the Seeing science activities PDF

the Seeing science activities PDF
An evidence based teaching resource for
developing skills in ‘working scientifically’
We have created three mini activities which use images from the Royal Photographic Society’s International
Images for Science competition shortlist as a starting point for pupils to learn about the science all around them.
Each activity showcases science in action, and includes an exploratory enquiry and short experiment. The scientific
explanations are simply written and curriculum links are provided for Key Stages 1 to 4, making the activities both
accessible and easy to adapt and extend for pupils aged from 5 to 16.
The themes of Nature, Mankind and the Universe broadly link with elements of the science curricula, specifically for
biology and physics, and the activities can be used very effectively to support ‘Working scientifically’ across the age
range. We’ve also included linked ideas to spark entries from your pupils to the 2016 International Images for
Science competition.
Using the activities
Each of the suggested enquiries can be investigated as whole class, or depending on age range and ability of
pupils, can be used together in a single session with each one being assigned to groups to undertake and present
back to the class. The main idea behind the resource is to get pupils to really see, rather than just glance at, the
world around them. They’ll need to ask questions and create hypotheses, and most importantly share their
discoveries using images that will inspire others towards ‘seeing science’ all around them!
Working scientifically
‘Working scientifically’ specifies the understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science for each year
group, focusing on the key features of scientific enquiry so that pupils learn to use a variety of approaches to answer
relevant scientific questions. Types of scientific enquiry should include: observing over time; pattern seeking;
identifying, classifying and grouping; comparative and fair testing (controlled investigations); and researching using
secondary sources. Pupils should seek answers to questions through collecting, analysing and presenting data.
Cameras at the ready!
The International Images for Science competition is open to the public worldwide with entries accepted in three
age categories: 17 and under, 18-25 and 26+.
We’d love your pupils to take part - please keep your camera at the ready and look out for
photographic opportunities highlighted throughout the activities!
Visit or email to find out more about the competition.
As part of The Curiosity Project, Siemens - the headline sponsor of the International Images for
Science competition - has developed a range of free teaching and learning resources to ignite
young peoples' imaginations and help inspire the next generation of engineers.
Download flexible workshops for students aged 11-14, which place fun and questioning at their
core at
An evidence based teaching resource for
developing skills in ‘working scientifically’
This activity looks at the mould and
mildew on strawberries, using an image entered to the
Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for
Science competition called ‘Red & white’.
Science curricula links
KS1 & 2: Working scientifically; Living things and their habitats
KS3: Working scientifically; Biology - Interactions and independencies
KS4: Working scientifically; Biology - Material cycles
Enquiry: Exploring mould
Mould is a fungus – it is known as a ‘kingdom’, and is neither
a plant nor an animal. Unlike plants, fungi cannot make food
by capturing sunlight. Instead they use their threads to
absorb chemicals created by other living things which have
died. Together with bacteria, fungi are an important part of
our ecosystem called decomposers. Decomposers break
down the remains of dead plants and animals, releasing
chemicals which can be recycled by regrowth. Not all fungi
feed on dead matter, some attack living plants and animals,
and often cause diseases.
Why not see how many different types of mould and fungi you can find in your local environment. Older
students could relate their findings to wider investigations into ecosystems and decomposition factors;
including the effect of air pollution on fungus growth.
Mould needs nutrients and water to grow. It can be found indoors and outdoors all over the world. Some
moulds/fungi are poisonous, others are harmless and even used in our everyday food production processes e.g.
yeast is used to make bread rise and ferment alcoholic drinks, and penicillium fungus is used to make blue cheese.
Many kinds of mould are also used to produce life-saving medicines thanks to discoveries like that of Sir Alexander
Flemming in 1928, or even to clean up toxic oil spills in a relatively new process known as mycoremediation.
Fungi and moulds are great for many biological and engineering purposes because they are simple and reproduce
quickly. Mould can grow virtually anywhere given the right conditions, but in our homes it is most commonly found
on aging food items. Many foods, especially bread, contain ingredients that are mould inhibitors such as
preservatives. They prevent mould from growing too quickly, extending the shelf life of the item. ‘Best before’ and
‘Use by’ dates help us to know how long we can keep food for consumption, before bacteria and mould will start
to grow.
Why not investigate how many different ways we store food.
Which type of foods have the longest ‘Best before’ dates? Why?
An evidence based teaching resource for
developing skills in ‘working scientifically’
Experiment: Conditions required for mould to grow
Use the simple experiment below to explore the growing conditions required by moulds. Older students should use
these as a starting point for exploring the function of mould in an ecosystem and/or the wider implications of
decomposition, and factors influencing the rate of decomposition in aerobic, anaerobic and artificial environments,
including refuse disposal and biogas generators.
The breadth and depth of results will depend on the number of variables you plan to test. However, here is a quick
guide to help you decide which variables may provide the best results for your pupils to observe and hypothesise:
Wet food samples will grow the most mould
Cooked food samples will grow the least mould
Food samples left in a warm place will grow more mould, more quickly than cold stored/refrigerated samples
Different food types may support different moulds
KS1: Limit the number of food types and variations to just one or two. Very young pupils will need adult support to
record observations
KS2: Challenge your pupils to devise a fair test to answer the question: What conditions are needed for mould to
grow? Compare findings with what pupils know about plants
KS3 & 4: Students should be able to use scientific language to predict and explain: Which food will grow the
most/least mould? Which environment will have the greatest mould growth? They should consider why and how this
information can be used to reduce or increase the susceptibility of food items to mould
Growing mould
For each group you will need:
One or more types of food (bread, fruit, vegetables, meat)
Resealable clear plastic bags
Spray bottle with water
Sticky labels/tape and a marker pen
A camera
• Decide on the test conditions required (e.g. wet/dry, light/dark, hot/cold, raw/cooked) and select/provide
sufficient quantities of each different food sample to test each condition variable
• Place each sample into a clear plastic bag and seal it
• Label each bag appropriately with type of food and the test condition
• Repeat the above, lightly spraying each sample with water before sealing it in the bag
• Place one sample for each type of food in each of your test conditions
• Monitor your samples daily and make notes on observations. Taking photos is a great way to track changes in
your samples over time!
Don’t forget to submit pupils’ photos of fuzzy fungus
to the International Images for Science competition!
An evidence based teaching resource for
developing skills in ‘working scientifically’
NATURE: This activity looks at the effect of the
spectrum of light on a spider web, using an image entered
to the Royal Photographic Society’s International Images for
Science competition called ‘Celebration’.
Science curricula links
KS1: Working scientifically, Light; sources of light
KS2: Working scientifically, Light; source of light, reflection and refraction
KS3 & 4: Working scientifically; Physics; light waves
Enquiry: Exploring nature’s colours and symmetry
Light, although it appears white, is actually made up of many
colours. These are the colours we see in rainbows and here in
the droplets of water on the spider web. As the rays of
sunlight cross through the side of the water droplet, the light
changes direction, and then changes direction again as it
passes out of the other side. Different colours of light change
direction by different amounts. You can observe some of the
many colours of light when you blow bubbles and watch
them move.
Directional change and bending of the light is called refraction, which causes the white light to be split into
its constituent colours creating a spectrum or rainbow. Lenses refract light to produce images and are used
in many optical devices such as cameras, magnifying glasses, binoculars, microscopes and glasses to improve
vision and even our eyes.
Consider using the ‘Celebration’ image to encourage pupils to explore science in action and investigate the colours
and symmetry of nature and the effect of light, i.e. consider the impact of time of day and weather on what pupils see.
Why not investigate the effects of using different lenses or even coloured filters to explore a different view?
Older students could relate these investigations to how insects and other animals see the world and explore
any advantages (adaptation).
Experiment: Exploring reflection and refraction
Use the simple experiments below to develop pupils’ understanding of light. Older students should use these as a
starting point for exploring how we can use what we know about light and how it travels for various technological
applications (introduce the concept of frequency ranges).
KS1: Very young pupils will need adult support to conduct the experiment
KS2: Challenge your more able pupils to devise their own investigation using the equipment
KS3 & 4: Students should be able to use scientific language to predict and explain outcomes
A: Making rainbows
For each group you will need:
A mirror
A piece of white card
A shallow tray
A torch
Access to water
Modelling clay/Blu-tac
A camera
• Position the mirror ‘face-up’ inside the tray as follows: lean against one side at a 45 degree angle and secure to
the bottom with modelling clay/Blu-tac
• Without dislodging the mirror, carefully add water to the tray until the bottom of the mirror is covered with water
• Switch on and shine the torch on to the surface of the water in front of the mirror
• Without moving the torch, hold the white card above the mirror and move until a rainbow (light spectrum) is
clearly visible
B: Seeing colour
For each group you will need:
A torch
Red, blue, and green card/sugar paper
See-through coloured cellophane/coloured filters in red, blue and green
A camera
• Darken the room as much as possible
• Turn on the torch and aim it at the white paper; observe and record the colour of the paper
• Repeat the above with the red, blue, and green pieces of paper
• Now place the red coloured cellophane/filter in front of the beam of the flash light and secure the cellophane
paper filter. Shine the filtered beam on the white, red, blue, and green papers and record the colours seen
• Repeat using the blue coloured cellophane/filter and then the green coloured cellophane/filter; record the
colours seen
• Discuss findings
• Predict what will happen if more than one filter is used
Don’t forget to enter pupils’ photos to the International Images for Science competition.
Nature is a canvas, so they could take shots capturing science through the natural beauty of
the world around us.
An evidence based teaching resource for
developing skills in ‘working scientifically’
THE UNIVERSE: This activity looks at forces and motion,
using an image taken through a telescope using an infrared filter,
entered to the Royal Photographic Society’s International Images
for Science competition called ‘Solar eclipse’.
Science curricula links
KS1: Seasonal changes; Everyday materials
KS2: Earth & Space; Forces
KS3 & 4: Working scientifically; Physics – Motion and forces
WARNING: The Sun is VERY dangerous. Children should be advised NEVER to look directly at the Sun
even through sunglasses and especially not through a telescope.
Enquiry: Invisible forces
The Sun is our nearest star, without which there would be
no life on Earth. The Moon orbits (goes around) the Earth
and the Earth orbits the Sun. When these paths cross we
can witness wonderful sights. During a solar eclipse the
Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting its
shadow on part of the Earth. A total eclipse happens when
the Earth and the Moon come in line with one another and
temporarily block the Sun. This image was taken on the
20th March 2015, which was the last total solar eclipse. It
was taken using a telescope with a protective infrared lens.
Here you can see the last crescent of the Sun before the
Moon finally obscures the Sun completely, and darkness
occurs on Earth during the day for about 2/3 minutes.
This amazing phenomena will happen six times from 2011
to 2020.
Question: Is this the Sun or the Moon you can see?
Answer: Both!
Did you know? The sun is 400 times as large as
the Moon, but it is also 400 times further away
from the Earth!
Why not observe the phases of the Moon. Why does the Moon appear to change shape at different times of
the month?
The invisible force that links the Earth to the Moon is known as ‘gravity’. Gravity is a force which pulls bodies
together. Gravity acts on all bodies no matter how big or small, but:
• The bigger the mass of the bodies, the greater the gravitational pull between them
• The further apart the bodies, the weaker the gravitational force between them
As the Earth spins on its axis, ocean water is kept at approximately equal levels around the planet by the Earth's
gravity pulling towards the centre. However, the Moon's gravitational force is strong enough to disrupt this balance
by pulling water towards the Moon. Water closest to the Moon feels more gravity and is pulled towards it, whereas
the water furthest away feels less gravity and moves away. This causes the water to 'bulge'. As the Moon orbits Earth
and it rotates, two tidal bulges are created at opposite sides of the Earth.
A good way of demonstrating this bulge is to use a round plastic washing-up bowl, half filled with water and a
football. Place the ball in the water and hold it still whilst two volunteers pull on opposite sides of the bowl until it
distorts to create a tidal bulge. Now slowly rotate the ball to see how the tidal bulges move around the Earth (ball).
When you drop something it always falls. Gravity is the invisible force that makes this happen. On Earth gravity is
constant – and as we know, depends on the mass of different bodies. Galileo was the first person to test the theory
that, because of gravity, falling objects would hit the ground at the same time regardless of weight, when he is
rumoured to have dropped two different sized iron balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Use the experiment below
to perform your own investigation of falling objects.
Experiment: The effects of distance and weight on the speed and impact of falling objects
This experiment supports pupils’ exploration of forces and motion, by comparing the speed of acceleration and
impact on a range of items when dropped. Pupils can use what they learn to create interesting moonscapes in their
sand trays.
KS1: Use the experiment to further pupils’ exploration of everyday materials. Find out how the shapes of solid objects
made from some materials can be changed by squashing, bending, twisting and stretching, then explore the effects
on falling (good examples are paper, modelling clay and plastic) ignoring measurement
KS2: Explain that unsupported objects fall towards the Earth because of the force of gravity acting between the Earth
and the falling object
KS3 & 4: Students should be able to describe the quantitative relationship between average speed, distance and
time (speed = distance ÷ time). Relate hypotheses to Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion
Asteroids and moonscapes
You will need:
A range of items of different sizes and weights to drop from a controlled height
A relatively deep tray of sand/flour
Paper and pencils for recording
Stop watches
A camera
• Introduce the range of available items and predict what will happen when they are dropped simultaneously from
the same height at the same time into the tray of sand/flour. Which item will land first? What will happen to the
sand/flour in the tray?
• Using stop watches, time the drop and measure the height of each fall and size of the resulting depression in the
• Record results for class comparison (shake sand tray from side to side to relevel after each drop)
• Explore what happens if you drop items which are the same weight, but very different shapes e.g. flat sheet of
paper and crumpled sheet of paper
• Compare findings and develop hypotheses
Don’t forget to submit pupil’s photos to the International Images for Science competition.
Why not use fast shutter speed photography or an electronic flash to explore cause and effect
using images?
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