Head to Head

STEM Learning, SSERC and Explorify

98% of teachers surveyed would recommend Explorify…that makes it worth a look!  

Explorify is free to use, multi-award-winning digital resource linked to the four nations statutory science curricula and is intended for teachers to use with their primary school classes. You can visit it here: https://explorify.wellcome.ac.uk/  Teachers register to use Explorify providing their name, school name, role and email address. They select the UK curriculum they use and the age range of pupils they teach. Teachers also choose up to three science topics that they are teaching. Users can reset this information using the settings drop-down menu.  In Scotland, since SSERC has been promoting Explorify through their bulletins, social media platforms, and live workshops, the increase of the resource across Scottish schools has increased by 40%.  

The selection of science topics and pupil ages at registration ensures that activities presented to the user match the curriculum chosen and are relevant to the pupils' ages, comparing where appropriate the CfE experiences and outcomes. Activities promote high-level thinking, questioning and discussion, reasoning and explanation. All activities are presented in a similar format with simple instructions, background science, and ideas to further linked to further Explorify activities and activities provided by stakeholders. Activities can be saved to access quickly in future and marked as done to record notes.   

Users can search for relevant activities using science keywords or select from drop-down menus covering science topics, pupils' year group and activity type. There are eight types of activities. Four of them are short and need no preparation beyond selecting them from the website. These help children explore what they know, notice details, observe patterns and changes, listen to each other's ideas and comments, and explain what they think or know. All answers are valid when children explain or justify their reasons.  

  • Odd One Out – children look at three carefully selected images that are linked in some way. They talk about what they can see and then look for similarities and differences. Each child then explains which is the odd one out for them. 
  • Zoom In Zoom Out – a series of linked high-quality images that start close up and pull back until the whole image is revealed. Children think about what the image might be and say why, building on each other's ideas. 
  • What's Going On? – short videos, distraction-free, some specially commissioned and some licensed from providers including the BBC. Children discuss what they see happening and explain their thinking. 
  • What If? – these are questions to make pupils think. They aren't intended for practical investigation but help children place their ideas and thoughts in new contexts in a fun way. It enables children to transfer their scientific knowledge to less familiar contexts.  

The other four activities need more preparation or more time and can help children develop deeper thinking applied to science.

  • Mystery Bags – these activities need some bags that children can't see through and some mystery objects, usually things that can be found around school or home very easily. Children try to work out what is in the bags by feeling them. Once the objects are revealed, children think about the different ways that they may be linked. 
  • Big Question – children think and plan how they would investigate a question that's not usually investigated in primary school. These questions often spark further investigations, build enquiry skills, and require children to apply their knowledge and use their reasoning skills.
  • Problem Solvers –activities that link well with technology. Can children use junk materials or anything to hand to design and make something to solve a problem and explain their ideas?
  • Mission Survive – activities that get children thinking about the living world around them and understanding the impact of change.  

SSERC and Explorify

SSERC has, for many years, worked in partnership with Wellcome. When Wellcome began to develop its primary science campaign in late 2015, it was a fantastic opportunity for SSERC to develop this partnership further and provide input on the education landscape in Scotland. The campaign's focus is to reach and engage teachers across the UK who were ambivalent about science or didn't identify with it to achieve a higher quality of primary science teaching across the UK. Key performance indicators set at the beginning of the campaign were:

•             reaching 50% of UK primary schools

•             increasing teaching time, ideally to an average of two hours per week.   

Through research and focus groups with teachers, it became clear that there a need for a digital product that engaged teachers with activities and supported them with the bits of science learning that got missed or were harder to include, and lead them towards professional development. Explorify was developed in 2016 and launched in 2017.  

As Wellcome ends its work in UK science education in 2021, Explorify will be transitioned to a new host so that the science education sector can continue to benefit from this investment. Wellcome will ensure that Explorify is robust and has a long shelf life to enable a smooth transition. It is hoped that the new host will develop Explorify further, building upon the success of this product. SSERC is an Explorify champion and has, since 2017, delivered workshop sessions through the Primary Cluster Programme (PCP) to many schools and teachers.  

SSERC, through funding from Wellcome, has recently developed and delivered two new SSERC_Meets (remote learning) directly related to the Explorify resource.  These will be openly offered through our professional learning calendar in the academic year 2021 – 22.  Please visit our website for more information: https://www.sserc.org.uk/professional-learning/primary-clpl/