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What was done?
An early years practitioner collected shoe boxes and covered each one with colourful paper and images linked to one of the following topics: weather, seasons, water, colours, magnets and planting.
The boxes contained materials for a science activity along with a list of contents and suggested areas for further discussion. There was also a small jotter for parents to write down their evaluation of the box and information on what their child had learned and enjoyed about the activity.
STEM activities had already been developed within the school/early years class and the aim was initially to further increase parental engagement following the success of a lending library and story bag initiative.
Following a ‘trio’ visit which was part of a pilot programme to look at building ambition and further develop the early years play areas, an investigation station was created in the playroom. Children were encouraged to use the resources at the station to investigate magnets, materials and plant growth.
This investigation station was developed to create the science boxes to engage parents in the scientific investigations. The materials at the investigation station changed when the children's interest changed or when the children brought in something else to investigate.
What was the impact?
The boxes have been very popular with children, parents and families. Children's interest in discovery and investigation has increased and parents have reported on the eagerness and enjoyment of their children when using the boxes. All parents provided positive feedback and the boxes have been a good example of how to increase parental engagement in their child's learning at home.
The boxes have raised attainment through developing children’s communication and investigative skills, better knowledge of scientific terminology, more support from parents in developing awareness of science in the environment, encouraging independent learning and developing the children's natural curiosity and questioning skills.
How to use this exemplar to improve practice
Science boxes can be used to:
- increase parental engagement in their child's learning at home - Parents and carers are encouraged to extend their child's learning by sharing their own knowledge and skills around the relevant subjects. Extended family members are also encouraged to participate in the learning;
- promote an interest in and understanding of science at early level and/or primary 1;
- raise attainment within science and develop enquiring minds - By using the boxes, children have the opportunity to investigate the world around them and question their findings;
- promote discussion both at home and in the early years setting - Children are encouraged to complete the tasks with their parents or wider family members. This engages parents in their child's learning and provides an insight into how they are developing skills and progressing;
- cover other curricular areas such as literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing - The boxes help develop communication as children can discuss their findings with their peers and show the results of their investigation through pictures taken and comments recorded in the jotter.