This is typically the first time that mentors will be visiting your classroom although you may have had communication with them beforehand about the class theme and the topics arising from the class brainstorm.

Essential information on preparing for mentor visits is in the documents Preparation for mentor visits and How can I use scientist mentors in my classroom effectively? 


Preparing for the mentor visit

Prior to the first mentor visit students should have been working in groups of 2 or 3 on an agreed topic area. They should have completed some background research related to their topic and have generated about 5 different questions that they wish to investigate that are related to their topic.


First 20 minutes

Mentors need time to get to know their students. Put aside the first twenty minutes of the first session for mentors to talk about how they developed an interest in science, how they use(d) science in their work, the fact that they studied science subjects in high school and then at university – and what these experiences were like.


Remainder of visit

Mentors need to help their allocated student groups to craft their questions to fulfil the following three criteria and to be testable. The three criteria are:

  • the answer is not known by the students
  • the answer is something that is of interest to the students
  • the investigations must be 'doable' in a primary school setting.

During the first mentor visit, students need to identify the variables in their fair test investigation.

How well students perform in this step will depend on the quality of their preparation and understanding of the activities in scaffolded investigations.

There are three types of variables that students must be aware of when conducting a fair test investigation. They are the dependent variable, control variables and the independent variable:

  • Dependent variable
    • The factor that is to be measured
  • Control variables
    • The factors that are to be kept the same
  • Independent variable
    • The factor that is deliberately changed in order to determine how it impacts on the dependent factor


Students who are new to the idea of fair testing may misunderstand the concept of what is to be measured – the dependent variable. For instance, if one of the control variables (those factors that are kept the same) entails measurement e.g. each cup contains 50 ml of liquid, then students may report that this is what they are measuring. If students have misunderstandings in this area they will need your assistance for clarification.

At this stage it may be useful to review change, measure and keep the same and steps in the scientific process.

Cows  Classroom-poster Conducting-investigations  Steps in scientific process 

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