Parachutes and particles: how University is helping to make science fun

20 July 2010

As a former teacher now training students for classrooms of the future, Dave Overton knows a thing or two about bringing science lessons to life for children.

Childrens University

And this is at the core of what he is trying to do in schools in Scarborough, with the help of DIY parachutes and some brightly-coloured plastic balls.

Mr Overton is a lecturer at the University of Hull’s Scarborough School of Education, and despite now training teachers of the future, he still relishes teaching in schools.

His passion for raising aspirations among young children, whilst making science fun, has led to him pioneering a Children’s University scheme in the Scarborough area.

A former schoolteacher in Hull, he was involved in a similar Children’s University project in the city, which encouraged children to see university education as something truly achievable- no matter what their background.

He has recently been working with children at Friarage Primary School in central Scarborough, and with the help of Scarborough School of Education students, is teaching youngsters about scientific topics such as particles and atoms using hands-on aids like DIY parachutes and hundreds of plastic balls.

Mr Overton says: “I saw first-hand the impact a scheme like the Children’s University can have when I was in Hull, and I am keen to spread that to schools in Scarborough.

“Children love to take part in entertaining lessons, and our trainee teachers have been brilliant at coming up with ideas and helping deliver the lessons in schools. It really does provide the best of both worlds, giving our students experience in the classroom, and offering the school some extra help in teaching science lessons.

“Although Scarborough is very picturesque, there are some areas of social deprivation where we are very keen to show children that university isn’t an ‘ivory tower’ it is a real and achievable goal for everyone. This scheme is helping to build further links between the University’s Scarborough Campus and its local area and will hopefully inspire the children to go on to higher education in the future.”

As well as the work Mr Overton is doing in the classroom with trainee teachers, he also arranged for Theatre and Performance students to write and perform a science-themed play in schools- bringing an extra dimension to making science fun.

He and the students are working with primary schoolchildren, something which he believes is essential for raising aspirations for later life.

He explained: “It is vital that we get children thinking about their future at a young age, rather than waiting until they are already at secondary school and choosing subject options. In our work we are concentrating on making lessons fun as well as educational, but also introducing the children to students and academics in a way which is friendly and approachable, so they go away with a positive view of universities.”

It is now hoped the Children’s University pilot will be rolled out to other schools in the Scarborough in the coming academic year.

Friarage teacher Bridget Marshall said: “This has been a really worthwhile experience for the children here. They have had very practical, ‘hands-on’ learning which has reached all abilities and they have been very enthusiastic about the lessons.

“It has also been great to see the university students and give our pupils an inkling into higher education.”


Page last updated by Andrea Luquesi on 8/2/2010

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Notes to Editors

About Dave Overton
After some years as a scientist in industry, Mr Overton taught in primary and secondary schools in Maths and the Sciences. He was awarded the BP Award for Science Teaching in the 2002 Teaching Awards. He is a member of the Association for Science Education Yorkshire Region Committee, is Secretary of the National ASE Primary Committee and Chair of the Association of Tutors of Science Education. He has delivered events for teachers locally, regionally and nationally with a focus on contextualised learning (especially industry, museums and science centres), cross-curricular elements and fostering creative thinking.

About the Scarborough School of Education
The Scarborough School of Education has been training primary school teachers for more than 50 years and enjoys a national reputation. In the last two teacher training inspections (2004 and 2007) it received Grade 1 Ofsted ratings in Management and Quality Assurance. Courses on offer include masters, bachelors and foundation degrees, as well as PGCEs and advanced certificates.

About the Hull Children’s University
The Hull Children’s University is located at the Hull Campus of the University of Hull and provides learning experiences for young people, supporting schools in their delivery of the national curriculum and the government’s aims outlined in ‘Every Child Matters’. It is also a member of the National Children’s University organisation. Visit the Hull Children's University.