By Orna Herr, Communications Officer (Education) at the British Science Association 


Find the Welsh language version of this blog here. 

Another school year approaches its end; summer holidays are in sight! While the academic cycle can feel repetitive – the same lessons and topics covered year-after-year – things have been different for schools in Wales this year as many started to implement the new Curriculum for Wales.

From September 2022, all Welsh primary schools have been implementing new curricula which should aspire to achieve four purposes, supporting students to become ambitious, capable learners; enterprising, creative contributors; ethical and informed; and healthy, confident individuals.

The chance to develop a new curriculum can be an exciting opportunity to mix things up and find innovative ways to engage your pupils, but it can also be a daunting task and add work to an already heavy workload.

Our CREST Awards scheme can be a great way to help your curriculum achieve the four purposes. What’s more, thanks to funding from the Welsh Government Office for Science, CREST Awards are free for all primary and secondary schools in Wales.

We’ve spoken to Rachael Mackay, Year 6 teacher and STEM lead at Monnow Primary School in Newport, about her experience of running CREST, the benefits for pupils and how the activities align with the four purposes.

Using CREST Awards to boost your curriculum

CREST Awards is our flagship education programme for primary school children. We provide Star (ages 5-7) and SuperStar (ages 7-11) activities and resource packs.

Our CREST resource library also includes Discovery challenges; 5-hour group projects tailored for 10-14-year-olds. This makes them brilliant for older primary pupils getting ready for the transition to secondary school.

These activities are ideal to include in your new curriculum; they’re perfectly designed to help you achieve all four purposes and take some of the load off lesson planning. The activities focus on science but support cross-curricular learning with geography, art, design and many other subjects.

The four purposes and a Discovery Day

Teacher Rachael Mackay ran our ‘Machines of the future’ Discovery challenge - “the largest project that we undertook”. This project encourages children to think about machine learning and AI, how it relates to their lives and how we can best harness it in the future. It is also available in Welsh language.

She said:

“This [project] hit so many of the four purposes. The children had to be ambitious and capable, as much of their work was team-based, with children taking specific roles within the group.

“They had to be enterprising and creative in order to think about and put together ideas for a machine that nobody else had yet thought of – and of course they then had to physically create that machine!

“They also had to be ethically informed citizens, as they had to consider how their prototypes could be made using only recycled or reused items and they also had to think about whether the creation of the machine would take employment away from an individual or group of people.”

Rachael also ran our ‘Wild creations’ Discovery challenge, which inspires students to design an art installation to celebrate local culture. This activity pack is also available in Welsh language. She said:

“Wild Creations is fabulous for building a better understanding of the dynamics of their local community…This links directly with ethically informed citizens as a core purpose, but the sense of belonging directly contributes to the healthy and confident purpose, in which children begin to have a better sense of their community and support networks etc which positively impacts mental health.”

Wild Creations also provided opportunities for cross-curricular learning:

“Wild creations has firm links with the locality (geographical skills) and the expressive arts (designing and creating in 2D and 3D – also seen in technology requirements).

“This enables children to learn specific curriculum skills within a broader frame of understanding, which means it is authentic and meaningful, enabling the development of real life skills that are not lost once the activity finishes.”

Building confidence and communication skills

One of the four purposes is to give children confidence - an attribute that is essential to being a clear, engaging communicator and something that all children will benefit from, whatever path they chose in education and beyond.

Running CREST Awards gives children the opportunity to collaborate with their peers by working in groups, and also practice speaking in front of their peers by presenting their work – and practice makes perfect. This type of communication can be daunting for shy children, but research shows that getting used to it from a young age will develop confidence and stand them in good stead for secondary school and beyond.    

Rachael told us that CREST boosted students’ communication skills and confidence, particularly for students who are usually reluctant to contribute in class:

“The children became so accustomed to communicating with each other to problem solve and create within their teams and in a specific role, that their confidence in presenting to others increased dramatically even after the project had ended…

“Every child participated, even children who were historically fearful or reluctant to contribute to class discussions. This pattern continued a month later when children had to once again present in teams for a completely different project. That confidence and ability to communicate all started with the CREST Award. Of course this links directly with the healthy and confident core purpose.”

Advice for first-timers

CREST Awards are free in Wales, so if you haven’t run them before, there’s no time like the present. Rachael offered some top tips for the best activities to get started with:

“Summer term:

  • Animal adventure' is a lovely one if you have an outdoor space. Children can investigate the minibeasts that live in their locality and start to differentiate between them – not least think about how their habitats can be supported.
  • ‘A hole in my bucket is a fun one for the summer term. Children have to actively find a way to plug a hole in a container, testing a range of different materials, to prevent the water running out!

Autumn term: 

  • ‘Be seen, be safe is a great one for the darkening days. It gets young children to think carefully about reflective materials and what they themselves should be wearing/avoiding at this time of year.
  • ‘Bridge blunder is a fun one for the autumn term. Children have to create a bridge from paper and limited amounts of sticky tape that holds an increasing amount of weight.

Spring term:

  • ‘Brilliant bubbles is a great indoor or outdoor explorative task whereby children are challenged to ‘change’ bubbles. This leads them to start thinking about states of matter and the changes that can/cannot be made.
  • ‘Cheesy challenge is great for the spring term. Children investigate and make their own cheese!”

On our YouTube channel, you’ll find demonstration videos for the some these activities, including ‘Animal adventures’, and many other primary CREST activities. Find the videos here.

For more activities and projects to inspire your students, you can find our CREST resource library here. We offer several resources in the Welsh language, including ‘Her bom bath’, ‘Y cwpanaid perffaith o de’ ‘Sut mae coginio yn newid pasta?’. These are projects for students aged 11 above - ideal for secondary teachers to use in the next academic year when the new curriculum will be rolled out for Year 7 and 8.

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You might be interested in:

Blog – CREST in Wales – ‘Engaging, relevant and flexible’

Blog - Enjoy the summer with CREST!

Blog – Equal early years education is crucial for future success