An understanding of Science is crucial for life in the 21st century and we take that responsibility very seriously. Whilst the curriculum itself is important (see below) we believe there is so much more to a full science education. Students at St Mary’s are taught to question, to challenge the extents of their intellectual curiosity and to think seriously about the implications of the applications of Science. This is achieved through lessons that are carefully planned to challenge misconceptions, to give students the opportunity to hone the key skills of science communication, to lead their own learning through inquiry and to read.
Alongside the lessons we run a number of key projects, both in house and through external partners that expose the students to ‘real’ Science.
Through IRIS (Institute of Research in Schools) LV students take part in Amazing Atmospheres, evaluating data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter as well as collecting their own atmospheric gas data in Calne. Through UCL, Sixth Form Chemists are taking part in an exciting scheme to investigate novel properties in ionic liquids and through the Microbiology Society Sixth Form Biologists are part of a crowdsourcing project analysing the soil here in Calne for antibacterial compounds with the support of the Bristol University Plant Pathology Department. Our A Level Physicists achieve their Gold CREST award from the Engineering Education Scheme. They work with a local engineering firm over the course of a year to design a solution to an engineering problem that the company needs to solve. In 2017-18 the LIV girls will be taking part in the Bloodhound competition to design, build and race rocket cars.
We are extremely fortunate to have an established orchard in front of the science block. We have recently set up the Orchard Biodiversity Project as a long-term monitoring project and are currently focusing on lichens and moths. Our moth trap is set twice a month and students are learning to identify the extraordinary range of moths found with the help of a local moth expert.
Our clubs and societies are very active. Lego Robotics have already built a robotic snake and will be working on their programming skills this year with the aim of reaching competition standard. Zoological Society (Zoo Soc) is a weekly meet up looking at the anatomy and adaptations of the animal kingdom through dissection.
Our outside speakers are very important to our enrichment programme. In the last three years we have been fortunate to listen to the likes of Dr Ben Goldacre, Dr Nessa Carey, Professor Dame Frances Ashcroft and many more. In 2017-18 we are welcoming Dr Helen Czerski and Professor Dame Carol Black. Students of all ages are able to attend these lectures and to engage with the speakers on an individual basis.
National Science Week is a much anticipated event in the school calendar. In 2016-17 over 700 individuals from St Mary’s, local primary schools and the Calne community participated in Science events such as an evening lecture with Professor Alice Roberts (pictured left), a night of astronomy, an interactive lecture exploring the science of taste, an exploration of Science and Art through cyanotype photography and our annual Great Biology Bake Off competition.
Our curriculum is built on the Big Ideas in Science to ensure that when students complete their compulsory science education with us they have a deep and holistic understanding of the nature of science.
We have a bespoke science curriculum for students joining us in the first two years. The aim is to stretch, inspire and to introduce the girls to the endless possibilities of science. Students in LIV study the three sciences separately but in two cross-curricular themes, the science of light and the science of the environment. For the MIV it is engineering – in Biology we look how nature allows us to see the laws of engineering in practice from the shape of a heart valve to the structure of a leaf. In Chemistry we explore the engineering involved in the contents of the girls’ wash bags - the science behind emulsions, pigments and the distillation of fragrances. In Physics it is the science of bicycles, planes, bridges and skyscrapers. At the end of the MIV, students choose a project from one of the three science disciplines and complete a Bronze CREST award.
Girls in the UIV, LV and UV study for the Edexcel IGCSEs. Links to the courses can be found below:
• Edexcel IGCSE Biology
• Edexcel IGCSE Chemistry
• Edexcel IGCSE Physics
Biology: WJEC Eduqas A Level Biology (A400QSL)
Chemistry: OCR A Level Chemistry
Physics: AQA A Level Physics
The students use practical books in each subject to record evidence towards the important practical endorsement.
All Science students at Sixth Form take part in Journal Club. The students are given an article from a scientific journal or a link to, for example, a TED talk and are asked to read the material carefully before attending the meeting. The articles cover a range of scientific disciplines and all students are expected to attend, regardless of the specific Science subject they might be studying. The meeting is chaired by a teacher and the article is discussed in detail. Students keep the articles in a portfolio and by the time they reach UCAS applications they have built up a considerable body of wider reading.
Alexandra Haydon, Head of Science