Name of the participant and other supporting staff if relevant Leanne Harris, and Marcus Maher
Name of the module and discipline, level and  year of study and any useful background info  2nd year students on the BSc (Ord) Biosciences, taking the Scientific Communication and Dissemination module.
Name of community partner and/or any other supporting partners (public or private sector)

George’s Hill Primary School and St Gabriel’s National School, Dublin 7.

The interaction with the schools was supported by Ian Roller from the TU Dublin Engagement Outreach team, in the Access and Civic Engagement Office.

CERL project title(s) 

Undergraduate biosciences students designed ‘Switch on Stem’ workshops for primary school children.

(SDG 4 – Quality Education)

What you changed about your programme/course in relation to CERL A similar project was run previously but had to happen online due to Covid restrictions. This was the first year that the project was run face-to-face.

Can you provide any tangible info – e.g. module descriptor, learning outcomes, assignments, assessment criteria


The 2 relevant module learning outcomes for the CERL project were:

–        Demonstrate effective presentation and communication skills including the use of technologies

–        Develop dissemination skills to engage the scientific community and the general public with Bioscience topics

The CERL project was worth 15% of the module assignment total. It was broken down into 10% for the infographic produced by the students for the primary school, and 5% for their individual reflection on learning.

How was it taught:

·        number of students

·        student groupwork or individual,

·        how they worked with the partner,

·        how the project proceeded,

·        any reflection done with students,

·        evaluation or formal assessment of their learning,

·        tech used

·        Anything else interesting?

51 students worked in 9 small groups to develop interactive resources and to deliver 10-minute demonstrations on a biology topic of their choice, which they had previously studied on their programme. Students had to guide the children in doing simple experiments, encouraging them to ask questions about the topics. Eg ‘Legos of Life’ was about DNA, ‘Happy Hearts’ was about exercise (see list of topics in image below).

The infographics had to be tangible outputs for the children to bring home to show their parents their learning from the day. The lecturers gave the students feedback on these before they were finalised, to make sure the information was accurate. Students also developed other resources such as crosswords etc. They were asked to use online software to generate infographics, which they hadn’t used before.

For the lecturers the project was interesting in terms of seeing how the students actually applied their learning in the real world. It pushed the lecturers out of their comfort zones as much as the students, and allowed them to engage with the students in a more informal way, which was beneficial.

Images courtesy of Leanne Harris

All images courtesy of the 2nd year students and Leanne Harris.

What did your students learn or how will they benefit?

The projects took the students out of the comfort zone of the laboratories. They had to learn to apply their learning in the real world, having to design, create and teach. In this way they developed a range of graduate attributes. They also got recognition for their work by being awarded Certificates of Participation at the university’s Students Learning With Communities Annual Awards event.

A few student teams experienced challenges with not all students engaging with the project work, which was part of their learning.

Image courtesy of Leanne Harris.


What do you think the benefit was to the partner? Do you have any feedback from the partner?

The participating children are exposed to STEM subject material, get to come onto the university campus and interact with the university students, showing them that science is something achievable, and that they might like to study and work in this area in the future.

There was a great atmosphere on the day of the demonstrations, lots of laughter and a buzz in the venue. The teachers gave very positive feedback on the event. Prizes were given to the children, including sweets, medals and TU Dublin branded items.  The lecturers also tweeted about the event through the School of Biological Sciences twitter account.

How could/will you improve your CERL teaching practice next time?

The time required for this project was disproportionate to the marks allocated, which put pressure on the lecturers and the students. Next year the lecturers hope to allocate a higher proportion of the module marks to this project.

There was very little time to give students feedback on their reflective writing, so this is something they would like to develop further next time.

Any challenges and how you overcame them


The quality and timing of presentations on the day can be hard to manage, as they’re all happening at once.

The time required to prepare for the workshop was also an issue – already mentioned above.

Students choose the subjects that they wanted to teach on, which might have been a challenge to the primary school children as some of the topics were completely new to them.

Advice you would give to someone starting a CERL project with students?


Take the risk, change your module, it’s well worth it! It mightn’t be perfect the first or second time around, but you can develop your CERL project over time. It’s definitely worth seeing the students enjoying themselves, and seeing how their learning can manifest itself – it’s a really nice thing to watch.