Science for Schools

Science for Schools is a Wednesday afternoon activity which has run since 2009. Initially funded by Building Bridges, an educational charity, the scheme is now internally financed. We work with a number of local primary schools to provide support to their own science teaching by provision of fun practical activities designed to address Key Stage 2 learning objectives. Primary schools are often poorly resourced, have large class sizes and many primary teachers are not science specialists, meaning they may not have the facilities or confidence to deliver exciting practical science lessons. We try to address all of these barriers by opening up our own laboratories, providing a bus service to and from Tonbridge and by using our own pupils to help supervise and deliver activities.

We hope that our sessions not only ignite enthusiasm in visiting pupils but also encourage teachers to have a go at more activities back in their own schools. In 2015-16 we are working with six local primary schools; Longmead Community Primary School, Slade Primary School, Hildenborough CE Primary School, Woodlands Junior School, Cage Green Primary School and Stocks Green Primary School. Each brings an entire class of up to 32 children at a time, plus their usual teacher and teaching assistants, for three consecutive Wednesday afternoon sessions each lasting about an hour and a half. About 270 Year 5/6 children will benefit from the scheme this year.

Activities include

  • An introduction to chemical reactions, making copper sulphate crystals starting with copper carbonate and sulphuric acid.
  • Determining the energy content of foods by burning them and measuring the heat given off
  • Working out the correct ratio of chemicals to mix in order to make a reliable chemical ‘egg timer’
  • Designing, building and testing parachutes or crumple zones to protect an egg when dropped from a great height or strapped to the front of a wooden car
  • Investigating the crawling speed of maggots under conditions of light and dark

… plus lots and lots of exciting demonstrations, with plenty of fires and explosions!

None of this would be nearly as effective without the presence of Tonbridgians to help guide and supervise our visitors. It’s not hard to get them to help though, the sessions are great fun and they learn to perform and carry out a range of demonstrations they would not ordinarily be allowed to do. The benefits to them are clear as their teaching and communications skills develop over the course of the year. Many boys also count Science for Schools towards their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Service Section and to support their UCAS applications.

Serious Fun

Funded by the charity SHINE by a total of £34,000 over three years from 2011-2014, Serious Fun is a collaborative scheme run by Tonbridge and Skinner’s Kent Academy in Tonbridge Wells.  Up to 40 ten year olds, from 20 different primary schools in the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells areas, are picked up and brought to Tonbridge School for a series of ten, three hour sessions on Saturdays throughout the year.  The aim of the scheme is to boost enthusiasm and aspiration in science in pupils identified by their schools as having unfulfilled potential and coming from backgrounds with indicators of disadvantage. 

A team of Tonbridge boys help to deliver the sessions, which are intended to be great fun but which of course include lots of scientific enquiry and finding out interesting things about the world.  How do different sorts of rockets work? (And can I make one?)  Are Wotsits more fattening than digestives (And can I burn one?).  What does blood look like under the microscope? (Can I spill some?).  How does a kite work? (And can I fly one?). 

The scheme proved a great success in its first year, with fantastic feedback from the participants and their parents, many of whom attended the final session on kites and enjoyed a festival atmosphere and picnic on the school pitches along with a demonstration of professional kite flying from Kent Kite Flyers.

Marsh Academy and Science

Starting in 2010, pupils from the Marsh Academy have been visiting Tonbridge to take part in practical science work.  Groups of Year 11 pupils do various investigations of radioactivity and radioactive decay which they cannot do in their own school, including datalogging activity from a protactinium generator in order to estimate its half-life, experimenting with various forms of detectors including spark counters and Geiger-Muller tubes, and investigating the effectiveness of various shielding materials with α, β and γ sources.  They assemble small, simple cloud chambers using methanol and dry ice, and then spend some time with our new museum standard chamber.  In biology they view their own blood cells through our high quality microscopes, and prepare their own slides to stain and view chromosomes in garlic root tips and giant chromosomes from maggot salivary glands.  They have also taken part in collaborative activities with Tonbridge pupils including working in small teams to make presentations in debates on the ethics of stem cell research.