Imperial College London’s Reach Out Lab and Reaching Further programme
The Wohl Reach Out Lab and the Reaching Further Programme at Imperial College London provide high quality science resource for schools, which the College believes has enormous potential to help transform science teaching, particularly within underperforming schools, or those with low progression into higher education.
The Reach Out Lab is championed by the renowned scientist Professor Robert Winston, and a team of energetic young researchers.
The Lab is popular with schools and has been used by significant numbers of pupils from primary level up to sixth form since it opened in 2009. This bespoke teaching space has also provided continuing professional development for STEM teachers across London, and is now expanding its reach to provide STEM resources at a national level through the Twig programme – a digital education project to support primary school teachers to engage children in science.
The Wohl Reach Out Lab helps to show schools the point of science by putting it in a current research setting. You can see teenagers thinking science is cool after meeting our young researchers. We did a session on enzymes recently and you could feel the excitement in the room as the pupils got to grips with using scientific equipment in a working lab.
Dr Annalisa Alexander
Head of Outreach, Imperial College London
Having access to cutting-edge research equipment is also hugely beneficial. Making use of spectrometers within the Wohl Reach Out Lab and those within the chemistry department can help A-level chemistry pupils to understand spectrometry, a very complex and hard to teach part of the syllabus.
The Lab also enables pupils to take part in practical experiments that would be hard or impossible to run in a school setting. “Allowing the pupils to take part in dissections, for example, is a fantastic experience. To begin with, they don’t want to cut or even touch the tissue, but after 10 minutes or so, they are getting stuck in and talking excitedly about what they find,” Annalisa added.
The Reaching Further programme was developed in response to an increasing number of requests from science teachers for support when teaching outside their area of specialism, such as biologists who have to teach physics. By linking teachers with the research community at Imperial, they are given access to resources and real-life examples of how science works.
“It’s really inspirational for teachers to have access to early career researchers - they bring a relevance and passion for their subject which teachers can find harder if they aren’t teaching their specialism,” says Annalisa.
Through Reaching Further, a virtual learning environment for teachers has been set up to provide them with high quality resources and continuing professional development. In partnership with Twig World, a new and innovative education media company helping to deliver this resource, Imperial is at the forefront of STEM curriculum support.