Ask Brian: How do I keep students engaged with science?
It’s important to show students that science isn’t confined to the laboratory
Science and technology are relevant to business, geography, art, home economics, sport, music and even language students. Photograph: iStock
Question: I am a recently appointed principal of a mixed secondary school and we have just wrapped up a very successful “Science Week” in our college. The energy created by the activities our teachers devised has awakened an interest in careers in science among many students. How would you suggest that we sustain this over the rest of the academic year?
Answer: It’s great to hear your school engaged so enthusiastically in Science Week. Sustaining that engagement outside of the week can be most effectively done with a “whole school” approach.
Showing students that science isn’t just for the lab is an important step in making the connection that science is relevant to everything in their daily lives.
Science and technology are relevant to business, geography, art, home economics, sport, music and even language students.
Encourage all subject teachers to get involved in highlighting the scientific and technological dimensions within their discipline, as well as the transition year co-ordinator and guidance counsellor.
Ireland is home to many multinational and homegrown businesses that employ people across an array of science and technology roles and contribute hugely to our economy growth and development.
It’s important t students become fully aware of such opportunities and are facilitated by you in exploring them properly.
The Careers Portal (www.careersportal.ie) website has online profiles of many successful young people who are pursuing exciting and rewarding roles across the whole range of Stem careers. So you should ensure through your guidance counsellor that all of your students are familiar with the site’s many excellent features.
Furthermore, the government programme Smart Futures (www.smartfutures.ie) can provide you with free talks from people working in diverse areas such as food science, pharmaceuticals, gaming, cybersecurity, energy. It will facilitate the students who can ask practical questions.
These volunteers can attend and give presentations at parent evenings.
Their website also provides lots of career profiles and information on relevant transition year programmes. This can be a huge help to students making subject choices for senior cycle, or deciding upon post Leaving Cert paths.
You should advise your science teachers to encourage students to get involved in science projects like SciFest (www.scifest.ie) and CanSAT (www.esero.ie) or host a club like Coderdojo (www.coderdojo.com).
All teachers through their subjects can foster a love of science by showing students how it impacts on society.
Encourage a science debating series; hold a science-art competition or a science-fiction essay writing competition. Your work experience co-ordinator should build relationships with local Stem industries to open up work experience opportunities – students can research what companies in the local area are linked to science, technology, engineering and maths.
Engineers Week and Tech Week, are both taking place in early 2017. They could be your next focus for organising a series of activities in your school.
All of this activity can help grow a heightened awareness among your teachers and students that inspires and motivates the teenagers in your care to be the next generation of innovators and creative problem solvers.