22 May 2020

The ASP hosted its first ever remote meeting of the Abingdon Partnership of Schools Science Coordinators’ Specialist Group. The theme, which had been decided before this academic year started, was, rather ironically, Outdoor and Environmental Learning Opportunities. However, one of the positive benefits of remote meetings is that they can attract a larger number of participants and speakers from further afield, who can present a short talk without giving up a lot of time to travel.

On this occasion there were 19 participants from primary and secondary schools in Abingdon and from as far afield as Blackburn and Portsmouth. Presentations were given by speakers representing a diverse range of organisations with a variety of interests in the meeting’s theme.

First up was Ian Nutt, recently appointed Director of Programmes and Partnerships for the Earth Trust at Little Wittenham. Ian gave an overview of the Earth Trust’s work with schools and the exciting new facility under construction at Little Wittenham, which will support learning opportunities in environmental science, horticulture and archaeology.

The second presentation was given by Lucy Radford, Engagement Manager at the Sumatran Orangutan Society whose headquarters is in Lombard Street in Abingdon. Lucy described the general conservation work that SOS does in Sumatra but also offered exciting possibilities for local schools to form links with the secondary school SOS funded in the remote region where they work. Rebecca Schwarz, Science Coordinator at Abingdon Prep School, was able to describe how excited her pupils had been to see camera trap footage of tigers in Sumatra and to compare it with their own footage of foxes and deer collected through ASP’s wildlife monitoring project funded by the Royal Society.

Dr Sylvia Knight, Education Manager at the Royal Meteorological Society, demonstrated some of the engaging resources available on the society’s MetLink education website. Many of these are designed to illustrate aspects of the impact of climate change through novel simulations such as a game based on insurance risks to organisations running events such as music festivals. The final presentation was a really relevant, virtual tour of the extensive outdoor learning spaces at Caldecott Primary School in south Abingdon.

Holly Irving, Science and Eco Coordinator at Caldecott, was able to give an up to the minute account of how these outdoor areas had been used to benefit the ongoing learning experiences and well being of key worker and vulnerable children during lockdown. Holly explained the concept of ‘sneaky science’ where activities such as selecting pond plants and learning how to cook in a fire pit were giving children science skills linked to everyday activities.

Although it was a great pity not to meet in person and to share the social aspects of these termly meetings, the questions asked and comments made by participants showed that the decision to go ahead and hold a remote version of the meeting was very worthwhile and inspiring for all who took part. The meeting was also recorded for those that could not attend and this recording will be available to view via both the Abingdon Partnership of Schools website and the Abingdon School YouTube channel.

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