Tips for STEM club success
1. Set up a cross-curricular STEM working party:
This will help generate ideas that will work for your school and help to spread the responsibility for actually turning up on the day and running a club and/or an event.
In secondary schools, heads of department are usually too busy to be involved, so although it’s a good idea to keep them informed, try to target enthusiastic teachers who don’t have many responsibilities.
Primary schools often have lead teachers for science, maths and D&T – a ready-made team!
If you need to encourage members of staff to get involved, ask your head teacher to invite them to join the working party.
2. Plan ahead:
Review the school calendar and work out when events could happen.
Remember you’ll need to put in planning meetings and preparation time.
Plan for trips and events, such as: Natural History Museum; Science Week in March; in-house events in the week after exams and the regional Big Bang Fair in the summer term. The week after exams is particularly useful, as a week away from the usual curriculum takes the pressure off teachers who are marking exam papers.
3. Set up a club:
Start small. Start with one key stage. Tell your own classes; suggest they bring their friends and word will soon get round. You can ask any keen beans to make posters for you and get them to run around the school putting them up.
Take care when choosing the day and time for your club to meet to make sure it does not clash with other clubs or sporting events.
After school is better, as ideally you need at least one hour for doing and then clearing up time – although there are groups who manage to run at lunch times. Friday can be a good choice as it’s a great way to end the week on a high!
4. Try to attain technical support:
You need a person to prepare equipment, do photocopying etc. This is essential to the success of a club. If you are unprepared the students will not take the club seriously and will stop turning up. You have little enough time as it is to teach your own lessons, never mind finding time to do the prep for STEM club.
Secondary schools have various technicians for science, IT and D&T. In primary schools you might find a willing teaching assistant (TA) to take on the technician role.
If you haven’t already, ask your head teacher (if you don’t ask, you don’t get!) if they can find some money to pay your ‘technician’ overtime for the additional work – two hours a week (~£15) would be ideal. This will pay you back in goodwill a thousand-fold!
5. Create themes for each term:
There is nothing worse than getting to the morning of the club day and you haven’t got anything ready. The last thing you want to do is disappoint all those lovely little faces…
• Term 1 + 2: use our 12-session resource pack, Learning about Bridges, to get you started. The lesson plans cover the world’s bridges and the civil engineering behind them. Full instructions and activity sheets are included and there’s even a competition for your students.
+ Try to include competitions and explosions early on like chip pan fire/CO2 bubbles/flame tests… This can also tie in with fireworks.
• Use Term 3 + 4 for personal projects to display at your school STEM Fair.
+ Use Google science fair and the Big Bang for inspiration. Students can work in teams of up to four on any area for STEM. They each have to commit 10 hours to their project, this way it can be eligible for a BA Crest Award.
+ Use Science Week to present and display their work and take the club to your regional Big Bang fair in July to enter your best projects.
• Term 5 – Engineering from nature – Consider how nature influences the designs of engineers. Where can you see the Fibonacci sequence in nature? How do biomechanics work? How human could a robot be?
• Term 6 – Rockets – or Ball Launchers – or anything to get them outside in the sunshine.
• Other ideas could be design challenges such as: design a helmet to protect an ‘egg head’ when dropped from 10ft off the ground; design a rollercoaster; design a boat to carry six marbles; design a cantilever bridge, etc.
If you have a STEM working party then each member of the teaching team might want to take part by planning around their subject.
You may want to approach your school PTFA to see if some start-up funding is available, also locally you may have charities or companies who would be willing to help provide a start-up fund for equipment.
Rochester Bridge Trust provides education grants for teaching about engineering in Kent; Hassocks, West Sussex; Springthorpe, Somerby and Corringham in Lincolnshire or Holme and Conington in Cambridgeshire
ONE LAST THOUGHT …
7. Using Year 6 or Year 12 students to take on the responsibility of running the club:
This gives older students the chance to show their leadership skills. Obviously, you’ll still have to be there for safety, but they can plan the activities and they can support the Year 2/3’s or Year 7/8’s. It gives you more hands and time to get around to each group. You could even team up with your local secondary or primary and have the Year 7/8’s support the Year 4/5’s.
There are also different ways to get Year 12 on board. You could announce the club idea to the STEM Year 12 classes and get them to apply for a position or if they’re planning on doing science at university – it’s sure to look good on their UCAS forms.
It may also be possible to apply for some local STEM Ambassadors to help with the club. These are DBS checked, enthusiastic volunteers with a passion for Science, Technology Engineering or Maths.