Science Technology Engineering and Maths Project – SI Leeds
SI Leeds partnered with a local schools trust to deliver a Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM), Immersion Day for both primary and high school pupils. As well as giving them all an opportunity to talk to STEM professionals in small groups, the older girls organised workshops for the younger girls. The event succeeded in inspiring the girls to consider STEM careers and developed the older girls’ leadership skills.
SI Leeds members are very conscious of the disproportionate underrepresentation of women in STEM and considered a wide range of options to help to support and improve the position of women.
The club had previously offered a small number of bursaries to women studying STEM subjects at local universities and understood the very positive impact these had for the recipients. As well as continuing with the bursaries, the club wanted to explore ways of encouraging younger girls who may not have considered STEM careers options.
They considered different options for working partners and age groups, as well as focussing on subjects where women are most under-represented. Discussions led them to partnering with White Rose Academies Trust (WRAT), and to work with a primary school and 3 high schools run by the trust. They used the connections a club member had with the trust to initiate discussions.
Developing the idea
The Trust already had an Empower Programme for a group of 50 girls drawn from the 3 high schools, which aimed to help the girls develop a range of skills – however, the programme lacked a STEM element.
SI Leeds worked with the Trust to develop the idea of a STEM Immersion Day. It was designed to meet the needs of both younger and older girls, giving them the chance to learn from each other, as well as from STEM professionals. The attendees included all fifty girls from years 4 and 5 in the primary school (age 8-10), as well as fifty girls from the 3 high schools aged 14-16, all of whom were on the Empower Programme.
STEM Immersion Day event
Following an introduction to the day from a STEM professional, the younger and older girls separated into different rooms, with each given the opportunity to meet a range of STEM professionals in a speed-dating format. Each group of 10 girls rotated to five different stations with careers discussed including IT, building & construction, biodiversity, chartered engineering, farming and research.
This was followed by a practical demonstration of silver jewellery making by an engineer. SI Leeds organised and delivered both these sections of the day,
After lunch, the younger girls attended practical workshops which had been organised and run by the older girls. The younger girls benefited both from the STEM activities themselves and from working with the older girls. The older girls gained confidence from planning, preparing and leading these sessions – experiences also contributed to accreditation in the Leadership module of their Empower Programme.
At the end of the day, a competition for both age groups was launched by the President of SI Leeds. This was intended to build on the day by encouraging the girls to continue their exploration of STEM subjects. The event was closed by the regional president.
The competition ran for several weeks after the event and involved the girls using their learning to develop an energy saving idea. The prizes for the younger girls were STEM activities and a piece of art was created by an engineer from SI Leeds for the older girls.
All the girls fully participated in the day, gaining much in terms of understanding STEM and building new relationships.
A formal evaluation on the day showed considerable enthusiasm and energy, with comments from students such as:
‘I really enjoyed:
• having the opportunity to explore the wonders of STEM together.
• making a rocket and mostly the slime because it was the most joyful thing to do.
• teaching because it advances my leadership skills.
• helping the kids understand about gravity with their parachutes.
• learning about different women in STEM and meeting/speaking to so many children.
The STEM professionals all enjoyed being involved. Quotes include: ‘The students were all keen, engaged and inquisitive enough to question things’ and ‘I never saw a woman engineer before I chose to become one, I wanted others to choose wisely’.
The club found that the competition was not clearly understood by the schools, resulting in low volume of entries and submissions which were not quite as expected. Whilst prizes were still awarded, the club reflected that the competitions would have been more successful if there had been further engagement with teaching staff or other professionals before it started.
SI Leeds plan to build on their experiences and partnership with the Trust to create an annual event and competition/challenge.