Explorify – looks great, but how does it work? Guidance for ECT and ITT/ITE trainees.
Trainee/Student Teachers, Early Career Teachers – you’ve come to the right place! Here’s the lowdown on how Explorify works and how it can supercharge your science lessons by supporting children’s scientific thinking and talking.
The first thing to say about Explorify is, it’s entirely free. All you need to use it is a screen - ideally a large one - with an internet connection. And some children, of course, either as a group or a whole class. They can sit at tables or on the carpet, so long as they can see the images on the screen, and they’ll need a talk partner so they can share ideas and develop confidence before discussing them with everyone else taking part.
Registering to use Explorify is easy and most teachers then bookmark the homepage because they come back to it so often: weekly, or even daily. Here, you will find Explorify-recommended activities based on your recent use of the site, or on the science topic you chose when you signed up. You’ll also notice rows of activity suggestions on topical themes, such as the current season, or a big sporting event like Wimbledon.
Right at the top of the page is a search bar. You can go right ahead and type in, for example, ‘magnets’ or ‘plants’ and get - at the time of writing - 13 or 115 activities respectively. To hone that down, you can filter further by year group, science topic and activity type. Click on the heart icon and the activity is immediately queued up to use under My dashboard, meaning you can quickly find it when you need it.
There are currently ten activity types on Explorify, based on either an image, film clip or audio file. Each activity takes up to twenty minutes to complete with your class, which is one reason they make great lesson starters. Explorify also offers three ‘hands-on’ activity types that can fill entire lessons with creative, problem-solving challenges which develop children’s independence and investigative skills.
A good place to start a new topic would be a Have You Ever? activity. These are engaging questions that children can easily relate to, such as Have you ever broken a bone? or Have you ever had an ice-cream melt? They’re instantly relatable and will soon get children sharing their own experiences. They link, as do all Explorify activities, to the curriculum objectives for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Here's the #1 favourite example from our users for each of the ten activity types, giving you a flavour of what’s on offer:
Odd One Out – Fuel up compares three types of snacks.
Zoom In, Zoom Out – Creature comforts zooms in on a familiar garden bird.
What’s Going On? - Seasons shows a time-lapse of trees changing over the course of a year.
Listen, What Can You Hear? - guess the material making each sound in Material world
What If… we used machines like this? shows how objects can be transported inside pipes.
The Big Question – How can the wind help us? explores how a wind turbine generates electricity.
Have Your Ever been somewhere where you couldn’t see anything when you woke up in the night? considers how we need light to see.
Mystery Bag – Electrifying metals is an easy-to-set-up conversation starter about the type of metals that conduct electricity.
Mission Survive – Surviving on Mars challenges children to design an animal that could survive on Mars.
Problem Solvers – Light up the dark asks children to create a skylight using plastic bottles.
After you click on an activity, you’ll land on a page of helpful information. There’s a simple guide showing how to run the activity, as well as a bitesize overview of the background science, reminding you of the knowledge you’re setting out to cover, and of some of the misconceptions children may have before you start. Related Explorify activities are signposted along with suggestions for taking it further, including activities to carry out in- or out-of-doors and videos that will help embed the learning, all of which have been tried-and-tested by the Explorify team.
On a separate Teacher support page, you can find a treasure trove of motivational stickers, certificates, a think scientifically poster, blog posts, key vocabulary lists, and a section called Tackle the tricky bits of science! For every topic, this provides a summary of the knowledge required as well as suggestions for how to explore it in a way children will understand.
Explorify is not a static resource. Fresh activities are being added all the time, along with blogs (like this!) and there’s even a podcast in the works called Explorify hosts. Watch this space! Explorify’s ahead on climate issues with activities specifically labelled with a polar bear icon to signal if they deal with global warming, biodiversity loss or pollution. These activities explain the particular Climate Challenge issue in a sensitive way and give children agency to make small, positive changes in their own community. Another new set of activities called Who is...? introduces children to a diverse range of scientists and engineers, and how their work links to the primary curriculum.
Further advice on how to use Explorify is available in the form of thirty-minute Planning Support videos. There’s one for every science topic, backed up with a PDF document containing Explorify activities, linked curriculum objectives, and suggestions for follow-up activities you can do with your class.
We wish you well on your Explorify journey with your own class when that time comes. Enjoy listening to the children’s ideas, thoughts, and questions. Help them to make connections in their thinking and relate new science learning to the reality of their everyday lives. Above all, celebrate their curiosity, value the experiences they share, and remember there are no right or wrong answers while Explorifying. As the children talk, you will you pick up on what they already know, what they want to find out, and on any existing misconceptions they may have. All of this information will help you to decide what to revisit and where to go next with the learning.