The highest standards of teaching and learning are at the heart of the Science Department at Clongowes. Of the four members of staff, one has a doctorate and two have masters’ degrees in science education. The heuristic method of learning science – ‘learning by discovery’ – is a core aspect of each science subject. Hence there is an emphasis on practical teaching and ‘hands-on’ experience for the student. Emphasis is also placed on the ‘fun of discovery’, and teachers use demonstrations wherever possible to allow for a higher level of quality learning and insight.
Streaming of students is not a facet of our science methodology at Clongowes. For Junior Cert each class remains with the appropriate specialist subject teacher (Biology, Chemistry or Physics) for a period of two weeks, ending with an assessment, before they move onto the next subject teacher. Science examinations are held at the end of each academic term, the results of which are analysed and followed by appropriate action beneficial to the student.
In consultation with the Learning Support Department, we also have the benefit of offering first to third-year students, who find some of the science work difficult to understand, the option of attending a science learning support class, taught by an experienced science teacher who is also an educational psychologist. This small group class runs parallel to the subject class and employs a team-teaching approach with the emphasis on understanding of material. Students who are deemed to make good progress with this support can then move back into their main class group.
Transition year science comprises a syllabus, which allows students to discover more about the world around them by offering opportunities to present research papers to their respective classes, experiment in the ‘nanoworld’, problem solve and participate in realistic forensic science investigations!
At senior cycle there is a large uptake of Biology, Chemistry and Physics – a strong aspect of the tradition of science at Clongowes for many years now. Department of Education and Skills science examination results for our students at both Junior and Senior levels far exceed National levels and many of our graduates move on to further studies in science-related fields such as medicine and engineering at third level.
Clongowes has a state-of-the art science building (built in 2010) with large classrooms and adjoining laboratories for each of Biology, Chemsistry and Physics. This arrangement allows for great flexibility in terms of room layout and a speedy transition between practical and theoretical activity. All science classrooms are fitted with data projectors, screens, internet and intranet access. There is also a large tiered lecture theatre which can accommodate all classes in the year for the purposes of demonstrations or lectures.
Safety in science at Clongowes is a major concern. All the science staff have received appropriate safety training, and a wide range of safety-related equipment, such as immediate laboratory venting and fume cupboard is in use.
With an eye to the ‘fun of discovery’ a chemistry club has been established among the first year students. Transition years and other senior year groups attend school trips to the Science Gallery/Workshop, TCD and relevant higher level lectures and demonstrations. More recently we have become involved in a ‘Mathematical Modelling Workshop’, in conjunction with University of Limerick, overseen by Professor James Gleeson. This involves students from both fourth and fifth years, investigating topics such as ‘Can icebergs be towed to Africa from the Antarctic?’ to ‘How popular are you really on Facebook?’ Students present their findings in the form of poster presentations to their class colleagues.
Some of our students have successfully represented their country internationally at the Physics Olympiad and many represent the school both provincially and nationally at the Irish Science Teachers Association National Science Quiz. We are also proud to be able to say that Clongowes science students have twice been awarded the runner-up prize at the Young Scientist of the Year competition.