Tag Archive for: key stage 1

Attributes and Aspirations: Round-up of our recent research

In September last year Carol and I had the pleasure of visiting lovely Uppsala in Sweden to attend the Frontiers in Education 2022 Conference and present the findings of our latest research. We presented papers on our two favourite topics attributes and aspirations: Carol on the self-identified attributes of STEM professionals, and me on the career aspirations and career motivations of very young children.

I thought it might be useful to share the key findings from our research.

‘People Like Me’: Identifying personal attributes of STEM Professionals

In this paper we asked STEM professionals to identify what attributes they have that make them successful in their role. We shared an online survey with STEM employees and asked them to name up to six personal attributes that they felt were essential to their being successful in their role, as well as rate how well the list of NUSTEM’s 16 STEM attributes described them.

Our key findings were that:

  • STEM professionals identified many soft skills that made them successful in their role: open-minded, communicator, curious, creative, good colleague, resilient, collaborative, tenacious, hard-working, self-motivated, patient and passionate.
  • STEM professionals identified a number of hard-skills that made them successful in their work: being logical, having domain specific knowledge (knowing about their subject or industry), having attention to detail, being observant and organised. There were also themes we called professionalism and imaginative which linked to both soft and hard skills.
  • There was good overall agreement between the attributes identified by the STEM professionals and the 16 STEM Attributes used by NUSTEM in project delivery, meaning they are a realistic representation of the attributes employees working in STEM use about themselves.

We feel because 68% of the attributes used by STEM employees can be described as soft-skills this provides a clear indication that soft skills are valued by employees in their work. We argue that, within the framing of STEM education and engagement activities, there is merit in moving beyond subject knowledge and including attributes and soft-skills. Using attributes can help children and young people identify the skills they already have or could develop, and support students to think about their employability skills.

Elimination before imagination: How children’s early understanding of scientists may limit aspirations for broader STEM careers

In this paper we examined the early understanding of science careers among very young children (aged 5-7), as well as the factors that influenced their understanding. We held 20 focus groups, interviewing children about their understanding of science and science careers. When we analysed the data we identified four categories to describe the patterns of children’s understanding of science careers. We called these categories: undeveloped, introductory, stereotypical, and diversifying.

Our key findings were that:

  • Most young children have limited understanding of scientists and what they do, and those with some knowledge rely heavily on stereotypes.
  • Young children have different factors of influence on their understanding of scientists compared with the factors identified with older children. For young children siblings and cousins, games and play activities and YouTube were identified as big influences on perceptions of scientists.
  • Young children did not commonly relate the science that they learned about in school to scientists or science-related jobs.
  • Children with more advanced understanding tended to draw on personal experiences with science or STEM professionals.

Building on this research and our other aspirations papers, we are now starting to map how children’s aspirations develop and change over their early lifecourse with focus on STEM careers.

If you would like to chat about either of these research studies, drop us a line at nustem@northumbria.ac.uk.

Take part in World Space Week 4th – 10th October

World Space week has been celebrated since 1999, when the UN declared the 4th – 10th October to be World Space Week.   The UK World Space week website is here.

When I think about Space, I think about discovery and exploration (and Star Trek, if I’m honest).  This year, the theme for World Space Week is indeed DISCOVERY.

We thought we’d give you some ideas about what you might do to celebrate all things Space next week.

Space Careers

The space industry is a growing sector in the UK.  Think Physics has produced a powerpoint and homelearning activity with examples of people who work in space. Most of them don’t work literally in space, more with things that have to do with space: space probes, satellites, telescopes, that sort of thing.  Teachers could use these activities at the start of a lesson, or as part of an assembly to show students some interesting careers that studying STEM leads to.

The Night Sky

Now the evenings are getting darker, it’s a good time for going out and looking up.  The Society for Popular Astronomy has got a Young Stargazers section and a monthly guide to the night sky.  There’s a map for you to print out and go stargazing.

If it’s cloudy, you can use Stellarium on your desktop or laptop computer to see what the sky should look like, or on tablets and mobile phones try apps like SkySafari or Star Walk.

Although you can often see the moon during the day, it’s more spectacular at night.  Think Physics has produced a Lunar Diary that you can use to follow the phases of the moon over a month.

Space Maths

Space is famously big.  Even our tiny corner of the Universe, the Solar System is pretty huge.  Our Space Maths activity is a cross-curricular activity to develop a scale model of solar system using the same scale for the planets and the distances between them.

Tim Peake

Launch permitting, in December 2015 British astronaut Tim Peake will be travelling to the International Space Station (ISS).  His mission, Principia, now has its own webpage. It has lots of information about Tim, and the science he will do whilst on the ISS.  It also has a collection of activities that you can get involved in based around Tim’s mission.

The National STEM centre eLibrary has lots of different activities that can be used to Space-theme your lessons.

And finally…

Think Physics has a series of workshops to ‘Explore your Universe‘, suitable for year 6 to year 11.  We can run these in schools, or at Think Lab on the Northumbria University campus in the heart of Newcastle. If you’re interested in booking a workshop, email think.physics@northumbria.ac.uk.


The IET launch #LittleEngineers

The IET have just launched a lovely campaign called Engineer a Better World.  There is also a great accompanying video which encourages children to remain curious and inquisitive.  As the video plays, children are seen stopping and wondering about objects in the world around them.  Although both boys and girls are shown, one of its key messages is that girls and boys can be engineers. It also highlights that 0nly 6% of engineers in the UK are female.

The video is focused on primary school aged children, which is a good idea. This is the age when we should be starting to share ideas about careers with children, and more importantly, parents.

I would also encourage you to read the accompanying report about the IET research into perceptions and understanding of engineering.  Key points from the report are:

Fewer than half of parents of girls would encourage their children to consider a career in engineering, compared to two thirds of parents of boys. More than half of parents feel that engineering careers are more for boys, and children’s views are largely similar.

Two thirds of parents don’t feel they know enough to help their child if asked for advice on engineering – although the majority said they would like to know more after being shown additional information about careers in engineering and technology.

By involving parents earlier in the careers process they too can promote and feel more equipped to advise their children.  If a parent thinks engineering is ‘just’ about fixing engines its understandable why they are not promoting these options to their daughters.  If parents know about the many areas of engineering, the creativity and opportunities it can offer, they may be more inclined to encourage their daughters to become engineers.

Starting careers information and advice earlier allows children and parents more chance to find out about a wider variety of different careers.  At the moment, these conversations occur at about the same time as young people are making choices about GCSEs and concentrating on exams (and their social life).  Careers advice should be a much more sustained process over years of careers discussions and practical investigations, with emphasis placed on the skills and attributes needed to be successful in different careers.

This video, and the campaign by the IET, is a step in the right direction.

Tag Archive for: key stage 1

Seed bombs

This simple activity describes how to create a seed bomb to plant wild flowers.

Bug hotel

Use this simple activity to create a bug hotel which will attract bugs to your garden using materials from your local environment.

The Computer Programmer

Find out what Year 2 children have been doing in the computer programmer workshop in our partner schools.

Journey Stick

Make a journey stick to remember a walk and talk about it later on.

Meteorology and Weather

This box has books and resources to help you observe and record the weather and become meteorologists!

Make a catapult

Make this simple catapult to fire paper balls, mini marshmallows or pom poms using just some lolly sticks and elastic bands.

Make a tonoscope

Do you want to see the sound waves from your voice? Make this tonoscope using a tube, plastic bag, some sugar or salt and a straw.

Make a magnet maze

Do you want to move an object around a maze without touching it? All you need is a magnet, a magnetic paper clip or washer, a piece of card or a paper plate and your imagination!

Marble run

Have you ever tried to make your own marble run? Using just cardboard, tape, a flat surface and a marble, you can be as imaginative and creative as you want!

Impact craters

Ever wondered how those holes in the moon got there? These are impact craters and are formed when an object like an asteroid or meteorite crashes into the surface of a larger solid object like a planet or a moon. You can investigate your own impact craters at home using balls, a bowl or tray and some sand, soil or even flour!

Tag Archive for: key stage 1


A Photochemist investigates the chemical effects of light.  Photochemistry is a chemical reaction caused by absorption of ultraviolet, visible light or infrared radiation or a reaction that produces light. Photochemists may be interested in spectroscopy- splitting up light into it’s different colours to find out about the properties of the object being studied. They may be interested in photosynthesis, the way a plant generates energy from light. They may also study animals who use bioluminescence to signal to other animals or to lure prey.

Attributes: observant, curious, communicator

Useful links: