Bronze Awards are typically completed by students aged 11+. They complete a ten-hour project which is a perfect introduction to STEM project work. Over the course of the project, teams of students design their own investigation, record their findings, and reflect on their learnings. This process gives students a taste of what it is like to be a scientist or engineer in the real-world.
Silver Awards are typically completed by students aged 14+ over thirty hours. Project work at Silver level is designed to stretch your students and enrich their STEM studies. Students direct the project, determining the project’s aim and how they will achieve it. They carry out the project, record and analyse their results and reflect on the project and their learnings. All Silver projects are assessed by CREST assessors via our online platform.
Gold Awards are typically completed by students aged 16+ over seventy hours. Students’ projects are self-directed, longer term and immerse them in real research. At this level, we recommend students work with a mentor from their chosen STEM field of study. All Gold projects are assessed by CREST assessors via our online platform. There are more CREST approved resources that have been developed by our partners and providers specific to your region.
Find out how to build practical CREST projects into secondary science lessons using our free teacher guidance pack. Supporting this guidance are easy-to-use, free-to-download mapping workbooks, which match individual Bronze, Silver and Gold CREST Award projects with each area of the secondary science curricula for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can download and save your own copy of the relevant mapping workbook via the following links:
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INVESTIGATIVE PRACTICAL SCIENCE IN THE CURRICULUM Why should students have the opportunity to do open-ended and extended investigative projects in the curriculum? To further develop the practical and manipulative skills of students and... To improve student motivation “Practical work emerges as the top motivator for studying science, and students who are traditionally less engaged in science are more likely to want to do more” (Kantar, 2020). “The chance to do extended research helped me learn more and be more interested in science” (Year 9 student). To provide students with a wider view of the scientific methods, leading to less ‘cookbook’ practical work and a more realistic impression of how scientists work The current curriculum has a tendency to promote a narrow view of the scientific method, leading to formulaic practical work and giving a false impression of how scientists operate (Erduran et al., 2020). Indeed, most practicals still only require students to follow preprepared instructions and to analyse data (Cramman et al., 2019). “The project showed me there was more than one way of carrying out an investigation which I didn’t think about before” (Year 9 student). “This was the first time I had carried out preliminary work and seen why it was important” (Year 13 student). “I liked being able to carry out my own research to learn more about the topic and consider how my investigation may be relevant to modern science” (Year 13 student). To extend investigations beyond an individual lesson to effectively sequence and retrieve procedural knowledge “Students’ perceptions of practical work are that experiments occur within a few moments” (Cramman et al., 2019). “When asked what a good practical science experience was for students prior to arriving at university, higher education staff commented that exposure to longer experiments, experience of independent working and having the opportunity to understand the rationale behind practical work would improve students’ preparedness for university” (Cramman et al., 2019). “You don’t get many opportunities to do blue sky science; to show students what science is really like and that there is no quick answer from a half hour practical” (James, Head of Biology). 4
MAKING IT HAPPEN To know that there is not necessarily a correct outcome to practical work “Students’ perceptions of practical work are that experiments ... have (usually) predetermined outcomes that are either right or wrong” (Cramman et al., 2019). “The preliminary investigation really helped to improve my work as it showed up the flaws in my original method” (Year 13 student). To develop independence and resilience Open-ended and extended investigative projects can help students develop a range of higher-level qualities including independence, self-esteem, tenacity and a sense of scientific identity (Holman et al., 2016). “I had to balance my workload, chewing off a bit at a time” (Year 13 student). “Learning to work independently really for the first time during practical work was scary at first and enlightening at the end” (Year 13 student). “It was an easy practical, but lots of things could go wrong and did. They had to sort them out. I loved seeing them be creative” (Amanda, science teacher). “When we actually left them to it to make their own decisions it was incredible” (Polette, KS5 coordinator). To provide equality of access for investigative work To value practical work as a learning experience in itself Higher education staff have found that students only value practical work that contributes towards their final examination grades (Cramman et al., 2019). “I chose the experimental method myself and I think this made me more invested in the project” (Year 13 student). “This investigation gave me a wider interest in aspects of science. It is an added extra” (Year 13 student). By embedding this work into the curriculum all students have access to science, rather than just those who attend an extracurricular STEM club. One pilot school commented that the students who participated were not natural scientists and would never have attended after school clubs or science-based enrichment. Prior to the project they had limited opportunities to work completely independently in a practical environment. The students appreciated the fact that the CREST Award was valued outside of school and that they could use it for university applications. To reduce the number of hours outside the curriculum for teachers and technicians By completing the open-ended investigative practical work during lesson time rather than in STEM clubs, the number of hours teachers and technicians work outside the curriculum is reduced. Integration of CREST Awards into the curriculum involves tweaking current practice rather than wholesale change. “We have not deviated from our curriculum plan particularly; rather, we have delivered it differently and the students have enjoyed it and learned more” (Nicola, science STEM lead). “Using the CREST Award helped the students link lots of different skills and content together through a context rather than standalone lessons. It took approximately two more lessons than my normal route through this topic but students’ understanding and skills improved more” (Sarah, STEM coordinator). 5