Inspiring the generation of tomorrow
Scientist and TV presenter Phil Smyth explains how the ESB’s Generation Tomorrow programme is empowering young people to reach their potential
Phil Smyth talks to participants at the 2020 ESB Science Blast, delivered by the RDS earlier this year. Photograph: Orla Murray/ Son Photo
As a scientist, people assume that I am smart, and I’m fine with that.
I love showing people, especially children, what science can do for them. My own journey through science has equipped and empowered me with the confidence to try new things and enjoy the process of answering any type of question, no matter how challenging.
I try to help young people reach their potential because they are the ones that will shape the future of our world.
This is the purpose of my work with ESB’s Generation Tomorrow programme. It’s about providing young people with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the future through engagement in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths – better known as STEAM.
Innovative answers to difficult questions
To create a brighter future for generations to come, we all need to be able to answer some difficult questions.
Science provides a way of working out these answers. From one simple question, we can predict, observe, analyse, investigate, experiment, estimate, measure, record and communicate – all things that young people love to do.
Take ESB Science Blast, delivered by the RDS. It’s a primary school programme that invites children to investigate the science behind a simple question that interests them, such as why are sugary foods more appealing than healthier ones, or how skyscrapers can be built so high?
It promotes curiosity, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.
Though children’s questions can seem straightforward, the answers can be the most complex. The Science Blast initiative encourages them to get comfortable with not knowing the answer and understanding that getting it wrong along the way is all part of the scientific process.
That helps to build their self-confidence which, in turn, helps them to keep coming up with innovative and creative solutions to problems and questions.
Experience the why
Highlighting STEAM to children, parents and teachers is crucial for our future. It needs to happen early and often to take root.
Through partnering with organisations like Camara Ireland, whose TechSpace programme aims to change the lives of young people using creative technology, ESB is supporting and investing in STEAM. It is empowering youngsters to reach their full potential and to be courageous enough to try and impact the world.
Due to Covid-19, the annual ESB Creative Tech Fest, a celebration of the work of young people throughout the TechSpace network will take place virtually instead, on October 28th.
It celebrates the creative technology ideas and projects of 10- to 18-year-olds across 20 categories, from digital creativity to sustainability superheroes.
The power of science
Science is not confined to a lab, it is everywhere and universal. I want to encourage children to explore exciting science through play and inquiry-based learning which encourages their ownership of the questions they are asking. Then, having them present their findings in a critical way improves their evaluation and communication skills.
ESB’s Generation Tomorrow programme is dedicated to empowering young people to reach their potential and power their collective brighter future. To this end, it supports various partners such as TechSpace, the RDS and the Cool Planet Experience, the world’s first permanent visitor centre dedicated to global warming.
Such programmes help young people learn how scientific discovery methods can apply to all areas of life and can make real changes in the world.
Fill their backpack with science
All this helps to build what might be called science capital in young people. This can be defined as the sum of all the science-related knowledge, attitudes, experiences and resources that they accumulate throughout the early part of their life.
It includes the science they know about, what they think about science, the people they interact with who understand science and the day-to-day engagement they have with all things scientific.
Think of it this way – picture a child with a backpack in which they store all of their memories and interactions that they have had with science throughout their life. The number of positive interactions, that is, the amount of science capital that they have, influences whether a child thinks science is for them or not.
Through the Generation Tomorrow programme, ESB is providing multiple opportunities for children to not only fill their science capital backpack but also improve their communications, teamwork and social skills.
We are not looking to turn every child into a scientist, we are here to show the power of science and to raise the science capital of as many children as possible.
By allowing young people to experience a range of STEAM initiatives early in their life, the creative thinkers and innovative problem solvers of the future are being created, right before our eyes.
To find out more visit esb.ie/generationtomorrow