Video description of the i,scientist programme


Conceptual framework

Science has the potential to not only amaze, but also to transform the way people think of the world and of themselves, and this is particularly true in the case of children. This is because science is a ‘way of being’ that requires seeing the world differently, being excited about uncertainty, being open to possibility and being empathetic to the people and world around you. What’s more, the process of science is little different from the natural processes of play. Play enables people to discover – and create – relationships and patterns. When one adds rules to play, a game is created.

With the context of science as a way of being, and the process of science being playful, the i,scientist programme encourages children to play, to embrace the uncertainty inherent in life, to get excited about getting things wrong, to make choices and to be compassionate. Our ability to ‘see ourselves see’ is crucial to this idea as it gives us an openness to discovery, and along with it an inherent potential to do things differently.

When thought of in this way, science education becomes a more enlightened and intuitive process of asking questions and devising games to address those questions – unlike with more traditional teaching methods in which the aim is to come up with solutions rather than questions. But, because the outcome of all game-playing is unpredictable, supporting this ‘messiness’, which is the engine of science, is critical to good science education – and indeed creative education generally.

How the programme works

The i,scientist programme brings together children from a small group of primary and secondary schools to work, over a period of months, with Lab of Misfits' experts in four- to eight-day workshops held in Lab of Misfits' space in the Science Museum.

During these workshops, the children ask the questions, design real experiments, analyse the data, and come to their own conclusions. As part of the programme, the children present their experiments – and findings – to the public at our Latesevents in the Science Museum. It is the ultimate aim of all our i,scientist projects that the children should produce their own scientific paper based around their research, for publication in a scientific journal.

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The results

It’s exciting and perhaps not so surprising what can happen when schoolchildren have the opportunity to do real, hands-on science.

Our first i,scientist programme produced genuine research and genuine results, which were described in the first ever publication of a paper by school children in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal, Biology Letters (Blackawton BeesDecember 2010). It was researched, illustrated and written by the children, and began ‘Once upon a time..’

But the i,scientist programme looks beyond pure science: the aim is not simply to create new, young scientists, but to use science as a vehicle for children to think of themselves as an active participant in the process of making sense of the world. If they discover something along the way – or turn out to be scientists – that is certainly to be celebrated, but the prime motivation is to foster in these children creativity, courage, and the ability to make choices.

We hope that working with real scientists in our lab can be as inspirational and educational for the teachers as the children, and we see working with participating schools to embed concepts, ideas and activities back into their home school ecology as a vital part of the programme.

In development

We are currently developing the i,scientist community, with the aim of extending the i,scientist programme to thousands of schools nationally and internationally through our evolving curriculum resources and networks. This would create the opportunity for a large number of schools to participate in experiments and result in a social (science) network between schools.

Contact Beau Lottoif you are interested in taking part in the i,scientist programme.

See also

Blackawton Bees More