Some of our gifted and talented year 10 science and maths students recently undertook a very challenging two day project. The scenario they had to deal with was a fictional forthcoming global catastrophe. Of course, if this was happening for real, it would be essential that real options for possible solutions would need to be found as soon as possible, in order that there was the maximum amount of time to save as many people as possible. That is why the students who undertook this project had to consider a huge amount of information and come up with relevant ideas within very tight time deadlines.

Their first task was to try to make sense of a whole lot of data which actually didn’t contain all the information they would have preferred.  They had to make decisions and explain the limitations of the data they had been forced to use.

Science-ChallengeThe second task was making sense of a series of three sets of requirements and selecting which were the key ideas from a large list of ideas, some of which had to be ignored even though each was important in itself. They had to learn how to deal with making decisions when they didn’t have all the necessary information available and then explain the reasoning they used to make their selections.

Tasks three and four followed on from this, and involved making new decisions using incomplete information and ideas from a variety of sources whilst also revisiting previous decisions in the light of new information they might find. The goal was to find the best combination of ideas from a large number of possible combinations, while realising that none was the perfect solution.

Finally, they had to produce a report which explained the different ideas they came up with, the reasoning behind these ideas, and comparing the different ways that they made their decisions. The report needed to be structured so that anyone reading it would be fully aware of the recommended decisions, the relative strengths and weaknesses of each, how the judgements were made, and the reasoning behind that. The time constraints were there so that the students could experience the need for effective time management within the requirements of a project, and the personal pressures of a big project that was needed urgently.

Luckily for the rest of humanity, the reports produced by many of the students were quite good and would have been quite effective.

Of course, the main idea of the course was to allow the students to experience real multiple overlapping problems, within strict time deadline, and the techniques they learnt should be useful for achieving high grades for detailed report writing at GCSE, A level and even university level.


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Head Teacher: Mr Alex Lingard

Liskeard School & Community College
PL14 3EA

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Tel: +44(0)1579 342344

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