New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

Science Buddies – Engaging Students and Parents in Science Education at Primary and Post Primary Level

Sharon Lawton, Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland)


Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) Access Service organises and delivers a range of pre-entry, entry and post-entry support programmes for groups underrepresented at third level education. The CIT Science for Life programme is a CIT Access Service initiative developed in 2009. The aim of the programme is to encourage and support second level students to study Science as a subject in second level schools and at third level. The programme is delivered in schools that are part of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative, the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion within the Department of Education and Skills. Up to 2009, on the numbers of students progressing to CIT from DEIS schools in Cork City and County, indicated that the numbers of these students were lower than in non-DEIS schools.

Since its inception in 2009, the programme has grown significantly, it now has many successful collaborations with other third level institutes, local Industry, the local community and both primary and secondary schools. One such collaboration is the Science Buddies programme, initially piloted in the 2011-2012 academic year with one of CIT’s Access Linked secondary schools. The Science Buddies programme works at breaking down barriers to education and to bring science to the community and home environments in areas experiencing educational disadvantage. The programme involves collaboration between the three main educational tiers, parents and the community. Key stakeholders are primary and secondary aged students their parents, teachers and the Home School Liaison Coordinators. Science Buddies explores the process of developing student initiative, which promotes science leadership, communication and inspires future scientists. This addresses a need that has been identified in the Hunt report (National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030) – “community education strategies have proven very effective in reaching out to non-traditional students” and promotes Science as a third level possibility within the context of educational disadvantage.

This paper explores the potential benefit of community engagement strategies between higher education institutes, primary schools students, secondary schools students, and their parents. The paper analyses student and parental engagement and reviews the potential benefits of early introduction to science through an inter-generational programme. The paper includes perspectives of the programme from the point of view of key stakeholders.

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