Thursday, September 04, 2014

STEMS: Good for kids and industry

In my 7 years in London, I've seen two ministers in charge of education who seem almost entirely unqualified. Ed Balls was a finance guy - and Gove doesn't seem to have much more experience than he.
In New York City, when the Board of Education was disbanded, decisions went to businessmen as well. Wouldn't it make sense for someone to have done a job before they manage others doing it?

Despite the top leaders, this UK government does indeed have a few smart programmes, probably created by experienced civil servants. Two are programmes around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and STEAM (the same, but the A stands for Arts).

(My friend and client, Tamsin Fox-Davies, now working and writing for Constant Contact, says a kitten dies every time you use an acronym. STEM and STEAM do so much good that they are bound to be exceptions.)

Both STEM and STEAM are equally useful for kids who want to go into industry and industries who will eventually want to hire them. And when industry gets involved, the combination of academic and commercial assets make the programmes more likely to spur on the economy.

Here's an example:
The Medway Science Centre Partnership is a growing community-led group, based in the relatively deprived Medway area of Kent. This group is supported by a number of local institutions, most notably The University of Greenwich and Medway Council. The aim of this group is to develop a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education centre that will ultimately act as a hub for consolidating and promoting STEM activities in the area, with the purpose of supporting education and raising local aspirations.

Medway has a strong heritage in technology and in particular engineering, however, following the closure of the Naval port in the 1980s, the area has declined, leaving a real need to promote the benefits and opportunities in science, technology and the environment to children.

The area covered by the proposed centre covers a substantial population; within the proposed catchment of our centre there are:
· 170,586 Primary pupils in 680 Primary Schools
· 147,689 Secondary pupils in 136 Secondary Schools

Such a centre would therefore have a significant impact on STEM and environmental teaching in Medway, and the wider Kent area, which is relatively lacking in suitable resources. The centre would be of benefit both directly to the students, but also as a source of continuing professional development for teachers, and we have received strong support from a significant number of teachers in the area. We also hope to provide a conduit by which local science and education students – from the nearby universities: University of Greenwich, Kent University and Canterbury Christchurch University – can obtain a first experience of public engagement on these important subjects.

Medway Science Centre Partnership has been working with the EU-funded Recreate project to host a month-long, free, science and arts festival in the POP gallery within the centre of Chatham. This “Medway Science Centre Partnership presents” festival, will host a number of science-of-art themed exhibitions throughout the month of September 2014. This festival will be run along the theme of “The Beauty of Science” and will feature local and national artists and science communicators, with individual exhibits rotating on a weekly basis.

A particular focus of this period will be the “Hands On Science” weekend, where for two days the gallery will be converted to a hands-on science centre, free and open to the public; and featuring a variety of activities similar to those that will ultimately feature in the permanent centre, once established. Activities for this weekend will include: science-education shows by the London Science Museum’s internationally renowned engagements team, hands on science activities and meet-the-scientist sessions run by researchers from the local universities, scientific face-painting and exhibitions of science-art.
Anyone interested?
They would welcome anyone who is interested in getting involved and supporting the project, from business who would like to sponsor aspects, to volunteers in any capacity: @MedwaySciCentre

No comments: