Engaging Science: upskilling and promoting science among Irish teachers and educators nationally

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Science teachers and educators from across Ireland attended the 10th SSPC Annual Chemistry Demonstration Workshop to acquire further knowledge about engaging science! The residential workshop, hosted at Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC) headquarters at the University of Limerick (UL), is designed to upskill and promote science amongst science teachers and educators in Ireland. It provides Irish science teachers and educators with the skills to promote problem and inquiry-based learning within the classroom, and to conduct over 40 engaging interactive science demonstrations, which are linked to real world science applications. Science discovery is full of natural curiosity and this workshop provides a building block for teachers to bring this element to the classroom that makes instruction exciting and one that fosters a better understanding for the student.

Dr Sarah Hayes, SSPC Education and Outreach Officer said:
“Courses like this are essential for teachers' continuous professional development. The focus of the course is to utilise demonstrations and ‘mysteries’ to promote pupil engagement, problem solving and inquiry skills. The residential element offers teachers to fully immerse themselves in their own professional development, and develop a repertoire of demonstrations linked to the physical sciences and all aspects of the Junior and Leaving Certificate curriculum. Supporting teachers’ development is vital for the enhancement of the Irish education system”.

The 10th SSPC Annual Chemistry Demonstration Workshop is an important element of Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) public engagement remit and SSPC’s education and outreach programme. It aims to support teachers in their ability to make pathways to navigate better engagement and bring novel science ideas into the classroom.

Jon O’Halloran SSPC General Manager said:
“SSPC plays a critical role in supporting STEM education in Ireland. The SSPC’s education and outreach programme aims to inspire young minds as to the possibilities and application of science in our everyday lives, and develop Ireland as a country with a scientifically literate population. This year the workshop was linked with the European Union funded TEMI project, which placed a significant emphasis on inquiry-based skills, explicitly linking the course to the upcoming Junior and Senior curricula. This approach combined provides teachers with the time and space in which to develop new and exciting content for their lessons that will excite and stimulate students' interest in science and scientific careers”.

Teachers participating in the course believed that “the change of approach to chemistry, the emphasis on getting the pupils to participate and guess the answers and using questioning to lead them to understanding” was incredibly beneficial.

The 10th SSPC Annual Chemistry Demonstration Workshop was supported by the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC), the Department of Chemical and Environmental Sciences (CES), University of Limerick, Pharmachemical Ireland, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), The Institute of Physics Ireland, and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Additional support and funding was provided by EU Project.

The workshop has been developed upon the foundations of Student Active Learning in Science (SALiS), an international project, which utilises best-practice teaching methods within science education, funded by EU-TEMPUS. On-going research is continuing through the EU FP7 funded project TEMI (contact peter.childs@ul.ie/sarah.hayes@ul.ie). For further information contact SSPC Education & Outreach Officer, Dr Sarah Hayes, email: sarah.hayes@ul.ie.

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Dr. Sarah Hayes, SSPC Education & Outreach Officer with Caitríona Egan, St Finians Community College, Dublin; Noreen Gillies, Scoil Mhuire, Kanturk, Co Cork and Nicola Alcorn, Gonzaga College SJ, Dublin intensely studying their rainbow flames.

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