Kirsty Wilkinson and Lewis Bryan are two year 10 students at Beacon Hill Academy School, Dudley, who started studying GCSE biology, chemistry and physics in September 2014. They are thoroughly enjoying their triple science course and, six months ago, came up with an idea: to harness the enthusiasm of younger students for science.

‘As soon as we had our initial idea to host a science-themed day off timetable (DOT) for year 5 students,’ says Kirsty, ‘we as a pair had intentions to enrich the scientific knowledge of year 5 students from several different primary schools in the local area. We thought this would also improve the bonds between Beacon Hill Academy and the primary schools.

Lewis adds: ‘We believed that enlisting the help of other same-age students with similar interests to ourselves would advance not only the progress of our leadership skills in the form of delegation and management; but also the growth and development of scientific studies in year 5. We came up with a proposal that we discussed with the Principal. Luckily for us, she loved our ideas.’

Many weeks of planning later and with support from teachers Miss Kristie Knight (Whole School Primary Liaison Co-ordinator), Miss Laura Cox (Head of Physics) and Mrs Andrea Allsopp (Primary Co-ordinator for Science), 45 year 5 students from Bramford, Queen Victoria, Wren’s Nest and Foxyards primary schools took part in the ‘Science through the Ages’ experience on 11 June 2015. Assisted by other Y10 triple scientists – Alex Sproston, Ben Prosser, Ethan Jarrott, Vinay Bakshi, Matt Humpage, Alex Showell, Nicole Sedgley and Hannah Nicklin – Kirsty and Lewis delivered a day packed with practical activity, both in science laboratories and outside on the school field (exploding a balloon filled with hydrogen required the extra space!). It was a resounding success.

The students started the day by looking at the beginning of the universe. One group created a model of their favourite planet; another, a model of the solar system. They also looked at the life-cycle of a star with help from the exploding hydrogen balloon.

Moving on to evolution, the primary students made their own fossils and produced some fossil rubbings. The students also re-enacted the ‘evolution of man’ image in a variety of different ways.

After lunch the students looked at scientific inventions from the Victorians. They built their own bridges and passed secret messages to each other with the use of Morse code. Students also created an information table on three well-known scientists who were around during the Victorian era.

The experience came to a close with the modern day. Students had the chance to ‘have a go’ with a Bunsen burner and do a bit of flame testing. A variety of different chemicals were tested: they were then identified through the different colours produced, and the results documented.

Throughout, the year 5 students worked independently in groups, with occasional help from year 10 students when necessary and appropriate.

Year 5 students provided their year 10 teachers with excellent feedback, including: ‘I never knew science could be this fun!’; and ‘Science is so cool, we’ve loved our science journey at Beacon Hill Academy.’

Reflecting on the day, Kirsty and Lewis are pleased with the outcome of their efforts and those of their colleagues. Kirsty says: ‘I was extremely pleased with how the day went and I feel as though everyone involved will have something valuable to take away from it. The year 5 students were exceedingly pleasant and very enthusiastic during lessons led by the year 10 students.

‘All of the year 10 helpers were fantastic to work with and engaged with the students during and outside of lessons, helping to ensure that they felt happy and comfortable.

Lewis adds ‘Without the support of numerous remarkable staff members, the day could possibly have been very different; and we are tremendously thankful for their help throughout the entire planning and presenting process. If this day were to be repeated in future years with the enrolment of new students, I think that it would be just as successful and enjoyable.’

Both students went on to discuss the invaluable skills that they have developed through the whole process. Kirsty say “The process has really developed our collaborative skills, not only have Lewis and I had to work together, but we have also had to work closely with various staff members from different departments, and also liaise with all the staff from all the Primary schools that have taken part in the day. `Not only that` Lewis adds, `we also had a Maths exam right in the middle of planning this day, so we really had to learn to manage our time effectively, which will stand us in good stead for the future`.

Miss Chrissy Obrien, (Science Curriculum Lead and Students Leadership Co-ordinator) Beacon Hill Academy’s co-ordinator of student leadership, noted: ‘The school has an ethos of stimulating student leadership and students are encouraged to be proactive and innovative. This has been a perfect example.’