Scientific expert helps beacon hill pupils learn to love science

Wallsend’s Beacon Hill School pupils are going to learn about science and the environment with a ‘wow’ factor thanks to the start of a unique partnership between Newcastle-based scientist Sarah McLusky and the school.

Sarah, a self-employed biochemist is going to work with the pupils, many of whom have severe and profound learning difficulties, to bring her work experience into the classroom and she is starting with plant life cycles in a new pond on the school site.

She said: “I want to make all the kids’ jaws drop with science and the amazing impact it can have so they all say ‘wow’ when they learn about things. The first project I am going to help the school with is their outdoor area, which is a great place to learn about science in a practical way.

“I am going to help them grow all different types of plants so they can see and feel the difference between spikey ones and smooth ones, or even discover which plants have a lovely smell. We will also be putting in plants in their pond to encourage animals to come to live in it so they can learn from studying them as well.”

Newcastle Science City is encouraging projects like this to enable more pupils to ‘turn on’ to science.

Kimberley McHugh, the science co-ordinator for Beacon Hill explained: “We are delighted to have Sarah working with us. Many of our pupils learn by seeing science rather than reading or writing about it, so the practical exercises Sarah is bringing to our school are great. When our students see the science, it becomes very powerful for them and they remember it.”

Through this scientist partnering scheme older pupils are also taking part in a science and enterprise project called ‘Make a Mint’ where they are growing their own mint and making it into product such as mint ice cream, syrup and mint sauce to sell.

Kimberley McHugh has ensured her pupils have practical experience in other fun ways as well with live chick eggs about to be delivered so the children can see them hatch and caterpillars turning into butterflies.

The school is currently developing a science garden with a green house to grow herbs, fruit and potatoes and also has plans to develop an allotment.

This partnership between the school and Sarah McLusky, of Sparks Education, is one of a number around the region organised by Science Learning Centre North East through their Teacher Scientist Network. This project, funded by One NorthEast, puts the scientific community of our regional universities and industries into contact with science teachers through a network of one-to-one teacher-scientist partnerships. The partnerships support and encourage teachers: helping them to deliver up to date and relevant science.