Article by Emma Evans, Senior Geophysicist, ION
We have all seen the headlines about the lack of interest in Stem subjects amongst secondary school pupils and the subsequent skills shortage in the workforce. As an organisation the PESGB aims to increase education:
“To promote, for the public benefit, education in the scientific and technical aspects of petroleum exploration“
but is there anything we as individuals can do to broaden the appeal of science in education?
As it happens there is. Last year I became an Ambassador for STEM Learning. This is an organisation I was ignorant of the existence of until a fellow parent at my children’s school started a lunchtime science club. The Ambassador programme is a national network of science and technology professionals which aims to provide support and inspiration for teachers and others involved in STEM education. There are over 30,000 STEM Ambassadors aged 17-70 representing a range of STEM-related professions all of whom give their time and enthusiasm on a voluntary basis.
As you might expect there is a wide range of activities which can impact learning for young people including
· Careers fairs and talks
· Lesson support using real world experience to give depth to classroom theory
· Science or coding clubs
· Interview practise and CV advice
As examples in the last few weeks I have spoken at a Year 12 (aged 16-17) careers conference, visited Bath University science fair with my son’s class (aged 9-10) and spoken at a Year 10 (aged 14-15) school activity week. The first of these involved talking to small groups about the day to day aspect of my job, career path, qualifications etc. The school had arranged a large number of speakers and the students were able to choose which sessions they wanted to attend so it was a very positive experience. The school teaches geology as an A level subject and a small number were already considering earth science degrees. Others had no idea what they wanted to do and came along just to see something different. One student in the last session commented that she’d had “no idea jobs like that even existed” which in itself made the whole day feel worthwhile.
The Year 10 session was a different kettle of fish entirely. The initial brief was to discuss real world applications for studying sound waves but this then broadened into fossil fuel formation and exploration generally as part of their curriculum support. I talked about how oilfields form (using resources from the brilliant EarthLearningIdea) using schematics to start with and then moving into a simple illustration of seismic sections. The big difference between this session and the careers conference was the size of group. There were about 60 pupils in the second session, a size of group which is not so conducive to asking or answering questions. I will in the future try to concentrate on activities designed for smaller groups as personally I find it far easier to engage with. Obviously this is not true for everyone and for those Ambassadors who thrive on a big stage there will always be suitable requests.
If you are interested in becoming an Ambassador but it sounds like a tough gig I would say give it a go. You only need volunteer for those activities which particularly interest you. Requests from schools are sent out on a monthly newsletter for Ambassadors to express an interest in helping out. You might not think you have the time but while you can volunteer for as many activities as you like you are only obliged to complete 1 activity per year to retain Ambassador status. If you think you might be interested in joining in you can find all the information you need at stem-ambassadors.