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Q&A with course educators

Q&A with course educators
SPEAKER: Hello, and welcome to the Q&A session for the primary biology courses. We’ve really enjoyed looking at all your comments on the courses. And there are some really interesting questions coming up, which have had us all thinking about them as well. So we’ve got a question to start from Karen, who is saying if classification was removed, what would it be replaced with and why? Well, that’s quite a big question to ask. I mean, classification is an important skill at primary. As well as being a topic of classification, it’s important that children learn how to classify things across the curriculum, whether it’s in math, science, or the subjects. And it’s a step along the way.
Often, very young children learn how to sort objects into groups and to compare, to compare them and to look at similarities and differences. So for me, it’s a fundamental thing within primary science to actually be able to classify. So I can’t see it being replaced within the curriculum. I do know in the past there was less of an emphasis on formal classification methods as a topic. And I know that in year six, there used to be a big topic on microorganisms that was taken out. I mean, I personally would love to see that topic being brought more in, because it is so relevant in the world that we live in today.
Another question that came in about the classification, of course, is from Heloise. And it was asking about any new species that have been found outside of our classification system. This one is one that I think we need to throw open wider, because I’m not sure that I know the answer. I know that many new species are identified each year. And there’s a really lovely link on the Natural History Museum website, which will actually show you all of these different organisms that have been discovered or identified over the last year. And most of them are actually fitting into part of the classification system. So I would be really interested as well to know that answer.
And I’m actually going to post it on the primary and secondary groups of our community forum to see if we can get answers from other people, because I don’t think I know the answer to that one. But it is something that I would be quite interested to find out. So there’s this one question come in from Karen, which is linked to evolution. And it’s asking should all examples that we share with children in lessons about evolution and inheritance be examples that are linked to animals? And there are many examples. And I think that’s what we often think of most when we think of evolution or especially of adaptations, because there are so many wonderful nature programmes on that we watch.
But it’s really important to actually show examples of adaptations of different kinds of organisms as well. For example, you know, plants have had some amazing adaptations. And there’s a number of really lovely resources that look at this, for example, just looking at a cacti and thinking about what it actually looks like and how the adaptations of the cacti help it to actually live and survive. They’ve helped it to survive and thrive through evolution. It has become something that is found in sort of dry areas of the world, like desert.
And, again, things like inheritance, thinking about the history of science and looking at Gregor Mendel and the peas, really nice examples, the flowers of different– sorry, the colours of different kinds of petals of flowers. There’s lots of different examples out there that we can point you to that would not always link to animal adaptations. And, again, just current affairs. We’ve got evolution in action at the moment with the coronavirus. And then the sort of random mutations that are happening, which are causing certain strains of the virus to become more predominant. So that’s something that children will be aware of if they’re looking at Newsround in the morning. They’ll be hearing things like that.
So that’s another example that really links in now to the real world. We’ve had a few questions come in about body processes. A lot of these thinking about the fact that we are oversimplifying examples at primary of different body systems. And actually, it’s secondary. They’ll have to relearn them all again, because they’ve kind of not gone into enough detail. On the course, we talk a lot about the fact that the body is a very complex thing. And we only look at little parts of it in isolation at primary.
And then throughout our education, secondary and perhaps beyond, we almost go into more detail and start learning about how all the different systems and parts of the body interact with each other. I would say, though, a really lovely resource to look at is called the best resources, which I can share an example with. And it shows the big ideas of science and how children’s ideas progress through the idea that we’re all made up of cells. And then it sort of moves on to things like body systems and so on. And actually, children at primary really need to know that we’re not just a body. We’re not just one thing. We actually have different parts in our body.
And they have different functions. And if primary children learn that, then they have something to then build on in the future. I think sometimes at primary, we maybe run the risk of going a little bit into too much detail that we don’t need to. And by all means, there was another question about vocabulary. Always teach the correct vocabulary. And that’s really important, but vocabulary can sometimes be misunderstood at primary if it’s introduced too early. A good example of this or rather a bad example of this is often children, they sort of– they learn about photosynthesis somewhere. I’m not quite sure, because we don’t do that at primary.
And then they learn– actually, the opposite of this is almost that the reaction is respiration. And they somehow equate respiration with breathing, whereas actually breathing is the process where you’re taking in air and breathing out a mixture of gases, rather than respiration, which is something that happens at a cellular level. And so this is something that we’ve got to just be really aware of and make sure we’re not going into too much detail. And it’s going back to looking at the curriculum primary and seeing what children actually do need to know at primary and not going into what they need to know at secondary.
On this course we’ve taken you to upskill you as individuals as adults to the secondary level, but that’s not saying that you should be teaching that to children at primary. It’s more knowing where they’re going to be going and knowing that they need this really sound basis to build on. But I would recommend having a look at the best resources, because they’re really good for seeing what children need to know where they’re going to next. And there’s also some really good diagnostic questions, because another question asked about identifying misconceptions and that they’re really good for looking and finding ways of which you can find out whether children have a misconception on something, whether or not you can build on that.
So I’d really recommend having a look at those resources for that as well. There’s another question, which was having a look at practicals and how children really learn through doing practical inquiry. It’s at school, and how at the moment, because they’re home learning, it becomes a little bit harder. And also, when they come back to school, because of restrictions, is it possible? I would say practical work is still possible, but I would refer to CLEAPSS guidance on this, because they get updated guidance from Public Health England of how to run practicals in the times of coronavirus. Also, think about different types of inquiry that you can do with children.
Some might be things that children can do without working in groups almost, or they might not be as practical as you think, for example, carrying out survey or making observations of things, comparing different things. Some of these things children might be able to do at home. And you can still set up and do that. I think the last question of the last two questions were about other courses, where you can find out about practical activities. So these courses are the three biology. We also have similar online courses for physics and for chemistry if you’re interested in doing those. We also have primary science, getting started, which really focuses on practical skills and activities.
And if in the next few months you may want to join us doing either a remote course up to Easter through our intensive courses, and I know we’ve got some coming up, which actually are called practical activities in chemistry, practical activities in physics, and practical activities in biology. And so those courses are all coming up at the end of March. And I do believe the beginning of May for the biology. So if you’re interested in those, I’d highly recommend those for finding out more practical activities for primary children. And Aiden, as well, was asking for more primary and primary resource activities to run practicals based on these topics.
And we can certainly share our resource pages that we have with you. And, again, I probably say, as well, if you’re ever looking for anything like this, pop a post into a primary community, because there are so many experienced teachers on there who would love to help people if they’re asking for resources. At the moment, there’s loads of conversations about science week and running science weeks remotely. So they’re all really useful. So I would recommend having a look on there as well. So thank you for all your questions. And we’ve answered a selection of them. Again, if you have any further, go and share them on our community. And hopefully, we can get some answers for you.
And hopefully, we’ll see you on some more courses in the future.

All online CPD courses from STEM Learning provide an opportunity to ask the educators more detailed questions as part of the course Q&A session.

The course educators will record responses to your outstanding questions from your reflection grids and course discussions. If there are ideas from the course you wish to explore further or issues about your own teaching context, then the Q&A provides a final opportunity to explore these with expert insight.

Post your questions

Post your outstanding questions from your reflection grids and course discussions to the comments below by 22 February 2021. The course educators will record their responses and we’ll upload a video by 4 March 2021.

If your access to this course expires before we are able to upload the video, you can access the video at a later date via the STEM Learning YouTube channel.

Please note: if you post a question here it may be featured in the video recording along with your first name. The recording will be publicly viewed via this step and may also be uploaded to the STEM Learning YouTube channel.

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Teaching Primary Biology: Body Processes

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