Science in schools: James Perkins’ Story
Aiming to discover practices that would enrich students’ experience of science, James Perkins travelled to the USA in 2016 and Germany in 2017 to investigate science research programmes based within secondary schools. James’ Fellowship has led to international collaborations and a number of exciting career opportunities.
At the time he was awarded his Fellowship, James was a physics teacher at St Paul’s School in London. On his travels he saw inspiring examples of students conducting meaningful research and using state of the art techniques and equipment.
A highlight of James’ Fellowship was his visit to North Penn High School in Pennsylvania, where electronics and ‘nano-tech’ teacher Mike Boyer develops his students’ skills and understanding with the help of a special microscope loaned to the school by Hitachi USA.
James was also impressed by the practices he observed at Los Altos high school in Silicon Valley. Students get the chance to identify and work with an industry mentor and use equipment that is state of the art, if not brand new. From this, some students, even at school age, are able to publish their work in scientific journals and speak at high-profile conferences.
Since returning to the UK, James has fostered many links between academia, industry and schools, encouraging the sharing of equipment and expertise. He has fostered a fruitful relationship with Hitachi, working with them on an education outreach programme and being invited to speak at the grand opening of their ‘Tech Space One’ laboratory at Daresbury, Cheshire, in early 2018.
James’ findings have been presented to a Conservative party policy forum, his then local MP Julian Brazier and members of the North Kent branch of the 41 club, including representatives from local government and business leaders. His was voted the ‘top presentation’ at the Worshipful Company of Armourers and Braziers’ 2018 Alumni evening.
He has remained in contact with many of the schools he visited during his travels and has begun an active collaboration with Mike Boyer from North Penn High School.
James is now Head of Science at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham and remains committed to conducting high-quality research in schools. Inspired by practices he observed during his travels, he has made independent project-based learning a key part of the science provision at his school.
Following his travels, he was also elected as a member of the education and outreach committee for the Royal Microscopical Society and is currently working on teacher CPD sessions for microscopy in general and electron microscopy outreach in schools.
James Fellowship was supported by The Mercers' Company.