Meet the Team- Alice Featherstone
Today, we’re speaking to the fantastic Alice. She’s led FabLabs across South Yorkshire and Derbyshire for months. We ask her about being a great role model for the girls in her workshops, and why STEAMWORKS has rebooted her teaching career.
We can’t believe it’s already been a whole year since the last International Women in Engineering Day! Last year we gave you a list of inspirational women who changed the world of engineering for the better.
This year, we want to tell you about a member of the STEAMWORKS team who really values the role she has as a positive role model for the girls in her FabLabs.
Alice has been a club leader since Autumn 2021. She’s been a staple of the STEAMWORKS team ever since and has helped us in workshops all across the North of England. This #INWED22, we couldn’t think of a better person to talk to!
Why are you a part of the team?
Alice joined the team following the end of her time at uni. She studied English and Education at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
During her time there she gained a wealth of experience in teaching children of all ages. She worked as a museum school trip tour guide at the Atkinson Museum in Southport, as well as gaining experience as a classroom assistant in her native Buxton, Derbyshire. She’s also served as a Senior Desk Manager at Buxton’s International Fringe Festival.
So why, after all this, would she join our team? Alice said: “[because] I was nervous in my ability, after my degree I moved to Sheffield and I wasn’t sure about what to do next.
“I always knew I wanted my PGCE but, even though I’d had plenty of experience in working with kids, I wasn’t feeling confident.
“But then I met someone who works at STEAMWORKS. I thought the whole company sounded amazing! Especially that it’s not-for-profit, that every single penny they make is funnelled back into the company to make it better.
“When I heard about it, I thought I could gain some really valuable experience if it was anything I’d heard. I jumped in, and from learning a lot from the STEAMWORKS blogs I had read and from Helen [our managing director], I quickly picked it up. “
How has STEAMWORKS helped you?
Alice said her time at STEAMWORKS so far has been hugely valuable, despite already having had some experience in schools before.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready to apply [for a PGCE]”, Alice said, “but STEAMWORKS has given me so much confidence I think I might have been wrong to doubt myself.
“I have so much more confidence in my abilities. The insight I’ve gained has been brilliant, I’ve worked with kids of all ages, backgrounds and abilities and I can’t see where else I would have gained that experience.
“I’ve been to so many schools, and done so many FabLabs. I’ve realised that you don’t have the time to worry about your ability when you get there! I’ve just got on with it and have a fantastic time along the way.”
It’s not all about confidence boosting or CV building for Alice, of course. She also told us about how much she loved the job, too.
“STEAMWORKS has been this exciting and mad experience! I’ve been a classroom assistant, but that was one little school in Buxton. Now I get to go to schools across South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
“It’s nice to go into a school and be someone else, rather than their regular teacher. To them I’m this fun STEM expert that comes in, and they love you for that. It’s really refreshing to meet new kids, each one is hilarious and brilliant in their unique ways. You get to see them do these different, exciting things and they always ask questions, they’re always genuinely interested.”
Do you see yourself as a role model to the girls in your workshops?
Being #INWED22, we want to know what Alice thought about her responsibility as a role model to the primary school students she teaches every day. As International Women in Engineering Day’s enters its ninth year, just 16.5% of the engineering industry is composed of women.
Being at such a young age, Alice sees it as her responsibility to buck this trend before her students encounter gender stereotyping.
Alice said: “Seeing a women leading the class who is a scientist does always excite the girls in the workshop. It makes the boys realise, too, that engineers and makers can look like anyone.”
“These workshops do a lot to take on the gender stereotypes of STEM in general. You see boys leaning towards the art and design portion of our workshops, while so many girls get stuck in to the problem solving, maths side of everything. I do everything I can to encourage each student to do what’s right for them in that one hour a week I get with them.
“In these workshops the students are at such a young age that they haven’t had nearly as many preconceptions placed upon them. I’m so hopeful that, at their age, they’re not influenced by the ideas about supposed men’s and women’s jobs”
Who else should join the STEAMWORKS team?
We’re always looking for new activity officers at STEAMWORKS. Being based in the exemplary university city of Sheffield, with 2 unis on our doorstep, we’re spoilt with the range of talented students we get to work with.
They’re not the only people we lead workshops with, though. Like Alice, we’re always on the look out for people with teaching experience to come and try something different.
We asked her why experienced teachers should consider joining in.
“Basically, it’s an entirely different experience,” she said, “because at STEAMWORKS I’m not Miss Featherstone, I’m the scientist called Alice. That changes the whole dynamic for the kids but for you, yourself, too.
“If you’ve taught, then you’ve got so much you can bring to STEAMWORKS- your insight and your experience. But It’s a totally different perspective on teaching altogether. Every day is different.”
We never like saying goodbye to an activity officer, but we’re very proud of Alice’s next steps. Next year Alice begins her PGCE with the Sheffield Teacher Training Alliance and Sheffield Hallam University for ages 5 to 11.
Alice said: “I am so grateful for STEAMWORKS- I don’t know what I would have done without it.
“Before, after years of lockdowns, I wasn’t sure I was ready to apply. But the opportunities I’ve been given by Helen and the rest of the team have given me the confidence that made me feel ready to apply.”