13 October 2017

Lancaster University has been taking its world leading research into the classroom to inspire the next generation of researchers

School children are getting a taste of the life of an academic researcher through hands on activities.

They could be roleplaying the Paris Climate talks, doing lab experiments to reproduce DNA, exploring how eye movements are related to psychological processes, designing a research poster or learning how to draw plants and animals accurately from observation.

It’s all part of the School University Partnership initiative, involving 13 universities across the country, funded by Research Council UK and profiled in the national media

Lancaster’s Cumbria based Partnership has been so successful the University is now opening it to schools nationwide, working with widening participation schools, where pupils may face barriers in accessing higher education. 

The Partnership initiative saw teachers and university researchers working together to create a series of ‘Research in a Box’ resources, covering a wide range of subjects from physics and law to a healthy and sustainable diet. Each “Box” contains actual and virtual resources to be used in GCSE and A-level classes, enabling pupils to carry out lab experiments, conduct role plays, and to stimulate debate. One box even contains a 3D printer.

Early career researchers have been going into schools to help deliver lessons and pupils have visited the Lancaster University for research workshops. Pupils doing the extended project qualification (EPQ) even get the chance to be mentored through their research project by a university researcher.

As well as giving pupils first-hand experience of university-level research, the University has invited science and technology teachers onto campus to tour its laboratories and other facilities, and to get hands on with new research techniques.

A thousand pupils and 86 teachers from 11 secondary schools across the South Lakes Federation have been involved in the four-year initiative.

Dr Jane Taylor, Deputy Director of the Lancaster Environment Centre led the Lancaster project.

She said: “The pupils weren’t the only ones to benefit. Teachers have told us they have rediscovered a fresh enthusiasm for science and our own researchers have had the vital opportunity to learn how to talk about their work to a wider audience.”

Alison Wilkinson, Head of Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, and Research & Development Lead for the South Lakes Teaching School Alliance, praised the ‘genuine collaboration’ that had developed between the University and the South Lakes Federation.

“From the outset we agreed that the project needed to be a genuinely two-way construction and development process.

“Thanks to the project, four of us from the Teaching School Alliance have felt inspired to embark on doctorate programmes in educational research. We believe we are breaking new ground with this ‘bespoke’ doctorate which is supporting collaborative research relating to aspects of school development.”

Now widening participation schools throughout the country will be able to take advantage of the Research in a Box resources, mentoring and teacher visits through Lancaster’s new School University Research Engagement project. To find out more contact Catherine Baxendale.