28 Nov 2018 Primary Science, Science Ambassadors, STEAM / STEM


In today’s blog we’re talking to Fern Holroyd, the project co-ordinator for our Young Science Ambassadors scheme. Fern has been leading the project since June this year and has worked with 39 schools and teachers and over 150 children to date. If you think about the wider impact on the schools, that means that thousands of children could have benefitted from the scheme so far!

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I loved Science at school and all of my college options were in Science, before I went on to a degree in Biology. I got involved with STEAMWORKS during my second year at university, running FabLab afterschool clubs, and I haven’t escaped since!!

I’ve always loved working with children; I’ve worked with special needs groups, I run a Guide unit and I’ve done residentials with older teenagers.

What is your favourite thing about the day?

I get to do all the fun bits that the teachers want to do but often can’t because of other curriculum demands!

It’s hard to pick out a favourite activity but I do like lava lamps and colour changing potions. The children’s faces really light up when they watch what happens; it’s something they just haven’t seen before. It’s great that such young children are learning the very basics of science such as acids and alkalis that they wouldn’t normally cover until Year 7.

What do you think the main benefits of the scheme are?

The confidence aspect is incredible – watching the children transform completely through-out the day and lose all inhibitions about presenting by the afternoon. They all love science but haven’t thought about how they could pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm to others.

I also get to see how much fun the children are having and how engaged by they are by the practical nature of the day. I know it’s something the teachers would love to do more of but it’s so hard to fit everything in.

Is there anything that has surprised you?

I’m constantly amazed by the Year 1s; they are surprisingly confident. To see a five year old stand up in front of a group to present and not bat an eyelid is incredible. I’ve seen a young group who have barely mastered handling scissors complete fifteen activities, then present two of them back to the whole group, and they have been some of the best.

I’m also amazed at just how many activities you can do with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda! The opportunities are endless!

How do you feel about the future of STEAM education?

My third year research project was on STEM retention at postgraduate level, so it is an area that interests me very much. I’m happy that we are starting to see a better balance between males and females in bio sciences, and that encourages me to inspire more children into that career path.

Now, at the beginning of each session we ask the children to draw a scientist. Sadly almost all draw men but in the last group there was an almost even split. At the beginning of the day the children just don’t relate themselves to being a scientist. By the end of the day they are adamant that that’s what they are and they have started to rename themselves Professor and Doctor! That must give hope for the future!

To find out more about our Young Science Ambassadors Scheme visit our website https://www.steamworks.org.uk/young-science-ambassadors/ or contact Helen Bell on 07876705823  or email enquiries@steamworks.org.uk