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ASPIRES: Teaching about science careers

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Why teach about careers from science?

Research carried out in the UK and elsewhere suggests that many students begin to feel that “science is important but not for me” at an early age. By the time they receive careers information and guidance, their minds are made up, and many of them are not aware of, and don’t even consider, the vast array of jobs and careers that involve or depend on science.

What can be done?

Secondary school teachers have been working as part of a project based at King’s College London which looks at this very issue. The Science Aspirations and Career Choice: Age 10-14 project (ASPIRES) is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of a wider Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education (TISME). One element of ASPIRES involves developing strategies for integrating information about careers, in and from science, into lessons or other school science activities.

What’s available for teachers to use?

One of the main outcomes of this work is a series of ‘case studies’ each of which focuses on an individual teacher’s efforts in this area. These case studies contain everything you need to try these activities with your own students. All case studies and all its accompanying documents (lesson plans, powerpoint presentations, worksheets etc) can be downloaded below.

Case Study 1: Climate Change (Year 8)

This is a series of three lessons that use web-based resources to promote environmentally friendly STEM careers and encourage students to consider what skills would be required to work in these jobs. Opportunities are also provided for students to develop their ICT and presentation skills. Students liaise with a STEM ambassador to gain an understanding that scientists are “real people” too!

Case Study 2: Wind Power Challenge (Years 6 to 9)

A project was run as enrichment over three lunchtimes with the intention of promoting careers in engineering, design and sustainable energy to approximately 20 KS3 students. Working in teams students compete to design a wind turbine capable of lifting a weight off the floor to desk height.

Case Study 3: Career Exploration (Year 7)

We used a series of three lessons to give Year 7 students an overview of careers in science and to start them thinking about the wide range of opportunities there are in science industries. We used the Futuremorph website to encourage students to talk about their motivations, likes and dislikes and existing knowledge about careers in science.

Case Study 4: STEM Leaders Qualification (Year 9)

This consists of several projects that can be implemented individually or as a series. The projects emphasise developing careers awareness by engaging with the wider STEM world and through working with external STEM practitioners.

Case Study 5: STEM weeks (Year 9)

These lessons aim to raise awareness of the importance and diversity of STEM careers. Students are encouraged to consider the skills and attributes required to work in a range of jobs, some of which they may not have previously connected with STEM education. The activities on which this case study is based took place in an inner city, all girls community comprehensive, with Year 9 students. The case study consisted of science lessons over 6 weeks at the end of KS3.

Case Study 6: Volcanoes (Year 8)

This formed part of the Year 8 course about ‘The Rock Cycle and Rocks’. It is designed as part of a scheme of work that is based on a set of scenarios (visited via PowerPoint in several lessons). A lot of the information is delivered via different people who work in the field, volcanologists for example, and is a great way of getting pupils to think of ‘cool careers’ in Science.

Case Study 7: Career Exploration (Year 9) 

As part of the Year 9 preparation for their GCSE courses that we start after Easter we start doing pieces of work that will directly relate to topics at KS4. We believe that by giving them the opportunity to look at the ‘bigger picture’ in Science they will engage in their science learning more and be able to start thinking about their A Level choices early! 

Case Study 8: Antarctica Project (Year 8)

These lessons are part of the Year 8 course about ‘Ecosystems’ and is designed to get pupils thinking about climate change in Antarctica. We had a visitor into school to talk about their recent expedition to Antarctica and discussed the different jobs scientists had at the base camp. We were also invited onto the ‘Ice Breaker’ ship to meet Sir Ranulph Fiennes and to learn about ‘The Coldest Journey’ expedition he was planning.

Case Study 9: Animal Welfare (Year 9)

Understanding Animal Research are an organisation that come into to school for 1 hour or 2-3 hour sessions to discuss ‘animal research’ and to also let pupils try and take blood from model animals. Welfare of the animals is discussed and the ethical issues surrounding their use in medical research. It is a good way to introduce the topic and links in with KS4 Core Science GCSE. 

Case Study 10: Polar Bears (Year 7)

40 minutes of each of five science lessons were dedicated to the production of a documentary about polar bears, bringing together climate change, media production and drama.

Case Study 11: STEM Curriculum and Careers (Year 8)

3 teachers (one each from maths, science and technology) wrote lesson plans with a careers focus which were directly related to, and emerged from schemes of learning they were teaching, rather than being part of a separate careers module. The lessons are 100 minutes long.