NUSTEM Update – Spring 2024

Every term our team looks back on the work we have completed throughout the past few months and this blog will outline some of the work NUSTEM has completed since January.

It’s been a short, but busy term. Since January we have completed 96 activities with over 2500 children, 300 parents and 200 teachers.

In our partner primary schools we’ve been delivering three main workshops: The Entomologist, The Computer Programmer and The Mathematician.

In the Entomologist workshop, Mel and Caitlin visited Year 4 classes. The children learned why we need insects to survive and what different entomologists are interested in. Parents and carers also took part in some of the workshops, and were encouraged to try out an activity at home. The children and their adult chose an insect and created it out of plasticine to take home.  At the end of the session, all the children were given a sticker which includes a QR code linking to more information about bugs on the NUSTEM website.

In the Computer Programmer workshops, Mel and Caitlin visited Year 2 classes to develop their interests in computer programming. The children learnt about the Mars rover and tried to write code to move the robot. In these sessions we used Cubetto robots to show different ways a robot can be programmed to move. Additionally, the children all took home a game which lets them be a computer programmer whenever they want!

Joe has continued delivering the Mathematician workshop with year 5 and 6 students. This workshop shows children that maths isn’t just numbers and equations but can be about patterns and repetition. The children learn about self-similar patterns and how they are everywhere in nature. We also explain why mathematicians struggle to measure the perimeter of the UK coastline and asked the children how they could fix this problem. They looked at how the Sierpinski triangle is formed through a specific algorithm, and were fascinated by this and continued to make the pattern at home and have sent us their creations!

Joe and Annie have also been supporting Dr Richard Morton on his project ‘Solar Stanzas’ which sees year 5 pupils writing poetry inspired by Richard’s research on the Sun.

In February, Antonio hosted NUSTEM’s annual Experience week. During February half-term 64 students from schools and colleges around the area had the opportunity to experience a week of university life though three different strands: Maths, Chemistry and Physics. During the week the students took part in different opportunities including guest lectures, campus tours, meeting with Northumbria Researchers and much more. The feedback from the students and staff involved has been excellent.  Antonio has also delivered an assembly on careers in renewable energy to partner secondary schools.

Jonathan has been planning the next steps for the Connect family digital tinkering project that finished last year. This includes looking for opportunities to extend the project to different areas and also starting to develop research to examine ideas that were explored during the project. For example, a new PhD student will be starting at the university later this year who will explore playful learning, learning through failure, digital tinkering, intergenerational learning, and inclusivity. This PhD continues our productive collaboration with the Life Science Centre. Additionally, Jonathan has been working on our curriculum career tools and other career resources to see how we can develop these and make them easier to use.

Carol has been working on a research project to explore how the STEM Person of the Week posters can be used by primary and secondary teachers to encourage career-related learning as part of classroom teaching.  There are 40 schools from across England involved in the project, and after Easter sets of posters will be sent to over 250 teachers to use in their teaching next half-term. Carol also spent last week at the Royal Society Pairing Scheme which links 30 scientists with civil servants and parliamentarians to learn about how parliament and policy making works in practice.  Carol was able to spend some time shadowing Chi Onwurah, who is the MP for Newcastle Central.

And finally, our resource for Early years educators –  Play, Be, C – has been shortlisted for the STEM initiative award at the Educate North Awards. We’ll find out later in April if we have won.