How can I help DS (12) with science?

(27 Posts)
BlogOnTheTyne Sun 17-Nov-13 14:37:11

Ds (12) in Yr 8 is struggling with the three sciences (Physics/Chemistry/Biology) and increasingly upset about this. He doesn't really 'click' with science (or Maths) and is a real whizz at English/History/RS instead. It really matters to him that he does well at school, so the impact of struggling is getting to him more and more.

His school is very academically selective and very very good for DCs who are great at Maths and the sciences. Most of his peers could easily take their iGCSEs in these subjects now. So the 'competition' is very strong.

The more DS struggles, the less interested he becomes and so the more he struggles. Class size for a fee paying school is large - 26 children per class and several classes per year group. There's not much scope for individual attention/help.

I'm wondering therefore if anyone has any resources - books or internet based - that could help DS or help me to help him?

I was also never strong on maths or sciences but in my school, millions of years ago - you didn't have to do the three separate sciences, whereas in DS' school, this is compulsory.

How can you turn a disinterested child into one who finds science fascinating and inspiring? DS is very self-motivated, reads well ahead of his years in English and History, very ambitious but now aware that he may not do that well in the three sciences (or Maths - but that's a separate issue really).

I can't really afford extra tuition for him along with school fees and wonder if anyone else has had a child around this age/stage who was suddenly able to 'take off' in sciences, from being a reluctant and confused scholar to start with?

I'm especially keen to find resources for a child who will happily read literature and history but doesn't really 'get' why it's important to know about things like chemistry experiments, the laws of physics and the workings of the body.

DifferenceEngine Sun 17-Nov-13 14:40:47

I read Isaac Asimov s a short history of chemistry at that age. Totally inspired me. I was leaning more towards humanities at that point. I now have a degree in a science subject.
Accessible, understandable engaging and I totally saw the point of science after reading that.

lisad123everybodydancenow Sun 17-Nov-13 14:57:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

yetanotherworry Sun 17-Nov-13 15:05:17

Can you do things at home that make it fun? I'll quite often do some chromatography (splitting pen ink) or blowing up bottles of lemonade with my kids. They are too young to understand the science very well but they're picking stuff up whilst having fun.

TeenAndTween Sun 17-Nov-13 15:13:41

To summarise then:
- he is struggling in science
- he is in class size larger than my DD's comp
- he is not getting the required help from the school
- you're paying for this confused

Suggestions - any of:
- talk to the school
- move to a good (state) school who will help all children
- buy KS3 science guides and go through them together
- after every science lesson, or at least once a week discuss what he has been doing to ensue he understands it
- if he moved to state, you would have loads of money free for a science tutor

Mainly you don't get to drop a science these days, you just do 2/3rds of each at GCSE. But I can see a 'very academically selective' school insisting everyone does triple.

BlogOnTheTyne Sun 17-Nov-13 15:40:55

Yes, they have to do all three sciences separately at their school. He LOVES his school and would hate to have to leave it - hence I prioritise keeping him and his brother there.

When they were younger, we'd do scinece typs stuff for fun, which his brother loves, unlike him. They seem to do a lot of fun experiments at school plus learning the 'dry' facts too and are dissecting stuff in biology, doing exciting stuff in chemistry and even do active stuff in Physics. But DS isn't really all that interested and would rather be writing an essay or reading.

Scienec isn't set until yr 10 I think - which means very scientifically orientated children are in with those who are less inclined but they're all supposed to be sufficiently close in ability level to manage this. Not sure I agree.

I will meet his science teachers for the first - amd last - time of this year, shortly but you only get 5 minutes per subject teacher, so not much time to have an in depth discussion about DS and they may hardly know who he is anyway.

Part of the problem is that DS HATES me to 'interfere' with his work, discuss it, look through his books, teach him anything. I find this incredibly frustrating as there are so many things I could help with if he'd only allow me but that's why I've thought I might have to employ someone else other than me.

Most of the time, all his books are at school anyway.

I'll have a look at the Asimov book. Are there any others that have inspired anyone in any of the three sciences? If the three, I found Biology really interesting and comprehensible unlike Physics and Chemistry and as DS is rather like me, I'm not sure why he doesn't get on better even with this subject, which is far less 'mathematically' based.

Whether the subject is divided into separate lessons for Chemistry, Biology & Physics, or just taught as Science for KS3, it's the same topics that are being covered. CGP do a good Science revision guide for KS3. I think they also publish it as three separate books if you prefer your sciences segregated.

DS1 used this and got level 7 at the end of KS3. He is just starting iGCSE courses in three sciences.

summerends Sun 17-Nov-13 19:02:15

Sounds as though your DS may have disengaged because he is not one of the best and thinks he never will be because of the link of science with maths. At his stage success in science does not need maths but does need some effort. Later however he will need to be stronger in maths particularly in physics and chemistry so worth focussing on his maths to get him over that hurdle

To engage his interest there are some fantastic TV programmes in science, for example various series with jim al-khalilil including ones that put scientific discoveries and progress in historical and religious context which might interest your DS more. Even if he does n't end up a scientist, he will be a better historian from understanding how religion and political events are interlinked with science.

Talkinpeace Sun 17-Nov-13 19:36:20

It is one of the crass assumptions of the modern "national Curriculum" and "Ebacc" that all kids need to be good at everything.
And its just not true
Some kids are great at languages
Some kids are great at maths
Some kids are great at music
Some kids are great at sport
Some kids are great at English and History
under "every child matters" schools should be competent enough to work with kids over that.

Surely in year 10 he'll be dropping down to single or double science to concentrate on what he excels at
therefore the school should support him in getting all the core modules locked into place in Science
and then fly at the subject he's great at

you are paying : they do what is right or you take your money elsewhere ( a luxury state school parents do not have, enjoy it)

Salmotrutta Sun 17-Nov-13 20:19:47

If I was paying fees at a private school I'd be livid that there were 26 pupils in his class! shock

I'm not sure about elsewhere in the UK but up here practical subjects such as Science have a class limit of 20 - even in the state sector - so a private school should not be having bigger classes!

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 17-Nov-13 20:24:20

Maths is not essential for all science, Biology particularly prior to Uni does not need maths.
Would he engaged with some of the history of science? I remember really becoming engaged when I watched the film The Race for the Double Helix.

Talkinpeace Sun 17-Nov-13 20:27:49

my private school had classes of 30 right through year 9
class size has little impact on teaching (korean schools have classes of over 90)
pitching is what matters

if he's going to do something like English, he's just marking time till he can drop the sciences
accept that and support what he enjoys

MagratGarlik Sun 17-Nov-13 20:51:47

I would thoroughly recommend the "Horrible Science" books. Based on the "Horrible Histories" series, but science based - ideal for a child who enjoys reading.

If he enjoys things like Top Trumps, the Royal Society of Chemistry sell element top trumps cards, which are an excellent way of being able to sneakily get children to remember tons of facts without feeling that they are 'working'.

Unfortunately, in the state sector, science classes are not limited to 20. I've had secondary science classes with up to 32 in a class.

MagratGarlik Sun 17-Nov-13 20:57:29

Also, if your ds classes are not setted (even if they are), the teacher should be differentiating the work, according to the range of abilities in the class, not just teaching to the top/middle.

mrscog Sun 17-Nov-13 20:59:42

I would provide some interesting science resources that weren't curriculum focussed. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre is a fantastic book, the Planet Earth documentaries, Steven Hawking's mini series Universe - physics in a really easy to understand way. For a less cultured programme you could show him some episodes of Brainiac Science Abuse. Provide some scientific inspiration outside of 'boring school work' that might help him to understand more etc. Also, if it's a pushy school in that respect it might help to show him that he's probably still better than average for his age. Some people find things click at a different rate to others. If he's in to history, what about looking in to the history of scientific discoveries - Louis Pasteur etc.

Talkinpeace Sun 17-Nov-13 21:10:00

Braniac is NOT a good choice because they lie too much about what they are doing in their demonstrations.

Horrible Science are great
David Attenborough Books and TV Series
Prof Brian Cox TV
Iain Stewart TV
and there are some very good US Youtube science channels
and then there is always Eepybird for light relief

unlucky83 Sun 17-Nov-13 21:42:58

Even at my DD1s state school you can make a separate appointment to talk to the teachers for longer than 5 mins - if you are really concerned you should do that....
If he likes history etc maybe get him to look more at that side of science...the stories.
Van Leeuwenhoek looking at his own body fluids, Mendel's peas, history of the periodic table, Lamarck/Darwin ...
How the best scientists had an amazing imagination and great observational skills....historically scientists were dreamers. They would have made great fiction writers.
And these are still skills that are needed to be not good, but great scientists today...

NotCitrus Sun 17-Nov-13 21:51:10

Bill Bryson's A short history of nearly everything (I think) is excellent - guy with little science knowledge talks to scientists on loads of topics and finds out how we know what we know.

Martin Gardner might inspire him with interesting maths related to real life.

MagratGarlik Sun 17-Nov-13 21:59:07
MagratGarlik Sun 17-Nov-13 22:08:25

The science museum also does lots of good books called things like, "why is snot green" and "stuff that scares your pants off" and many others.

BlogOnTheTyne Mon 18-Nov-13 06:05:19

Many thanks. Lots of good ideas. Just to reiterate, it's compulsory at his school to take the three separate sciences to iGCSE level - so he can't drop down to two of those in Yr 10.

We used to watch David Attenborough series but he went off those. He read the Horrible History and Geography books around age 7 and might feel 'patronised' if I tried to suggest the science ones now but I'll see what he thinks.

I've just given him that Richard Dawkins book about 'reality' - can't remember the title, which focuses on the need for evidence. He read RD's God Delusion when he was 10 and so that author might be a way in for him to biological sciences too. The difficulty is getting him to read anything at all scientific because of his negative attitude.

The class size is supposed not to matter as all the children are supposed to be above a certain level but I think it makes a difference in so far as teachers just don't have the resources to focus on one child.

That said, he's been getting some one to one extra help in Physics every fortnight but he feels that whilst this helps, it's a drop in the ocean really.

He's always struggled with Maths but had a brilliant teacher last yr, when they weren't set. Unfortunately, he's not with that teacher this year and maths is now set and that brilliant teacher does the bottom set. I want/ed him to be in that one, but he scraped into the second from bottom set and despite me expressing concerns, the school feel he's in the right set at present.

I'm v similar to him but went to an all girls school where in those days, 'science didn't matter'. So I was able to fly at the arts subjects and not worry about science and do a combined Physics/Chemistry O level. DS's school is v different and the emphasis is definitely on success in maths and sciences.

I would love to have extra time with his science teachers but think it's unlikely I can arrange this as the school is, understandably, protective of its staff and their busy lives and I imagine your child has to be failing completely (which DS isn't) to merit an in depth meeting with a teacher.

claraschu Mon 18-Nov-13 06:11:14

Just curious, is it MCS?

RegainingUnconsciousness Mon 18-Nov-13 06:34:37

Some YouTube channels that might help,

Search for:
Fuse School
My GCSE science
Some of the TED Ed ones are good
Crash Course (higher level GCSE - A level)
Sci Show (same bloke as does crash course)
Tyler DeWitt
And the legendary Khan Academy (lots of maths and other subjects too. Quite high level - esp science)

All good for covering GCSE+ level topics, good for pre-lesson prep or to revise if you didn't grasp it the first time, or to stretch the thinking of more able.

Don't forget good old BBC Bitesize. Good for finding answers, and their revision activities are fab.

Good luck

CrochetKate Mon 18-Nov-13 07:30:54
Faithless12 Mon 18-Nov-13 09:35:43

Talkinpeace - Even if you go to Double/separate you still do all three sciences. Something that really confused my friend who recently went into teaching whose specialty is Physics and she was teaching all three sciences under general, most of the children wouldn't have known they were doing Physics or Chemistry or Biology.

No real suggestions other than befriend a scientist, that's what helped me when I was struggling with Physics.

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