STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities

Teach the Children Well
Fifty years ago this year, mankind pushed the boundaries of exploration to its then limits and made the biggest of technological, metaphorical and literal ‘leaps’ – the moon landings. In what these days may be referred to as a tin can, the American astronauts took Science onto the surface of the silver planet and world stood and watched. At the same time, the folk band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang about how we should ‘teach the children well’ and ‘feed them on your dreams’ – the world was inspired with the dreams, the possibilities, that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) could bring for the human race. And now, in 2019, at Shipston High School, perhaps we can rightly claim that those thought provoking revolutionary technological ideas are alive and thriving within the teaching of our ‘children’.

Inquisitive Minds
In November, five inquisitive and curious Year 8 students, Nahia, Imogen, Lily, Anaya and Rhiann accepted the gauntlet of their Science teacher, Mr Simon Smallman, to take up the STEM Challenge Competition and produce a new piece of technology which had at least one electrical component in it, and would be of benefit to mankind during an environmental catastrophe. An apposite challenge one would imagine, especially during the recent Biblical floods and probably one which inspired their amazing creation: the Emergency Floatation Device or EFD in the technical parlance.

Our intrepid Scientists pooled their collaborative talents to initiate the idea, design the machine, manufacture the prototype and then stand in front of an audience of other STEM specialists and pitch their creation in a Dragons’ Den style competition. Their idea won. These budding engineers had wowed the audience not only with their triple function chair/bed/stretcher machine, with outboard motor, with floatation back-up in case of engine failure, but with their use of words. These stellar students understood that it was language and their use of voice, pitch, tone, pace which would help to seal the deal. They understood that engaging the audience with effective eye-contact and appropriate gesture would swing things their way. They understood that the cross curricular connection between the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and the use of English and Public Speaking was the key to success. One could argue the school had ‘taught the children well’!

Engineering is a Multiplicity of Skills
When asked what the competition inspired them to do in the future their responses were revealing. Imogen spoke of exploring the world of engineering further. Rhiann vowed to be more ‘thoughtfully creative’. Anaya was going to ‘reconsider her future’. Nahia pertinently noted that ‘engineering is a multiplicity of skills’ and Lily claimed she was now considering this as a ‘career option’.

At a time when STEM is more than ever vital for a world that is over-heating it is these young people which we must rely on to cherish the idea of what Science and language can do together, in harmony and in collaboration. There’s no irony when you dig further into Crosby’s song that he flips his initial pitch from ‘teach the children well’ to ‘teach the parents well’. Our future is in their hands. Our future is in good hands. Let the children teach and we should all learn.

A G Warren