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D R A G O N s T O D A Y .
s P R I N G 2 0 1 1
Xxxx Dragons
How Dragons become enthusiastic scientists with the
confidence to ‘do’.
Science:
A Way of Thinking
The Dragon offers excellent facilities for
science and delivers an exciting curriculum
of scientific investigation from the earliest
years. Six laboratories are equipped to a
standard capable of supporting A level work
and are assisted by dedicated technicians. The
teaching staff includes practising scientists at
DPhil level, a former veterinary surgeon and
a food chemist. Together they aim to inspire
deep scientific understanding from Reception
upwards. The department receives excellent
academic results at Common Entrance and
experiences huge enthusiasm for all aspects of
scientific learning. As well as clear results, the
teaching of science at the Dragon provides
a fundamental route to the critical thinking
and creative learning, often directed by the
children themselves, which underpins every
aspect of a Dragon education.
Head of Science, Kate Kettlewell,
describes the approach to the curriculum
as ‘spiral’ learning. With a solid foundation
in chemistry, physics and biology from
the outset, the curriculum broadens to
encompass wider areas of science including
astro-physics, environmental science and
biochemistry. In-depth investigations in
these areas bring students back to the first
principles with a deeper understanding of
their purpose. The emphasis is always on
practical application rather than copying
down notes and, with the confidence to
‘do’, the learning of facts is made easier, says
Kate. Active learning of this kind includes,
importantly, learning by mistake. Children
set up experiments from scratch and work
out not only what to do but reflect on what
they have learned from the results of the
experiment.
The delivery of the curriculum is based
on the five ‘Es’: engage, explore, explain,
evaluate and extend. This involves a serial
approach: practical learning leads to
questions; answering them means working
together where every child contributes
their ideas; the results are evaluated and
extended by asking ‘What do you want to
learn next?’. In essence, children learn the
foundations of sophisticated research and
analysis. Linked to this approach is an Active
Learning Programme which encompasses the
three differing learning styles of kinaesthetic,
auditory and visual understanding. By
integrating these methods, critical thinking
skills are refined and extended to support
both the appreciation and sheer enjoyment
of science and the acquisition of applied
knowledge.
scientific Dragons
Good science teaching provides
children with some of the most
important equipment in their toolbox for
life. If science is presented as ‘facts to
learn’ rather than ‘current theories to
question and use in deeper exploration’, its
relevance will not be realised by children
and the quality of reasoning in the next
generation will be depleted. Science is
neither age nor language dependent. Every
day, the Dragon Science team aim to make
lessons fun and stimulating, to ensure
understanding rather than rote learning, to
enable children to leave prep school with
confidence in themselves as scientists and
enthusiasm for learning with lots of
questions to ask. Strong exam results are,
we believe, simply a byproduct of our
philosophy.
My own journey with science started
at school, before a five-year degree,
professional clinical experience and a
teaching degree. I taught A Level and GCSE
students before returning to the youngest
years of education at the Dragon. These
experiences have influenced the clear
picture I have of how the Dragon Science
team can guide children as proper scientists
from the word go. I use the word proper,
not potential, deliberately and always ask
children not to refer to scientists as ‘other’
people. Pupils at the Dragon are scientists.
Science is not an ultimate qualification,
but a way of thinking and a gathering, the
creation of thoughts and theories. Practical
experimental work is at the heart of this
process.
Scientific developments in this world and
beyond are moving extremely fast. We are
all born with the ability to think freely,
creatively and inquisitively - but poor
teaching in any area can quash these skills.
Restricting the ability to think scientifically
will be, for our children’s generation, like
removing one of their senses.
Kate Kettlewell
Head of Science
Restricting the
ability to think
scientifically will,
for our children’s
generation, be like
removing one of
their senses
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