The Group's aim is to identify, survey, protect and promote geological and geomorphological sites in the former County of Avon - the modern unitary authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. RIGS are selected for their educational, research, historical and aesthetic value.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Inspiring the next generation

Kate Hibbert, University of Bristol
Guest blogger Kate Hibbert is a PhD student in Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. She is also a STEM ambassador and is interested in how academics can inspire the next generation of scientists.
Postgraduate students at the University of Bristol are heavily involved with outreach teaching activities, visiting Bristol schools to talk about various topics in Earth Sciences. Volunteers are co-ordinated by the STEM ambassador scheme. The aim of the scheme is to get more young people involved with STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and it effectively acts as a matchmaker between schools and willing expert volunteers. The network includes professionals as well as university students. STEM ambassadors go in to schools and might, for example, run a workshop, provide mentoring for a small group, talk to an after school club or take part in a careers fair.

Bristol students have been involved in several projects, including the Bristol Dinosaur Project. Thousands of school children of all ages have had a visit from the Dinosaur Project team, giving them the opportunity to learn about this dinosaur unique to the Bristol region in an interactive workshop. The session also involves a life-sized jigsaw of the Bristol dinosaur and handling real fossil specimens, an activity that never fails to spark the imagination.

Primary school children getting some hands-on experience of life as a palaeontologist. Photo credit: Bristol Dinosaur Project

But it’s not just dinosaurs that can inspire children – workshops run by Bristol Earth Sciences PhD students have covered a wide range of topics, from the rock cycle to volcanoes to meteorites. A workshop might involve handling rock specimens, squashing plasticine to learn how a metamorphic rock is made, or using the classroom to reconstruct the scale of the solar system.

Teaching the rock cycle using crayons. Photo credit: http://mesmrswhitesclass.blogspot.co.uk

The benefits of these school visits are not limited to imparting knowledge about the topic covered, but also come from allowing children to meet ‘real-life scientists’, helping to break down some of the stuffy scientific stereotypes and encourage more people into science subjects and science careers. The rewards for volunteers are great, not least giving confidence in public speaking. If you can successfully hold the attention of a classroom of 10 year-olds, then giving a professional presentation seems significantly less daunting! 
Three lots of fossil finds for local school children. Photo credit: Bristol Dinosaur Project

Kate Hibbert


If you’re interested in the STEM ambassador scheme or want to arrange for an ambassador to visit your school: http://www.stemnet.org.uk/content/stem-ambassadors

A previous blog post about the Bristol Dinosaur: http://avonrigsoutcrop.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/bristol-dinosaur-project.html

No comments:

Post a Comment