For parents with a background in Science & Technology, talking to our children about how the world works; taking them to science museums; even doing a few backyard & kitchen experiments, all comes very naturally. Many primary school children, though, don’t get these experiences. Primary school teachers need to have a broad knowledge base, but often don’t have a STEM background and can find these subjects more challenging to teach. Even teachers with an interest in and enthusiasm for science and technology, find that the demands of the curriculum, with its focus on literacy and numeracy, leave little time for other subjects.
This is an area where schools can really benefit from parental expertise. We know of instances where parent governors have been given a responsibility for improving science provision across the school or are running after-school STEM/code clubs. We would like it to be much more common for parents with a STEM background to get involved in even more hands-on ways. To this end, we have founded the School Gate SET, an online community for parents who want to help with STEM in their children’s schools: sharing ideas and inspiring other to get involved.
The project is the brainchild of Kate Bellingham, STEM ambassador, former Tomorrow’s World presenter, and long-time champion for women’s opportunities in engineering. When her children were young and she was working part-time, she began to help out at their school in the usual ways: listening to readers and chaperoning school trips. Soon, though, she began to wonder if her skills could be put to better use. She began helping in maths lessons and, eventually, running an after-school STEM club. She really enjoyed seeing how excited and inspired the children were and, upon hearing one of the girls exclaim “That’s Emily’s Mum. She’s an Engineer!”, felt that she was also challenging some stereotypes along the way.
More recently, School Gate SET Mums got involved with British Science Week: you can read about one of the activity days here. Our next “call to action” is for “Tomorrow’s Engineers Week” (November 2016) and we will be running some free training workshops for parent volunteers who would like to deliver a supporting activity. These will be targeted at parents who are currently taking a career break, but would like to re-start their STEM careers in the future. Please get in touch (or see here) for more information.
So, if you have a passion for STEM and would like to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, have a chat with the Headteacher or Science co-ordinator at your children’s school about how you could begin to contribute. For activity ideas, check out our blog and Facebook page. If you have questions about how to get started, tweet or e-mail us and we’ll be happy to share our experiences.
We look forward to hearing from you!