Conference 2013

So, on Saturday, I attended my first ASE conference. I decided to attend on the back of an #ASEchat that took place in September 2012. Luckily, as a trainee teacher (and an ASE member), it was free for me to attend one day. However, I also booked on two paid sessions: Microbiology for primary and Inspiring Primary Science!, both of which are reviewed below. In addition, I decided to attend It's Not Fair - or is it? KS2 Enquiry and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, the latter of which was recommended by a colleague. Upon arrival at the conference, I was warmly welcomed by staff at the registration desk and handed my pack - full of promotional information, and most importantly, the programme for the day. Disappointingly though, the exhibition was closing at 3pm. However, there was a great selection of dedicated primary sessions, with too many to choose from! However, over a coffee, and before 9.30 (the start of the first paid session), I decided on my timetable for the day.

First up, was Microbiology for primary. This really was an informative session into how microbiology can be taught in primary schools. Shamefully, I didn't realise that teaching children about micro-organisms was on the National Curriculum. However, I now have a range of ways to discuss this! Most interesting, was the discussion about children's misconceptions (this links nicely into one of my assignments this year!) - are all microbes bad for us? Certainly, I know that there are 'goodies' and 'badies'. However, most children are taught about bacteria and viruses as being nasty microbes.

Ultimately, the session focused on safe ways of showing children microbes (naturally, they are too small to see with the naked eye), through letting food decay - such as placing bread in a sealed bag and observing the growth of microbes. I also really liked the idea of letting children design their own microbe - with the use of playdough/saltdough etc to make a physical representation. At the same time, children can create facts about their microbe, such as where does it live? What is it's name? (apparently, most boys used their names - so, in true fashion. mine is called Dave (see picture below).

I have come away from this session more confident in teaching microbes to children, and knowing some of the misconceptions that can occur, and what I can do to prevent this.

Inspiring Primary Science was a session run by Dr Mark and provided loads of practical experiments to do in the classroom with the children. Crucially, all of the experiments discussed were practically free to carry out, with only everyday household items needed! While I could spend the time talking through all of the experiments carried out, I think it's more important to discuss how each experiment can be tailored to different age children. Dr Mark focused on providing children with a stimulus and allowing them to develop their scientific enquiry skills through observation and questioning. He focused on how children (and adults) can often criticise and censor out certain observations or questions, and stated that it's important for children to keep an open mind when exploring science. 

Perhaps it was my sub-conscience telling me something, but without realising what I was doing, I decided to attend It's Not Fair - or is it? KS2 Enquiry next. This is a session run by Jane Turner, author of a book of the same name, that I have read (Ok, I'm still reading it!) for my research project! Again, this was another great session, which got me to question how children can engage in scientific enquiry without the age-old tradition of 'fair-testing'. There's too much to discuss for this session. So, I advise you head over to Waterstones and order the book, or borrow it from your library - Jane makes an excellent case for using a range of scientific enquiry skills rather than focusing on fair testing. 

To end the day, I attended a keynote by Anne Goldsworthy. If you don't know of Anne, I suggest you head over to her website or blog. Seen as something of a living legend in the world of science education, Anne gave a remarkable speech on the future of science education and the role of teachers to educate children through quality interactions and good conversations. Words here cannot do justice to how amazing Anne's keynote was. I hope ASE will upload it for all to watch. She is a remarkable woman.

All in all, it was a great day, and I feel inspired and very keen to return to the classroom and educate the next generation of scientists. I am also already planning to attend the conference next year! Well done ASE - a great conference. I'm hooked!