inGenious Teachers Of The Month

 

Featuring in this month’s Teachers Of The Month video, we have three enthusiastic – and outspoken – STEM teachers from the UK.

Caroline Pretty (teaches maths and physics), Dwayne Phillip (teaches technology) and Nick Styles were filmed at this year’s inGenious summer school Pilot, where they gathered with fellow professionals from all over Europe to test practices, discuss the involvement of industry in education and make contacts.

Take a look at the video and you’ll hear what they have to say about STEM education, inGenious and the Pilot.

In addition, we recently caught up with deputy head teacher Nick, to ask him more detailed questions about his experiences of teaching pupils at Strawberry Fields Primary School in Garforth, Leeds. We also spoke to Rob Butler, the UK’s Teacher Coordinator for inGenious, to hear what he and his school are doing to promote STEM subjects.

Nick believes that for STEM subjects to take root, pupils have to start young. In the case of his classes, from 7 to 9 years old. He teaches a variety of subjects to boys and girls in that age group and has an immense enthusiasm for the relevance of science, technology, engineering and maths, even at this early age. “I believe that STEM education is something that all children can, and should, enjoy”, he says.

One way to help ensure this was joining inGenious, which Nick did about a year ago. Since then he has arranged visits to local businesses, got funding for a highly successful Gravity Racer competition for local schoolchildren, and a lot more.

Another activity that caught the imagination of his students was Volvo Strong Truck, as Nick explains: 

“It was a hugely popular practice with my class; they really enjoyed the challenge of getting the truck across the line in the fastest time, yet having to balance that with keeping as much of the load onboard as possible”.

Another driving force for industry-teacher collaboration in the UK education scene is Rob Butler, who also had a few moments to share his thoughts with us.

“As inGenious members, I feel it’s our job to do three main things”, explains Rob: “raise the student’s aspirations, create memorable experiences for them and improve their engagement with STEM subjects”.

The challenges to actually achieving these are not insubstantial, however. “One key issue we have to address is how to get girls involved and interested”, says Rob. “We also need to both build on and support the UK’s national curriculum”.

Is there sufficient interest and support from industry? “There’s a lot of good intentions from business – a lot of resources, too. The problem is that they often lack focus, so we find that the efforts of industry partners aren’t particularly well-targeted.”

Rob knows what he’s talking about. A science teacher himself and head of STEM at Copley High School, Stalybridge, he sees the work of his fellow teachers within the inGenious project as 'a pull, not a push, strategy'. He’s proud that the school works at a European, national and local level to engage students in STEM. 

A good illustration of how Rob’s pull strategy works in practice is the Take Off Aerospace Day, which took place this summer. Northwest Aerospace Alliance and the Hyde Group, a local aerospace engineering company, jointly staged the event at Copley High School. 

Pupils were asked to design and build their own 'chain-reaction device', which they showed off at the end of the day. The industry visitors awarded prizes, based on technical proficiency, imagination and originality. Needless to say, the event was a roaring success. 

Working with industry to develop events such as Take Off Day, Engineering Day and Science Busking Day, or inviting speakers from local businesses and institutions as diverse as Manchester University and BASF, go toward creating the memorable experiences that raise aspirations and achieve engagement with STEM subjects. 

“If we do it right, there’s a reward you can’t put a price on”, adds Rob. “And that’s inspiring students to develop an insatiable curiosity.”