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Student teachers learn value of work in the field

Student teachers from Brunel University London will take a slow ride along the Grand Union Canal to find out, among other things, about the unusual chemical composition of locally-made bricks.

Lecturer in Science Education, Jane Essex, got the idea of a barge trip for her students after spotting the Elsdale Floating Classroom, London’s largest electric-powered canal boat, which is moored in the same marina as her floating home in Uxbridge.

“I asked the boat operators what scientific question interested them, and they said they wanted to know why bricks that were made in Cowley, near Uxbridge, are yellow,” said Dr Essex. “This led to a convoluted search, which took me back to physical chemistry papers from 1916 through to cutting edge nanotechnology research.

“The idea of the trip will be to show student teachers the value of learning outside the classroom and help them feel confident about leading fieldwork for their own students in the future.”

As well as discussing the chemical composition of bricks — the size of iron oxide nanoparticles is the key to the red and yellow colour of bricks — the group will also look at the design of lock gates and the ecology of lock walls, during the trip on June 4th.

Dr Essex said: "This is part of our drive to prepare teachers to participate in all aspects of school life, including education beyond the classroom."