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Our school STEM event attracted over 1,100 visitors

Beverley Maloney reflects on how she went about organising an ambitious STEM event at her school

  • Our school STEM event attracted over 1,100 visitors

Fifteenth July 2019 – that was the day STEMFEST 2019 was born.

One hundred and thirty days later, we welcomed almost 1,100 students on site and had proceeded to hold an afternoon extravaganza at Royal Hospital School, that created a real STEM buzz. It was then that I discovered myself to be a devoted ‘STEMinist’.

STEMFEST came about as part of my role as a teacher coordinator for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘Connecting STEM Teachers’ programme.

Having previously engaged with, and supported a large network of schools across Essex and Suffolk, I wanted to create a collaborative event that would enable those schools to take part in something that was big and beneficial for them.

It needed to be impact-free in terms of their curriculum, staffing and time, as well as efficient and free to attend.

Sparks of creativity

I’ve long been inspired by the Big Bang Fair event held in Birmingham each year and wanted to re-create this to a certain degree, whilst also having the event be as interactive as possible.

Rather than yet another set of stalls handing out free pens or leaflets, I wanted something that would ignite sparks of creativity in young minds and trigger new curiosities.

I’d been lucky enough to have organised visiting Royal Institution Science shows at my previous school, so it was an easy decision to make them part of the day.

In July 2019 I met with my school’s Head of Careers to talk it all through. We brainstormed everything, down to who we’d get in, timings on the day and which other schools might attend. Talking to people in school was a real help.

It was reassuring to know that not everything was down to me and that a STEM team of teachers and SLT were ready to assist – they could see my vision and what I wanted, and offered to help however they could.

Twenty-first November – a day fixed in my brain for so long – finally arrived. I’d sensed that the event would be big, but it was only once the 23 exhibitors started arriving (including the NHS, the police, BAE Systems, the military and many more) that it dawned on me just how much impact it would have.

An exhilarating feeling

Then the schools began to arrive, one after the other, until all 13(!) were there with some very excited children, all ready to get stuck in.

We welcomed students in from Y5 to Y13 throughout the afternoon, who took part in the Royal Institution shows and some Codey Rocky sessions delivered by Rapid Education, as well talks held by the Army alongside the main exhibition.

To finish off the day we invited Tom Pratt, a product manager at Google Chrome UK and former RHS student, to deliver a keynote talk on evolving technology.

The students were utterly engrossed, and couldn’t stop asking questions – they even sent more over in the days following the event.

So the day itself came and went, and what an exhilarating feeling it was to have done it. It might have been a real test of my organisational abilities, but it was well worth the effort.

Every person who came on site that day was impacted in a way they either didn’t expect, or else were taken on a journey somewhere exciting. If nothing else, they loved the stickers!

I want to let schools know that this is all very possible. I’m a full-time teacher with two young children and a very full timetable. This wasn’t a one-person job. It never can be. It’s about forming a vision, and being creative in how you execute that vision with a team of people by your side.

Sometimes we need to showcase what’s important and not be complacent.

My advice? Go for it!

Beverley Maloney is a teacher of Design & Technology at Royal Hospital School, Ipswich.

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