KeywordsSite Visit Elementary Teacher Mathematics Curriculum Compulsory School Practical Science
Industry visits are a valuable component in the educational landscape. These visits take various forms and can involve teachers and students from both elementary and high schools. Teachers are keen to participate in visits when the links to the curriculum are clear and explicit, but often find it difficult to make time to initiate links with industry or to see and appreciate the wide range of curriculum-relevant activities that a site visit can offer (Parvin and Stephenson 2004). Industry wishes to foster relationships with local schools, but can find it difficult to know what to offer, beyond sponsoring a football team or buying books and equipment for schools. Organizations that broker better relationships between schools and industry are important to build and sustain partnerships. Organizations in the UK include CIEC Promoting Science (www.ciec.org.uk) and STEMNET (www.stemnet.org.uk). As well as fostering relationships, these organizations create freely available materials demonstrating relationships between the science, technology, and mathematics curricula and their applications in the “real world.” These materials include practical science experiments which are grounded in industrial storylines and which address important scientific concepts, skills, and knowledge. These activities can be carried out in the classroom, in after-school science clubs, to prepare for a visit and to develop the storyline further. An example of these activities can be found at www.scienceofhealthyskin.org.uk, which is aimed at elementary teachers for use with 9- to 11-year-old students. The resource encourages links with companies that produce active ingredients in sun creams, which use lanolin in cosmetic products, and in which foaming is an important criterion of product design.
To ensure effectiveness of industry visits, brokerage organizations train industry personnel and teachers so that they can work together. During training, industry personnel discover which areas of their site might have the greatest impact on students and highest relevance to the curriculum. For example, they learn how to engage students in practical activities or demonstrations in their site’s laboratories and help show the vast scale and degree of automation of production, while ensuring that students meet a range of scientists and engineers engaged in design, production, management, and marketing. This allows students to appreciate the wide range of careers to which studying science can lead. Meeting the “real person” face-to-face in the industrial setting has a much higher impact on students than watching a video of that person at work. A particularly important aspect for girls is seeing women carrying out scientific and technical roles, thus providing positive role models to which they can aspire.
Effective site visits can have a long-lasting impact on students, who can be switched on to considering studying science beyond compulsory school age and potentially taking up a career in industry. Even if students do not consider such career paths, effective industry visits help them to develop a more balanced and authentic perspective of industry, beyond the commonly perceived images of chimneys, pipes, and pollution, as a 5-year study of students’ ideas of industry has shown (Evans et al. 2004).
- Evans C, Hogarth S, Parvin J (2004) Children challenging industry five years on. Research report. CIEC promoting science. http://www.cciproject.org/research/documents/5yearOn.pdf
- Parvin J, Stephenson M (2004) Learning science at industrial sites. In: Braund M, Reiss M (eds) Learning science outside the classroom. RoutledgeFalmer, Oxon, pp 129–150Google Scholar