STEM trip – Supporting students’ academic attainment
The Science Museum in London outlines some ideas for how students’ academic attainment can be supported through memorable experiences encountered outside of the classroom…
In the words of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, “Students experience life and lessons beyond the classroom walls. These experiences expand the horizons of young people, opening their eyes to the wonders of areas such as art, heritage, culture, adventure and the natural world.”
Stories have always served as an engaging way of bringing subjects to life. Often, a well-presented story can help to align the sometimes abstract and theoretical knowledge your students learn in the classroom with everyday objects and interesting artefacts.
It’s safe to assume that your local area or city is filled with interesting stories – from inventions that first came into being somewhere nearby, to local businesses that have pioneered novel methods and approaches to working with new technologies.
STEM trip benefits
It’s therefore well worth venturing outside the classroom from time to time, and taking your class on a journey to discover the scientific and technological stories unique to your region.
Your local authority should be able to provide plenty of information regarding the history of local industry and details of notable locations to help you to plan a journey through time, thus opening your students’ eyes to technological innovations and marvels that have taken place on their very doorstep.
Museums can also be a great resource, often hosting trails and talks of their own aimed at bringing objects from the past to life.
The National Railway Museum in York, for example, seeks to showcase the past, present and future of innovation with respect to rail travel.
The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, meanwhile, presents visitors ideas that changed the world, from the time of the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
For a more industry-specific learning experience around technological advancement, there’s the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, which explores the rich history of, and exciting recent developments within broadcasting.
Another way of making learning around STEM subjects more engaging can be to provide students with opportunities to gain knowledge and awareness of specific jobs, and encourage them to think more broadly about the range of career pathways that the study of STEM subjects can open up.
Hearing from employees themselves – and better still, seeing the environments they work in – can help inspire young people to reconsider the study options available to them, and how these might be parleyed into a rewarding, engaging, and perhaps even lucrative career.
According to Gatsby’s Good Career Benchmarks, educators ought to “Provide real-life contact with the world of work,” while “The best motivation and advice tend to come from people in the jobs themselves”.
Organisations of various sizes, in many different fields, are increasingly keen to do their bit to inspire tomorrow’s workforce. As such, a number of them will now happily allow schools to tour their workspaces.
A useful starting point here is Founders4Schools – an organisation specifically set up to connect schools across the country with local businesses situated nearby.
It’s also worth exploring the information available at large-scale careers events, such as the Big Bang Fair. Events like these are great for introducing students to a wide range of careers and further education options all in one place, since bringing together different organisations to speak to young people is a core part of what they do.
Another example, New Scientist Live (coming up on 7-9 October 2023 at ExCeL London), promises to open up the world of science and technology via a series of inspiring talks and demonstrations.
This will feature hands-on exhibits that simulate a range of job-related tasks, giving your students the chance to sample a whole world of different STEM careers within one location.
The exhibition will also include a number of workshops that are free for school groups to attend, where students will work with genuine employees on simulated activities based on core aspects of the latter’s daily tasks and responsibilities.
Take it outside
As many teachers will know first-hand, taking students out of their classroom environment and into a different space can do much to help spark their creativity.
Even if it’s just the school playing field or a local park, changing students’ immediate surroundings can dramatically change the dynamic of a lesson, and prompt your students to start thinking in whole new ways about how to tackle particular problems or projects.
Why not ask your students to think of a problem, and consider how technology could be used to help solve said problem? Unfortunately for all of us, the dangers presented by climate change remain a highly topical area of concern.
You could therefore try assigning different groups within the class a specific question, such as ‘How can we reduce our carbon footprint using technology?’ before tasking them with devising a solution and presenting their ideas before the class.
Alternatively, simply look around you. Our homes are filled with numerous examples of one-time technological breakthroughs and innovations, from kettles to smart speakers.
Households across the world have been transformed in various ways over a number of years, so the next homework project you set could potentially revolve around the technology students have in their own homes.
Why not encourage them to investigate how it works, why we need it, what would we do without it?