on the CREST of a wave

After two years of our new, practical based KS3 SoW, someone (not me!) had the brilliant idea of letting the Year 8s finish the summer term with a Bronze CREST Award.

If you’re not familiar with the CREST scheme, this website gives all the details. Note that the awards can count towards Duke of Edinburgh! But basically students choose a question, their own question, and then set about answering it through experimental investigation.

Lots of reasons for liking this – first and foremost being that I didn’t have to try and plan a new set of lessons on Electromagnetism (as was on the old SoW). Or, indeed, any new lessons at all. I liked the concept of individual projects and complete ownership of what they would be doing. And, hey, it’s what the course was all about. Had to be a winner! I had happy visions of loads of brilliant and original projects run by brilliant and motivated students. Loads of kudos for the dept. and the school and so on.

How would it go?

I started with a review of the last two years. What do the following have in common?

  • hamster mazes
  • apple juice
  • burning wood
  • lemon juice, vinegar and sulphuric acid
  • fertiliser
  • reaction time
  • brine shrimp hatching
  • weed competition
  • rockets
  • maggot behaviour

They quickly realised that these were the investigation where they been asked to design and carry out their own experiments. so if nothing else, it had been memorable!

Right, I say, enthusiastically, now it’s your turn! And I tell them about CREST, and give them some links, and set them thinking. Only trouble is, I’m on a 1st Aid training refresher course, so have to leave them, and don’t find out their thoughts until the following lesson…

It’s certainly interesting talking to the students 3 days later. They have ideas, some more developed than others, but it’s hard to gauge the extent of interest or engagement.

At one extreme, two students have mapped out their project to look at the effect of soft drinks on plant growth. They’ve designed the experiment, identified the controls, ordered the relevant apparatus, and are starting to research the theory. I don’t need to do much here – a few questions, pointers, clarifications, but they’re good to go.

And at the other end, some just want to drop a Mentos into a bottle of Coke because they can remember that from primary school and have wanted to do it again ever since. This requires a bit more help. I don’t want to crush their dream entirely, but they need to work this into a question where they can look at variables, controls, measurements….

Overall, I’m encouraged, but not blown away. Patience, I remind myself, first time we’ve ever done this, it’s not going to be brilliant at the first attempt. Think about how to do it better next time…

By the third lesson, however, they’re flying. They’ve got past the most difficult bit – actually thinking of an idea – and are just throwing themselves into the work.  They’re finding something out about real science – it’s fun! They have complete ownership of their projects and are excited and motivated.

It’s not exactly work free for me – there’s no planning or delivery, but I do have to coordinate all their apparatus requests (top tip: make it absolutely clear that you will provide basic lab apparatus, but that if they want anything more elaborate, they provide it themselves!). Plus in the actual lessons, it’s quite intense, talking to all the groups – encouraging, advising, supporting – and scurrying back and forth as they think of new bits of apparatus they want or need. But the time flies by and suddenly it’s lunch.

This is going to work!

Have any of you tried CREST? I’d love to hear ideas or tips or any other experience of this.

Have a great week!




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