Becoming a STEM AmbassadorPosted: March 1, 2014
Last week I had an induction to become a STEM ambassador with Ellie Cripps and Liz Lister. Attending the induction at Oasis Academy Brightstowe was the first time in over 10 years that I have stepped inside a school. As an ambassador I’ll be visiting schools like this more often to hopefully inspire children to take up a STEM career.
Why am I doing it? I’m investing in my daughter’s future. I want her (and other children) to be excited about Science (and the other STEM subjects: Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). I also want to pass on the job satisfaction a career in Science provides, how every day is different and how I am constantly discovering something new. I hope to show that Science can be fun and rewarding. STEM jobs are largely linked to research and development. They are about being creative and bringing ideas to life (innovation). Innovation and economic growth
are known to go hand-in-hand (innovation economics). Therefore, to improve Britian’s economy
an investment in young people and their education is needed.
Young people have to stay in education until they are 17, but this is going to change to 18 in Autumn 2014. However, they make their GCSE choices when they enter Year 9 (13 years old, turning 14) and at this point can drop Science. Therefore, these children need to be inspired to do STEM subjects before they turn 14, ideally in Year 8 (12/13 year olds). STEM Ambassadors are doing a good job of promoting STEM careers as reported by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
[Numbers taken from the NFER report.]
The government puts money into the STEM programme where volunteers take part in one activity with a school every year (minimum). People studying or working in STEM show pupils which options are open to them if they are considering a career in STEM; if not, then it still shows how STEM touches lives every day. The volunteers help teachers make interesting projects come to life. Students are given an alternative viewpoint on a subject and talk about something new, something which is outside of the curriculum but still supports it. It is also a resource for teachers, keeping them up-to-date with developments in research. It also puts into context what is taught at school. STEM ambassadors help can help with activities that are difficult for the teacher to carry out alone during an ordinary lesson. These activities are a change from the norm and therefore exciting, brightening up a dull, ordinary day. There are 23,000 STEM ambassadors UK-wide, with about 1,400 based in Bristol, Bath and Somerset (there are fewer in Somerset compared to Bristol and Bath).
STEMNET increases teachers’ awareness of STEM subjects and increases pupil engagement with the subject. Teachers gain an increased awareness of STEM career and employment options with an increased understanding of STEM business and industry. They are also more likely to remain a teacher of STEM if a STEM club is running in their school.
What are the benefits for me, my work (research into inflammation) and my employer (University of Bristol)? Inspiring people and being a positive role model is rewarding. I feel I’m giving something back to the community by volunteering in schools. It also puts my own work into context. Their interest in my work will renew my interest in it and drive me to do more. It improves my communication and presentation skills. It raises the profile of my employer and the research group I work in. Peer-reviewed publications and science conferences are not the only way to disseminate research. When scientists apply for grants, there is usually a section where the project idea needs to be written in lay terms. There is also a section about how the findings will be disseminated (papers, conferences, etc. ) and in this section, public engagement should also be key. The University of Bristol is actively engaged in outreach activities and promoting the importance of pathways to impact.
[Numbers taken from NFER report.]
What counts as a STEM ambassador activity? Volunteering in schools and taking part in a STEM-linked activity centred around the needs of the school. It can also include supporting teacher CPD, networking events with teachers and science fairs such as the Big Bang.
My first event will be a women in science workshop repeated three times in one day (with help from Gemma Beers and Maddy Stimpson, two PhD students in the Ophthalmology labs) for over 200 Year 9 girls in Taunton; an event organised by skirting science on 27th March 2014.
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