Seeing the science in our surroundings

June 24, 2010

UK school pupils from Nottingham have become pioneer scientists as part of a research project aimed at designing an innovative approach to learning.

A research team from The University of Nottingham and the Open University is aiming to promote a passion for science among youngsters by making it personal to them and by encouraging them to carry out experiments that start in the classroom and continue at home or outdoors.

The project has developed a new computer toolkit named nQuire which 11 to 14-year-old pupils from Hadden Park High in Bilborough and Oakgrove School in Milton Keynes have used to plan and design their study with the help of their teacher. They have taken measurements, organised data, and shared and discussed the results while being guided by software running on the handheld netbook computers.

Their homegrown experiments have included focusing on healthy eating, where the children took pictures of their meals and compared the nutrition to recommended daily intake levels, looking at 'microclimates' by taking measurements around the school playground to decide on the best location for a bench or flying a kite, and a study of the effect of noise pollution on birds' eating habits.

The new computer toolkit could soon be benefitting pupils across the country, with plans to offer it to teachers through an open source licence to support their teaching activities and promote proactive learning.

The project has been led by Professor Mike Sharples, Director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI) in The University of Nottingham's School of Education and Professor Eileen Scanlon of the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University.

Professor Sharples said: "The project has shown how children can become active investigators, designing scientific studies and exploring their world. The nQuire toolkit uses a new generation of portable computers to take learning outside the classroom. We have been successful in engaging children in science that relates to their personal interests."

Professor Scanlon said:" We have been impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of the students and teachers engaged in this work."

Explore further: Mobile phones help secondary pupils

Related Stories

Mobile phones help secondary pupils

September 11, 2008

Ask a teacher to name the most irritating invention of recent years and they will often nominate the mobile phone. Exasperated by the distractions and problems they create, many headteachers have ordered that pupils must ...

Engaging teachers means engaged students

June 23, 2008

To encourage and help teachers become more involved and enthusiastic about "inclusive teaching", the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) recently funded an action research based project. Action research can be explained ...

Can virtual teachers plug the educational divide?

February 24, 2009

( -- Bringing more technology into the classroom might strike fear into the hearts of traditional educationalists, but one academic believes it may just hold the key to solving a worldwide problem.

Personalised learning puts students in a class of their own

October 27, 2008

( -- A new learning platform is giving the traditional classroom a radical makeover. Using innovative ICT technology, iClass is putting pupils at the centre of the learning experience and providing them with more ...

Recommended for you

New paper answers causation conundrum

November 17, 2017

In a new paper published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, SFI Professor Jessica Flack offers a practical answer to one of the most significant, and most confused questions in evolutionary ...

Chance discovery of forgotten 1960s 'preprint' experiment

November 16, 2017

For years, scientists have complained that it can take months or even years for a scientific discovery to be published, because of the slowness of peer review. To cut through this problem, researchers in physics and mathematics ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.