Dan Cane-Honeysett, Head of Science at St Edward’s Prep, was a professional scientist with a PhD in organic chemistry long before he began teaching. It is unusual and very fortunate for a prep school to have such a qualified and experienced scientist on its staff! As a team leader of six chemists and with responsibility for health and safety, his career would appear to have been made, but Dan’s superintendent role required him to do things by rote and he found he missed the excitement of applying knowledge to a problem to find a solution. In short, he stopped learning and so decided, instead, to seek the thrill of learning through teaching Science to young learners. Now Dan is a teacher, and is learning every day.
Not going straight into teaching has given Dan the opportunity to reflect on what matters. The analytical side of him constantly questions whether or not he is teaching effectively, how he can improve in certain areas, what went well, what he can do better next time. Developing young learners is so interesting. Dan sees himself as a guide, a facilitator. Occasionally, he will have to step in and be more forceful (especially when it comes to lab safety) but he prefers to create stepping-stones that will lead children to working things out for themselves, making connections, thinking, creating theory out of practice and benefiting from their own effort.
He talks about those wonderful eureka moments when he sees the penny drop, and the times when carefully chosen practical hints make the difference to understanding. For example, folding paper aeroplanes as a means to understanding force. Is it enough just to throw it far? No! The shape is important. The plane needs wings to achieve lift, and how better to build understanding than through experience. Year 3 and 4 boys get out the light boxes and water, and see and understand for themselves how rainbows are formed.
Dan aims to inspire a love of Sciences, where passing exams is an easy by-product. As Head of Science, he delivers the Science curriculum, working closely with science from the bottom of the school to the top. He is also closely involved in STEAMED projects, which bring in the wider curriculum; to be good at Science, you need to be able to apply Maths for example. This was in evidence when the Year 5s explored weight as a force and measured the growing length of the rubber band as more weight was hung off the end of it. The shooting computer game the boys designed and programmed led to a discussion in Physics around ballistics and forces and science explosions. Great fun! Really interesting! And vitally relevant.
The world faces some big problems, land, food and water shortages to name but a few. Science potentially offers the solutions and we need to build the mindset that seeks to find them in our young people. You use Science to make sense of the world around you and this understanding is vital.
So Dan is a serious, passionate and focused teacher with a job to do, but he knows how to relax too! When he was studying at Exeter, he needed a pint after a session kayaking on the River Exe. ‘Do you want your usual?’ he would be asked at the local. ‘No, I would like to try something new!’ Dan is a learner after all, and so it became a hobby to find new ales. CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) was running a beer festival so he got involved sampling their beers and ciders. He began volunteering at their festivals and visited breweries and when he moved here, he worked at the Reading Beer Festival just to avoid the painful queues to get in!