The Hitchhiker’s Guide to School Visits: Fit the Second

The Primary Phase

School visits are fun, and I’ve found visiting primary schools to be a wonderful experience. I’ve done visits through Scientists in Schools, MyScience and through people I know (and I’m always happy to do more!). There are a few things I’ve picked up along the way though. Here are some of them:

  1. Try to limit the number of questions the students ask during presentations. Take a couple and then move on. If you let too many students ask questions, the other students will get bored, distracted and start chatting amongst themselves.
  2. Make presentations interactive, but not too much. There’s a fine line here: no interaction means the kids will get bored, but if you overdo it you’ll never get through to the end! I usually try to ask them a question every three or so slides if I’m giving a Powerpoint presentation.
  3. In astronomy and space-related science, superlatives are important, especially for younger kids. The biggest, smallest, longest, furthest, hottest, coldest, oldest of anything is cool. But try to give them a reference point to really ramp up the Wow! factor. Don’t just say something like “Light from the centre of the galaxy takes 25000 years to reach us”, ramp it up from the Moon, Mars, the Sun, and the nearest star first.
  4. Don’t try to say too much in presentations. In the end, you want to keep the kids interested and give them something to talk about and remember.
  5. If you’re playing the role of mentor, remember that this is their experience, not yours, so give them enough space to enjoy themselves and get something out of it. If you’re supervising an experiment for example, the students have to feel ownership or else they’ll become disengaged.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of course, but just some of the things I’ve found it’s worth keeping in mind. I’d be interested in hearing other peoples’ experiences as well!


About drsimmo

I'm an astronomer and science communicator, these are my adventures. Views posted are my own.
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