Year 11 GCSE Psychology Visit
The Natural History Museum

All 30 Year 11 Psychology students were taken to the Natural History Museum. We left the school at 11.00am and arrived at the museum for 12.15pm. The visit was designed with the following objectives.
  • To encourage all year 11 Psychology students to understand the wider context of Psychology and its links to Science.
  • To allow every student to identify the relevance of the GCSE Psychology specification in our everyday human lives.
  • To help year 11 Psychology students become confident when discussing Psychological terminology and theory.
  • To encourage students to apply Psychological knowledge to evolutionary theories.
  • The students also took part in a 'Human Evolution' workshop. The objectives for this were as follows.
Consider and infer relatedness of species and common ancestry by the identification of common features.
  • Gain an understanding that the evolutionary pathway of hominins is not a linear progression.
  • Understand that through time there have been different techniques used to identify hominin species and their place in the evolutionary pathway of humans.
  • Appreciate that nature of evidence in the field of human evolution and the significance of different finds.
  • Students experience awe and wonder about the natural world through close access to museum specimens.
  • Students develop their communication skills in presenting and discussing scientific ideas.
  • Use observational skills to identify similar and different features of skills of different animals and hominin skulls.
The following activities were completed in singular groups of 15. Groups were made smaller to allow for developed discussion and feedback.

The Human Biology Exhibition

After attending this exhibition myself earlier in the summer I was made aware the many links to the GCSE Psychology specification. The following topics were covered throughout the biological section.
  • Cognitive development
    • Links to different learning stages and why children perceive the world differently to adults.
  • Perception
    • How eyes work.
      The bizarre effects of visual illusions and the reason as to why humans are so baffled by them.
      The development of perception and why different cultures perceive in different ways.
      Key terms relating to this topic and the explanation of them. E.g. colour constancy, size constancy, linear perspective.
  • Memory
    • The different stages of memory and how to improve memory capacity and duration.
    Pic 2
  • Sex and Gender
    • Outline of different chromosome patterns including sex specific chromosomes. The importance of sex development at conception.
      The development of the gonads at conception and the link this has to gender development.
      The importance of hormone production and how they work.
In addition to the above, many students in the year 11 cohort have already decided to take on Psychology at A-Level. The following points link to the A-Level specification and were also discussed whilst at the museum.
  • Biological Psychology
    • How the brain processes signals and how signals can bypass the brain.
      Nerves and how they work.
      Synapses and the introduction of neurotransmitters.
      The effects of hormones.
  • Cognitive Development
  • Pic 3
  • Evolutionary links to Psychology
Students were given one hour to walk around the Human Biology exhibition. I was able to guide their discussion picking the relevant aspects of the GCSE specification. I was also able to stretch students’ knowledge questioning them on the reasons behind certain behaviours/theories.

During this tour students were given an ‘Explore and Discover’ leaflet on ‘Nerves and Hormones’. This was bought for the students out of the Psychology budget. This attractive and stimulating leaflet questioned students on their Psychological/Scientific knowledge. Some students found this quite challenging and had some excellent discussions.

Students were highly interested in this part of the trip and were discussing many of the different theories and topics learnt during lesson time. It was brilliant to see such enthusiasm and thirst for Psychology and Science.

Here are some of their thoughts:

"I enjoyed the memory part of the museum as it was well explained and had different examples on how to remember certain things, such as a sound or an image, we couldn't also interact with a modem to demonstrate this. On the perception bit of the museum it explained how we actually see with our eyes which is helpful as it's on our course."

Eden Rodwell

"I thought that the trip helped me understand how psychology is actually linked to evolution and it made me realise how much psychology connects to everything that happens to us biologically."

Katie Shirra

"The trip to the Natural History Museum helped me gain a better knowledge of GCSE Psychology and how it links to our human lives. I now have a clearer understanding of human biology which can enhance my answers in the B541 Sex and Gender paper. We completed an activity on nerves and hormones, which was useful and insightful for A Level Psychology."

Lucy Somers

The Human Evolution Workshop - Analysing the Evidence

The students took part in a trial workshop: Human Evolution: analysing the evidence. This was a hands-on workshop which challenged the students to explore the evolutionary relationships between present day humans and ancient humans (collectively known as hominins) using some of the same techniques employed by scientists studying human evolution; observation-based comparative anatomy and quantitative comparisons using cranial measurements.

The workshop offered the opportunity to engage with the rapidly changing and sometimes controversial nature of evidence in this field of research, exemplifying work of scientists from the NHM’s Human Origins Project as well as the work of palaeoartists who work to bring fossils back to life through scientifically accurate reconstructions.

Pic 4Students were given time to recap their knowledge about evolution while they learned about comparative anatomy through comparing present day human, mammal and reptile skulls to explore the concepts of relatedness and common ancestry through observing and collecting evidence of similarities and differences. They then worked in groups to apply the same technique to investigate casts of fossil hominin skulls and make predictions of relatedness between them.

After discussing the limitations of purely qualitative comparative anatomy, students learned how to make cranial measurements and work in groups to collect data that will enable them to compare properties of the skulls graphically and to draw evidence-based conclusions.

From the data collected the students were able to make suggestions about the relationship between these human species and how these findings have informed one of the current theories that explain the origin of our species.

Again, here are some of the students’ thoughts:

"The information for evolutionary aspects was explained well in the effects of hormones which was demonstrated with life size models of male and female it explained where certain hormones are produced and what is the different between the genders. This helped me understand gender roles; females being maternal whereas men and more physical."

Eden Rodwell

Pic 5Cross Curricular Links

This visit was extremely beneficial as it outlined several cross curricular links. Students were drawing on different subjects in school and were surprised at the wide transmission Psychology has. The more obvious links included Science and Mathematics; where students were using averages and developing their knowledge of many different scientific concepts. Further to this, we were watching a video which focussed on the conception of a new life and the journey it takes before birth. A few students had an extensive conversation about the morality of abortion and when life becomes ‘life’. Each student in this conversation was able to draw clear links between this discussion and what they are currently learning in Religious Education. I was pleased that all students had the ability to discuss different concepts and were able to successfully understand the wider context of Psychology.

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