Monday, 31 July 2017

STEM Ambassador training - a refresh

It’s been a long time since I blogged on here: in the last year I have graduated from the University of Birmingham, worked for 8 months in a publishing company (Taylor & Francis) and started a new job at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). It’s been busy!

Since starting at STFC, I’ve been keen to get back involved with some of the many public engagement activities that go on at the Harwell Campus. As part of this, I contacted the STEM Ambassador team and asked if I could transfer my “ambassadorship” over to Oxfordshire. The process was quick and simple, and my DBS check was still valid, so I was ready to go. However, after such a long break I wasn’t sure that I was ready to go... I went along to an ambassador training session to remind me of how to get started.

The session started with introductions, and asking us about our experiences recruiting STEM staff and what had inspired us to work and study in STEM. The answer was much more “who” than “what” as many people said that it was teachers or other role models. Well, that was apart from those who put it all down to Star Trek!

We were shown some interesting figures showing the decline in the interest in science in children: this drop off starts as early as 10 years old, which I was surprised by. I also didn’t know that UK schools are no longer required to provide a dedicated careers service, and I felt grateful for the support I had received when approaching the end of my time at school.

We broke up into groups to discuss what we thought the benefits of the STEM ambassador scheme was for young people / ambassadors / teachers. I enjoyed this discussion as it reminded me of all the good experiences I’d had working in STEM roles with young people, and that was just the boost I come to the session to get.

Our next task was to form groups and take part in an activity: building Bristlebots! This was a lot of fun, and followed by a race between teams. Sadly ours was way off the podium, but it was a good opportunity to meet the other people attending the session. Our compliments and criticisms of the activity were then discussed, leading into being given some guidelines for producing our own activity.

STEM ambassador activities can be organised by the school or STEM themselves, but if, as an ambassador, you do have an activity you’d like to present to young people then you are welcome to put it together and take it into schools. As groups we were invited to have a quick chat about what activities we could take into a classroom. I was sat with two construction engineers, so we discussed the many ways you can build structures out of (uncooked!) spaghetti and marshmallows.

The website has changed since I became a STEM ambassador, and so going through the activity searching and recording process was useful. And then it was the end of the session! I even managed to speak to the STFC public engagement team on my way out and arrange my first activity here. Now I’ve had my refresher training and been reminded of what I’d done before I can’t wait to get started. And then I might even have enough activities to get this blog up and running again...