MILL Strand Integrated Primary School in Portrush has received UK-wide recognition for its outstanding work in science education in November as the only Irish school of nine UK finalists short listed for the Rolls Royce Science Prize.
There were originally 1500 entrants for the competition which is held to promote science and technology in education. Mill Strand’s project entitled ‘What’s in the sea?’ involved children observing and investigating the local shore line and making presentations to raise awareness of the marine environment in the school and wider community, including a live Web TV broadcast incorporating live underwater footage from the sea bed off Portrush.
The project, led by Deirdre Doherty, Science Coordinator at the school, also involved local scientists Dr Dave Schoeman and Dr Joerg Arnscheidt of UU at Coleraine, Dr John Houghton of QUB and Dr Gary Burrows of Coastal Zone.
External support for the project was also received from the RSPB, the National Trust and Coleraine Borough Council. Children engaged in educational visits to the Fish House at Coleraine and to NI Environmental Agency’s Lab at Lisburn as well as participating in beach litter survey led by ‘The Baglady’
Scientific work undertaken by the children included observing, photographing and mapping rock pools, using digital microscopes to examine sand grains and very small marine organisms.
Though the project involved mainly scientific work undertaken by children, it also covered the full range of the curriculum. Younger classes at the school produced a Recycled Fashion Show and some classes were involved in doing voiceovers (a la Creature Comforts) for film footage of local sea animals shot by divers from Coastal Zone and facilitated by Big Telly Theatre Company.
The school received £6,000 prize money from Rolls Royce which has been spent on scientific equipment such as video cameras digital microscopes and aquaria which have been stocked with local sea fauna.
The main prize for the pupils at the school, however, has been the learning experience and legacy of community resources, expertise and knowledge for future learning and teaching at the school.
As a leading school promoting learning and teaching, Mill Strand Integrated School has also recently secured a funding through ‘Enthuse’ to set up Northern Ireland’s only cluster to work with the National Science Centre.
This will facilitate over 28 teacher training days at the centre in England and secure additional funding for the schools involved: Mill Stand Integrated Primary School, St Patrick’s Primary School in Portrush, St Malachy’s Primary School in Coleraine and North Coast Integrated College.