Children as Engineers highly commended at STEM Inspiration Awards

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A UWE team have been at the House of Lords in London today, after they were shortlisted for an Inspirational STEM Engagement Project Award in the 2018 STEM Inspiration Awards.

Laura Fogg-Rogers ran Children as Engineers, a collaboration between the UWE Bristol Department of Education and Childhood and Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics, with Juliet Edmonds and Dr Fay Lewis.

The team attended the awards ceremony and were highly commended for the project, which paired student engineers and pre-service teachers to undertake engineering design challenges in primary schools; a well deserved recognition of their hard work and dedication.

Practical steps to build science capital in the classroom

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How much do you value STEM?

That will depend on your “science capital”, that is, how much science you’ve been exposed to. Science capital is based on the idea of social capital – that all of us have differing amounts of cultural beliefs, values, qualification and experiences, which we gather from our families and lives, and determine our value in careers and social situations – in relation to science.

Many children will have no knowledge of adults who work or have worked in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers, which gives them very little science capital. This can have a significant impact on children’s aspirations regarding STEM careers, and so increasing children’s science capital is vital to broadening their future career choices.

Capital Gains

Juliet Edmonds, Fay Lewis and Laura Fogg-Rogers, from the Department of Education and Childhood and the Science Communication Unit at UWE Bristol, are hoping to change the status quo and increase children’s science capital through initiatives in schools. Their new article in the September/October 2018 issue of Primary Science magazine, Practical steps to building science capital in the primary classroom, addresses this from the school perspective, which includes inviting STEM practitioners into their classrooms. There are many ways in which engineers can boost children’s science capital:

  • Go into schools

A survey at a recent children’s conference revealed that children weren’t just interested in the work of people in STEM, but also by their personal experiences of working in STEM. Therefore, visiting a school and sharing what kind of person you are, and the key qualities required for your job, helps children (especially girls) to identify with their role models.

  • Activities with Real-Life Context

Doing STEM activities that focus on making the world a better place, has been show to raise children’s interest and improve attitudes towards science. So why not try engineering challenges? – such as the EU ‘Engineer’ project challenges or borrow the Design Process Box free from Dyson.

Or maybe explore aspects of science and scientists that benefit the quality of everyday life, e.g. the grip on training shoes relative to forces, or the work of Professor Margaret Boden on artificial intelligence (the BBC Radio 4 series The Life Scientific is useful for biographies of modern scientists).

  • A Culture of Science – in School and at Home

Children’s attitudes towards STEM are partially formed through the culture they experience at home, but experiences in schools are also thought to influence a child’s attitude to STEM. While none of these actions alone will compensate children for low science capital, many scientists and engineers still recall a special role model who got them into STEM – you could be that person!

A version of this blog for teachers was posted by Louisa Cockbill on the Curiosity Connections blog.

Laura Fogg-Rogers scoops award for science teaching project

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The Children as Engineers project led by Laura Fogg-Rogers from the Science Communication Unit at UWE Bristol has won a national award.

The TEAN (Teacher Education Advancement Network) Commendation Award for Effective Practice in Teacher Education was presented at an awards event held in Birmingham in May. Senior Research Fellow Laura Fogg-Rogers and Senior Lecturer Juliet Edmonds collected the award on behalf of UWE. The project team also brings together Dr Fay Lewis from the Department of Education and Childhood and Wendy Fowles-Sweet from the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics.

The Children as Engineers project developed an undergraduate degree module called ‘Engineering and Society’, which pairs engineering students with teachers to bring hands-on science programmes into primary schools. It aims to address science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills gaps in primary schools – for teachers and children.

The project sits against a backdrop of an urgent need for enough trained engineers to meet the country’s future needs. Estimates suggest the UK will need 100,000 new engineers in the next 20-30 years to solve problems affecting society, grow the economy, and design products for manufacture. In particular, more girls and women are encouraged to take up engineering as a career.

Pilot research indicates that student teachers specialising in science at primary school improved their subject knowledge and confidence to teach STEM in the future. Meanwhile, the engineering students taking the ‘Engineering and Society’ module benefit by developing their communication and presentation skills and creating a broad-based understanding of the relevance of their subject.

Pupils benefit from hands-on sessions delivered by the students, where they engage in activities such as building mini-vacuum cleaners, testing floating platforms and exploring flight. Children aged between eight and 11 learn about the skills, challenges and excitement of engineering.

Laura said: “We were delighted that our team’s hard work over several years has been recognised at a national level by teacher educators. We plan to continue expanding this project to bring real benefits to teachers, engineers, and pupils, to inspire creative STEM teaching and practice for the future.”

The project is believed to be the first in the country to pair university students in these two disciplines to enhance the learning of both groups as well as delivering real benefits to school teachers and pupils.

 

This blog was originally published on the Science Communication Unit blog.