Government policy and strategies are not usually subjects which get people’s hearts racing, but when the strategy involves exciting more youngsters about science that is different.
IOP Scotland (along with many others) were closely involved in developing the Scottish Government’s STEM Strategy for Education and Training and we were really pleased to see that they have decided to take up several of our initiatives, including the Improving Gender Balance Scotland programme.
A strategy is all very well, but how do you go about putting all those words into action? The Scottish Government invited us to two workshops to work out a plan, alongside many other organisations which deliver Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). I represented the IOP at one meeting. Sian and Gordon Doig (IOP Scotland’s Education Manager) were at the other one. We all agreed that it was fantastic to be in a room with so many people who are enthusiastic about spreading the word about how great STEM is. We already work together with many of the organisations who went along to the workshops and it gave us a chance to make even more connections with liked minded folk.
The meetings were held on sequential days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, enabling plenty of voices to be heard and make representation to the policy makers and advisers involved in shaping the direction of the national plan. Subjects on the table included the current provision of engagement across the country, implementing research-based approaches and a knowledge-sharing session to sketch out where we think the current deficits in provision are (both geographically and demographically), and what the best timing for a possible Scottish STEM week might be. A working group is being formed to consolidate the ideas that emerged at the meeting and we expect to hear more in the coming months.
Meanwhile, plans are afoot for spreading the IOP’s Small Stories science storytelling project for children aged 3-5 and their parents and carers much further afield from the spring onwards. The storytellers and their science gazebo will be visiting Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders, Perthshire, the Orkney Isles and Lewis as well as a number of other locations to be confirmed.
We will also be holding another Festival of Physics in the autumn, following the fantastic success of the last one, as well as carrying on many other public engagement activities as IOP Scotland and in partnership with other organisations. Hopefully the Scottish Government’s strategy will help to enhance our activities and we will certainly engage with the policy makers to ensure that all those words are translated into inspiring the next generation in STEM.