Spring has sprung: The return to school By Orna Herr, Communications Officer (Education) at the British Science Association --- It’s been a strange and difficult year, to say the very least. Last March, we had just entered the first national lockdown and schools had been closed across all four nations of the UK. Now, thanks to the incredible work of vaccine scientists and NHS staff giving as many people the jab as quickly as possible, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Spring is a time of new beginnings; as we move closer to the start of life post-restrictions, the reopening of schools is a key part of that. In England, most schools reopened for compulsory attendance on 8 March, however dates for the return of primary - and secondary - aged students has varied across the UK. Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to see all students return to the classroom by 12 April, while Scotland should see a full return by 19 April. It is bound to be a daunting prospect for both children and teachers. While many will be eager to get back to face-to-face learning, the disruption over the last year may have caused some trepidation about returning to the classroom full time. It is vital in STEM subjects, and indeed all subjects, that a feeling of ‘being behind’ or ‘needing to catch up’ is not fostered. Studies have shown that this kind of pressure is counter-productive to children’s learning and placing unrealistic expectations on teachers is the last thing they need! With the sun starting to peek through the clouds, the spring holidays are the perfect opportunity for kids to gear up for their return to school by getting outdoors and engaging with science in a fun, pressure-free way. The CREST Awards resource library and British Science Week 2021 activity packs are full of student-led, short and long-term projects for children of all ages which can be carried out at home. Here is a selection to try with your children this spring: Primary Star – ‘Brilliant Bubbles’ ‘Brilliant Bubbles’ is the perfect activity for little learners aged around 5-7 and is all about blowing bubbles! Why not add some food colouring to the liquid for extra excitement? Our Star CREST activities are ideal for introducing young children to ideas like conducting fair tests and recording the results. This can be a messy one, best carried out in the garden or any outdoor space. Find it on page 12 of the CREST Awards Star Challenges collection here, alongside loads of other great activities. SuperStar – ‘Super Spinners’ ‘Super Spinners’ is part of our SuperStar Challenges collection, ideal for budding scientists aged around 7-11 years old. Another built-for-the-outdoors activity, this one requires space to allow children to climb up a small height and drop their homemade paper spinners to time the descent. Will different sized blades or different types of paper yield different results? Your SuperStars will find out. Turn to page 164 for all the details. Secondary Bronze – ‘Plant growth and nutrients’ Bronze CREST Awards are designed for students in their first few years of high school, just as many start to discover where their academic passions lie. Get your secondary starters excited to go back with ‘Plant growth and nutrients’, a Bronze Award project which should take around 10 hours to complete. This project sees students plant seeds and observe their growth over time and measure a range of different indicators of plant health. By recording and presenting results in this way, students will be well prepared for classroom learning! Find it here. Silver – ‘The ultimate pizza box’ The past year has been a little more takeaway-heavy than normal for a lot of us, but have you ever thought about the engineering behind the boxes they come in? This Silver CREST Award project, perfect for young people aged 14-16, has curious scientists thinking about the materials used to make pizza boxes. How do they keep the pizzas hot? ‘The ultimate pizza box’ project should take at least 30 hours to complete, making it the perfect spring holiday activity. Find it here. Gold – ‘Design the ultimate toothbrush’ CREST Gold Awards are the most in-depth projects we offer; they require at least 70 hours of work, which should keep students aged 16+ busy! ‘Design the ultimate toothbrush’ involves hands-on experiments on toothbrushes and gets students to collect quantitative data and draw conclusions. These skills should enhance their abilities in the classroom during their final years at school and hopefully get them thinking about oral hygiene! Find it here. Our British Science Week 2021 activity packs also provide plenty of inspiration for experiments to carry out over the spring holidays. They are suited to early years learners through to secondary school students and cover all sorts of scientific topics based on the theme of ‘Innovating for the future’! Download the British Science Week activity pack that works for you: Early Years Primary Secondary If you have any questions about the CREST Awards, please do contact us at [email protected] and check out the other activities in the CREST resource library.