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Suggestions for using Sci-box

Science Club and classroom

Sci-box was originally designed in response to a request for suitable investigations that could form the basis of an after-school Science Club.  As such, Sci-box contains a wealth of material (more than 50 investigations and over 100 associated child-friendly web-links) to provide stimulation for any young person with an interest in science.  Ideally, such a club would provide an opportunity for pupils to choose their own avenue of investigation, prompting them to develop their capacity for a range of higher order thinking skills.

  • Thinking

  • Questioning

  • Discussing

  • Decision making

  • Predicting

  • Drawing conclusions

  • Evaluating

  • Creative thinking

The Sci-box investigations require the minimum of (usually simple) equipment and have been designed to encourage pupils to think for themselves (suggesting rather than telling them what line of enquiry to pursue).  The web-links have been deliberately chosen to fuel further enquiry.


However, because the investigations focus on developing those skills that are fundamental to the scientific process, they are also a useful resource for use in the classroom.


Developing scientific thinking

An overwhelming consideration for teachers trying to encourage pupils to think for themselves (whether in a scientific context or otherwise) is how to reduce the number of pupils working together so that each can be provided with opportunity to express their ideas and opinions and so that each can be given individual guidance appropriate to their level of development and understanding.


It is possible to use Sci-box with a whole class, directly from the Internet via an interactive whiteboard.  The various aspects of the investigation can be displayed for all to see and discuss, either as a whole class or in smaller groups.  Using Sci-box in this way does enable the teacher to model to the class how to approach designing a scientific investigation - but every opportunity should be taken to break into smaller groups to allow pupils to pursue their own line of thinking.  The  real value in pupils carrying out scientific investigations lies not in everyone completing the same task in the same way to achieve identical results, but in pupils thinking for themselves about the best approach to adopt and how to modify the processes employed in the light of subsequent evaluation.


Wherever possible, the class should be subdivided into smaller groups.  A number of ways of effecting this can be found on the TALK pages of this website.  In particular, Think-pair-share, Envoying and Jigsawing can be used to good effect in the initial stages of planning an investigation.


Three-phase approach

It is imperative when preparing an investigation (as it is when approaching any piece of written work) that pupils recognise the importance of thorough planning.  It is wise to separate the planning and the practical phases of an investigation so that pupils are not tempted to rush into "doing" without "thinking".  Similarly, it can be beneficial to separate the practical phase from the presentation phase.  This allows time for pupils to reflect on their findings (and how best to explain them) - a useful practice to instil in budding scientists.


This "three-phase" approach enables the creative teacher greater flexibility when timetabling practical science lessons.


Whereas the teacher may prefer for the class to plan together, it is perhaps more beneficial for smaller groups to undertake the practical part of an investigation.  If the class is split into three groups, this means that as few as 10 pupils (further divided into 2 groups of 5) are engaged in the practical part of an investigation at any one time.  Sensible use of classroom support staff makes this a very viable proposition.


Working with small groups in this way provides opportunity for the teacher to more closely observe pupil interaction and facilitates assessment of pupils' progress towards attainment targets.


Those not engaged in the science investigation could be engaged in reading or writing up a piece of work (not necessarily science-related) prepared and planned in a previous lesson.

  • Monday - Planning - whole class and sub-groups.

  • Tuesday - Practical - groups A & B

  • Wednesday - Practical - groups C & D

  • Thursday - Practical - groups E & F

  • Friday - Presentation & review.

Although it may be possible for consideration of the "theoretical science" involved to take place during the planning phase, it would perhaps be more beneficial for this to precede the three-phase process.  The "theoretical science" should also be reviewed - preferably during the presentation and review phase.


The Sci-box investigation pages could be printed out as a guideline for pupil discussion during the planning phase.

If you would like to send in examples of pupils' work, I would be pleased to consider it for publication on the Brainboxx website.

Links to other websites

The web-links (at the bottom of most of the investigations) are intended to stimulate pupils into further investigation.  Wherever possible, they include interactive activities - or simply interesting or fascinating information that will appeal to pupils.  How these are used will depend on what ICT facilities are available within the classroom or within the school - and the school's policy on pupil access to these facilities.  A number of primary schools of which I know treat their ICT facilities very much as a library resource, encouraging pupil to use the Internet (under general supervision) during dinner-times and after-school.  This encourages pupils to pursue their own interest and to develop as independent learners.


Each of the websites featured in Sci-box opens in a separate window, so that it should be relatively easy to navigate back to the appropriate investigation page.  Although I have taken reasonable steps to ensure that all of the sites chosen are child-friendly (no obvious obscenity or indecency: appropriate language: no hard selling: no requests for personal information: etc.) it is not possible to guarantee that this is the case throughout every site.  Although I have chosen sites that I believe to be engaging, I cannot guarantee that pupils will not "wander off on their own" - therefore the usual safeguards need to be exercised by the teacher or supervising adults.