IT ALL STARTS WITH A QUESTION

ESB Science Blast empowers children to discover the science behind a simple question that interest them, such as:

  • Which spuds cook the best?
  • Which household pet carries the most bacteria?
  • Can we charge our smart phones using only renewable energy?
  • Are boys better than girls?
  • Does your choice of sliotar matter?

These are just some of the curious questions that schools from across Munster will be presenting at the ESB Science Blast event in Limerick this week (May 21st – 23rd).

Any question that can be investigated by predicting, measuring, counting or observing is valid.

Empowering Children to Develop 21st Century Skills

ESB Science Blast is built on the measurable science of how children learn and develop and is grounded in internationally recognised best practice, both at teacher and pupil level. The RDS, organisers of the event, have validated the approach, execution, and the outcomes of ESB Science Blast via an independent audit at every stage in its development.

Annaick Farrell, a 5th class teacher at Glasnevin Educate Together National School in Dublin, entered her class for the first time this year and below she shares her insight into the initiative.

“When I signed up, I assumed that the benefits of participating would be very much on the immediate science behind the investigation my class were undertaking. But the process demands so much more of them – and offers them so much more from a learning and development perspective.” 

Resilience, communication, teamwork, planning and problem solving are all the key skills that children need to develop in order to thrive in the future. Annaick Farell says participation in the event helped her classes' collaboration and critical thinking skills. 

“The event was much more inclusive than I had initially thought. It wasn’t about the brightest children in the class, or which school had the best project. It’s a whole-class exercise; everyone had a role and brought their strengths and their ideas to the investigation. It was great to see some of the quieter children in the class take a lead.”

This is one of the key reasons the RDS developed the event as a non-competitive initiative, explains  Science and Technology Manager, Karen Sheeran. ‘We wanted to ensure that the contribution of every child is valued, and every child can see that science could be for them. This is not about developing a pipeline of scientists for the future, but rather supporting the development of a scientifically literate society empowered to ask critical questions”

Scientific Discovery

“I found that the process of selecting the question itself was a great learning experience, both for the children and myself,” says Annaick Farrell. “The class had so many great ideas, and it was hard to focus them in on one key one that we could work with. Our first project idea was on platypuses and then we ended up with seeing if we could make eco playdoh from bees wax.

“We held a workshop with a scientist and he helped us by applying very simple criteria to all our questions. Can we predict an answer? How would we measure, observe or count in order to get a result? It really simplified the process, for myself as well as the children, and allowed us to rule out a lot of our initial questions.”

Teachers can cover a huge amount of the curriculum through participation, from art to numeracy and language skills.

“Part of the learning, for myself and the children, was that it is not about finding a right answer, it is about the process involved in investigating their question.”

Showcase Event

All participating schools present their findings away from the classroom at one of the showcase events held in Dublin, Limerick and Belfast.  Annaick Farrell’s class was one of 250 schools that exhibited their final projects at ESB Science Blast in Dublin in March.

During the showcase events, judges from the STEM industry and education provide positive critical feedback to encourage the students to continue their work back in the classroom.

One of the key goals of ESB Science Blast is to empower children to have the confidence to question what is presented to them, to get to the truth of a matter, in a world where fake news abounds.

 Annaick Farrell believes that one of the key benefits of her class participating was the resulting growth in children’s own perceptions of their abilities.

Student Hannah Darby, agrees. “We were responsible for this project, and that was what we enjoyed. It was up to us to lead, and to actively do the work, rather than us watch our teacher do something, or sit and listen. That was so much more interesting, and you got a real sense of achievement when we saw the finished project”.

Delivering Results

Independent Research undertaken by the RDS shows that the impact of participation extends beyond the classroom. 98% of the families of participating children say they are now having conversations around the dinner table about the science and the investigations that their children have been undertaking. And, for the children themselves, 97% of them reported improvements in their science skills and 80% an improvement in their maths. The importance of this is the growth in children’s own confidence and self-belief.