Willows High School, a mixed comprehensive school in a challenging quarter of Cardiff, took part in the I’m a Scientist activity in March 2018 with two classes. The school participated again in June 2018, this time with a whole year group. Polly tells us how having an entire year involved helped increase aspirations across the school and showed students that doing well in school has a far-reaching impact.
Why apply for I’m a Scientist?
Following the Winter holidays, Polly wanted a way to re-invigorate staff and students. Students were completing work in class but lacked ways to engage with science beyond school. A close friend recommended the I’m a Scientist programme and she leapt at the opportunity. Her students’ engagement was impressive: “A part of me worried that the pupils would misuse the opportunity, but I was really proud of the thought-provoking discussions they started.”
Next step: whole year group participation
Pleased with her students’ enthusiasm for science after taking part, Polly knew she had to do it again. “My Head of Department saw tweets about the calibre of questions my students were asking. Very soon, senior leadership wanted it to be rolled out for the entire year group”
“The most challenging part of organising it for the entire year was the booking of live chats on the behalf of other staff. I had to sit down for about an hour with printed copies of timetables. But, in that time I scheduled all ten classes. The resources were already available, so it wasn’t that much of a commitment at all considering the size of the event”
Focused students and positive attitudes
Following I’m a Scientist, teachers at Polly’s school have noticed students are calmer and more focused on their studies. “They understand more now how science relates to their future”, Polly comments. “Hearing a scientist say ‘qualifications matter’ really hammered the point home”
Students’ perceptions of STEM careers aren’t always positive. I’m a Scientist helped to change that stigma. “By discussing careers with real scientists, the pupils saw how hard work would make them ideal candidates for a fulfilling career – A Levels and University pay off”
Shifting the culture and ethos
The greater the number of students that take part, the greater the benefit to ethos and attitude. “Different classes had similar experiences and wanted to discuss it. They’d leave the lesson talking about it. They’d discuss it in the corridors; during form time; on the playground. It was inspiring to see the next generation develop a keen interest in such meaningful topics”
Already registered? Don’t forget to apply for the next event – we email registered teachers when applications open (about 2 months before the event starts).