ASPIRES Case Study 5: STEM weeks (Year 9)
Year 9 STEM weeks - Awareness raising and promotion of STEM careers
School: Mulberry School for Girls, Tower Hamlets (Inner city community comprehensive, with a high proportion of Bangladeshi students, high aspiration for further study in science and GCSE results well above the national average.)
Overview: 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 students may not have previously connected with STEM education.
Type of lesson: Science lessons over 6 weeks at the end of KS3, before KS4 GCSE courses.
Why did you do this?
Many students have a relatively narrow perception of jobs related to science. Even those students who were able to name a wide variety of jobs did not necessarily see them as relevant or accessible to them, and demonstrated poor understanding of STEM jobs which do not require degree level education. Medicine and related careers are top of the aspirations list, but these aspirations are not always realistic or well thought through. We decided to address these issues by having a concentrated of period of time (6 weeks) when the whole cohort would be studying careers in a ‘hands-on’ way.
Summary of Activities
We used a variety of strategies, notably case studies with practical activities, visits off site, and visitors to school. We also tried to encourage independent learning through introducing students to activities and resources such as the STEM Leaders’ Award that they could pursue outside lessons. Please see the links below for details.
Case studies and practical activities:
These were largely sourced from Futuremorph and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘Engineering Engagement Programme’. The activities featured a case study of a STEM practitioner, then an activity which that practitioner might feasibly do as part of their work. Jobs featured included glass artist; prosthesis design using smart materials; ecologist; science journalist; and timber framer. In our final session we focussed on raising the profile of women working in STEM through use of a range of role-model case studies (resources from WISE).
Selected lessons/case studies:
Visitors: We held a speed networking event with 8 STEM practitioners running mini-activities for students. Several STEM ambassadors and our Researcher in Residence led sessions, and STEM friends of staff members supported activities. We had a number of undergraduate physics and other science students supporting classes and talking to students about their experience of degree-level study. We also highlighted the role of our science department technicians and some students visited the prep room. The key message is to use as many people in as diverse range of roles as possible.
Timing: All lessons are 100 minutes. Visits off-site sometimes required longer, although the construction visit and Centre of the Cell were accessible within 100 minutes.
Students were provided with a structured booklet (‘People Doing STEM’) to record and reflect on their learning.
Flipchart files for use with lessons:
Please also see links above for information about materials used in lessons.
Learning and Other Outcomes
Students were interviewed in several focus groups which uncovered a wealth of information and learning. Some key themes were:
1. Appreciation of the variety of careers available
2. More realistic understanding of the educational and other attributes necessary for particular career paths.
3. Increased awareness of personal interests.
4. Challenge to some stereotyped ideas of what scientists are like, particularly through looking at women in STEM.
5. Appreciation of active styles of learning. Students did not particularly enjoy keeping their record books and some said they would prefer to make films or discus their learning.
6. Willingness to learn independently and to support the learning of subsequent cohorts.
All the activities can be shown to link to the curriculum. It can be interesting to ask students to make these links themselves.
- Zip Folder - ASPIRES Case Study 5: STEM Weeks (Year 9)
All the associated lesson plans, worksheets, pdfs, powerpoints (ppts) and links for this case study resource. This is a free ASE download.