David Hammerson, director of STEM learning provider Science Boffins, explains how its dramatic experiments and demonstrations can liven up your classroom...
We receive many calls in the office asking if we're willing to work with SEN children. The sad reality is that not every STEM provider is willing to work alongside children with additional needs – yet the fact remains that children are still children, regardless of their educational needs. Every child wants very similar things – to be loved and cared for, to have fun and to be able to learn.
Science Boffins are on a mission to get children aged between 5 and 12 excited about the wonders of science from a young age through our interactive, educational and fun science workshops and demonstrations. As part of our mission, we work with Learning Assisted Schools and Special Educational Needs groups across the UK. Over the past 12 years, we have been specially selected by charities, schools and individuals to entertain and educate their children at LAS and SEN schools.
Studies continually show that play is a remarkable form of therapy and education, both of which greatly help with a child’s development. With additional needs having such a broad spectrum, it’s critical that children can be hands on with their activities so that every child can develop at their level, be it learning a new scientific term or improving their motor skills by being able to stir their own pot of slime.
We have found that by using trained actors as our presenters, they are able to provide even bigger visual stimulus to our presentations which is a huge benefit to all children that we visit. This, and regularly working alongside charities such as Mencap and Action for Children, has allowed us to tailor our presentations and scripts to the children’s ability level.
From a new presenter’s perspective, working with SEN children can be a daunting task. The pupils are not always as able to interact as in mainstream schools, but our primary objective of our presentations is always to ensure the children have fun and this doesn’t deviate from school to school. There are normally lots of excited faces wanting to know why there’s a strange person wearing a white coat standing at the front of the room, and there are always lots of smiles leaving the room at the end.
This year alone, Science Boffins has worked with over 60,000 children so far with many more events planned over the coming months. Many of these children have had additional needs both physically and with their education. We train our presenters to engage with all children, ascertain their ability level and then adapt their presentation accordingly.
The vast majority of our presenters would say that they enjoy working with SEN children even more than mainstream children as they enjoy a far greater sense of achievement and personal satisfaction. A teacher from an SEN school we recently visited said; “The scientist gave an excellent demonstration – it kept all of our pupils’ attention and they all found it very interesting. There were lots of visual things, some straightforward explanation and a little bit of higher level science for those of our pupils that have a little more ability. I thought the whole talk was very well pitched for a group of special needs students and there was something there for everyone.”
Our workshops, assemblies and events focus on the educational elements of the science syllabus but with a heavy emphasis on entertainment. Over the past 12 years, we have learnt that presenting educational facts and ideas in a fun and interactive way that is visually stimulating and a bit different really helps them to stick in the children’s minds. We’ve even had Boffins go back to schools and groups months, or in some cases, years later and the children remember their last visit and what they learnt.
We look forward to working with SEN groups over the next 12 years…and beyond!