Category Archives: Case Study

Extending the I’m a Scientist experience

Catherine is a teacher at Hodthorpe Primary School in Derbyshire: a small school with just four classes from Nursery to Year 6. “We pride ourselves on our holistic approach to education and our family atmosphere, everybody knowing each other and sharing experiences,” says Catherine.

Catherine applied to take part in I’m a Scientist with one class of students, but then realised it was a great opportunity to get the whole school discussing STEM subjects and careers.

Catherine created a voting board, giving all students at the school the chance to have their say

“We started with a whole school assembly, where we informed the children about the activity and shared the scientists’ profiles and pictures. We discussed their work and explained how the scientists would use the prize money for research projects. The stereotypical image of a scientist as a middle-aged man in a lab coat with wild hair was quickly dispelled!”

Students in the Year 5/6 top class took part in a live chat with the scientists and were given their own votes to cast, but Catherine wanted all the children at the school to be involved and have a say in who they thought should win.

“We put up a display in the main corridor, using the profile pictures and the scientists’ own description of their work. The top class were encouraged to add post-it notes next to each scientist whenever they found out a new piece of information from their online chats, as a quick way of sharing their knowledge. The rest of the school was then given a counter to place in a plastic wallet underneath the profile pictures, so that they could register their vote too.”

Evictions were announced in the second week of the activity, and as the final drew nearer Catherine says they had a clear school favourite. “We gathered in the hall to see the winner announced live in the chatroom. It wasn’t the scientist that most of our children had voted for, but we were gracious in defeat and gave each runner up and the winner a round of applause!”

From screen to school

One of the scientists in the zone, Rebecca Gosling, lived close to the school, and it was one of the students who asked her during a live chat if she could visit. “We were incredibly fortunate that Dr. Gosling lived within travelling distance and that she was so generous with her time,” says Catherine.

 

A fabulous opportunity to discuss a plethora of professional vocations and open the children’s eyes to more career opportunities.

“Her visit enhanced the children’s learning enormously: by the time she arrived, the children felt as though they knew her. She was greeted with shouts of “It’s Rebecca! Rebecca’s here!” from the minute she entered the playground!”

Catherine says that Rebecca brought equipment that she used in heart surgery to show the students, and prepared a PowerPoint to deliver in assembly to show the workings of the heart, with sound recordings of healthy and unhealthy heartbeats, so everyone could listen to the difference.

“The whole experience broadened the children’s knowledge of jobs available to scientists and gave them an understanding of why they are learning science. Over 30% of our children are from disadvantaged backgrounds, we are constantly looking for opportunities to inspire, motivate and encourage our pupils to aspire to careers, which they may not have thought about.

“The I’m a Scientist activity was a fabulous opportunity to discuss a plethora of professional vocations and open the children’s eyes to more career opportunities.”


To take part with your students in a future I’m a Scientist activity, register your interest at imascientist.org.uk/teachers, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on July 30, 2019 modamy in Case Study, News, Teachers | Leave a comment

Kickstarting an award winning public engagement career

Suzi won the Brain Zone back in June 2011 as a PhD student at the University of Bristol. She wanted to put her prize money towards starting a podcast that explained the science of substance use.

 

I’m a Scientist was the catalyst to me starting a blog and applying for a BSA Media Fellowship… I doubt any of that would have happened without it.

“I think it would be good for kids to be able to find out about drugs from the scientists who are researching them,” said Suzi on her profile in 2011. “What do you think of this idea? I’d love to hear your ideas too, this is just to get the ball rolling!”

After winning, Suzi did use the £500 to start her podcast, Say Why to Drugs. “I bought a microphone and some train tickets to travel the country interviewing addiction and recreational drugs researchers. In these interviews, we talk about what is currently known about the effects of various recreational drugs.”

I’m a Scientist really inspired me to get involved with more public outreach!” says Suzi. “It was the catalyst to me starting a blog and applying for a BSA Media Fellowship.”

Suzi was awarded the Media Fellowship with BBC Science in 2013, and her podcast has grown to over 1 million listeners. In 2016, she won the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science for her podcast. “I doubt any of these things would have happened without I’m a Scientist,” she says.


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on July 24, 2019 modantony in Case Study, News, Scientists | Leave a comment

Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work

 

Aileen remembers taking part in I’m a Scientist when at school. Now a PhD student in Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods, Aileen participated as a scientist in the Climate Zone.

Aileen had had experience communicating her work to visitors at her research institute and at one off events like Big Bang Fair. However, she believes taking part helped her develop short ‘quick-fire’ explanations of her research.

 

If you suddenly clam up, it’s a lot easier to get past that if you’re behind a screen. It was a good format to practise and prepare for the unexpected.

Impressing a tough crowd
The need to regularly get across information ‘succinctly’ in live chats particularly helped Aileen develop her shorter explanations. She felt that because students could easily switch their interest to someone else, without worrying about her feelings, she was forced to explain herself as clearly and quickly as possible.

“Because you’re not in person, there’s not that level of politeness. It’s just ‘I’m not interested any more, bye, I’m going to speak to someone else’… I kind of think it makes you have to get better.”

Becoming comfortable with the unexpected
The computer-based, text only nature of the activity also meant she was comfortable taking a moment to compose answers to unexpected questions.

“It’s preparing you for the unexpected… you’re behind the screen so if you suddenly have 30 seconds when you clam up, it’s a lot easier. Rather than, ‘oh god there’s a major investor stood in front of me and I really need to answer them now’.”

Aileen says her elevator pitch has since helped her in professional contexts. “In terms of turning up to conferences and that kind of thing, rather than going in to the whole ‘I do this this and this and I’m a PhD student…’ being able to explain what I do in a very short speech is helpful.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 25, 2019 modamy in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Improving communication skills and finding phrases that work

Working with the Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme

I’m a Scientist works with several National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) partnerships to offer STEM engagement opportunities to students from their target areas.

In 2019, one partnership, the Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme (KaMCOP), funded places for 42 classes to take part in the I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer activities, offering these to their target schools.

Over the following months eight schools have given their students the opportunity to chat online with scientists, engineers and psychologists. I’m a Scientist offered KaMCOP schools a flexible programme of activity, where teachers chose when to participate depending on their schedules and to maximise benefits to their students.

 

A brilliant way to bring science into the real world… since the activity, I have seen an increase in students thinking about careers within science.

Teacher, KaMCOP-funded participation

“The I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer activities have been an excellent way for us to raise aspirations, break down barriers around STEM subjects, and open up opportunities for students to engage with people working in these sectors which they might not otherwise have been able to do,” says Claire Parsons, Development Manager for KaMCOP.

“We hope that, by accessing these opportunities, students are inspired by the scientists and engineers they engage with. Then they might start to consider the full range of career opportunities and progression available to them, and be motivated to work hard so they might progress to higher education in the future.”

 

An excellent way for us to raise aspirations, break down barriers around STEM subjects, and open up opportunities for students.

Claire, Development Manager, KaMCOP

Communication and collaboration
“Working with the I’m a Scientist team is an absolute pleasure,” says Claire. “They are attentive and flexible to the needs of our schools and students, and make the whole process easy for all involved.”

One teacher who took part with KaMCOP funding says the I’m a Scientist activity “is a brilliant way to bring science into the real world, as sometimes students feel that what they are required to learn in school is not going to be of any importance to them after they leave. Since the activity, I have seen an increase in students thinking about careers within science.”


I’m a Scientist can help you meet NCOP aims. Contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 18, 2019 modamy in Case Study | Comments Off on Working with the Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme

Long lasting benefits for employees and employers

 

Before taking part in I’m an Engineer, Emma Ryan felt the engagement events she was involved in weren’t reaching those who would benefit most. “Talking to girls about engineering is a big push for what I do,” she says, “but we were going to speak to women at university who know they’re doing engineering… I think it’s more important to go back to primary school.”

In I’m an Engineer, Emma was able to directly reach this audience. Winning the zone then gave her £500 towards her own engagement activities, which she used to leverage support from her employer.

 

The workshop is now becoming a permanent part of our outreach activities.

“Lockheed paid for half of the 3D printer, which is used to run workshops in primary schools,” says Emma, “and the workshop is now becoming a permanent part of our outreach activities.”

Emma plans to continue developing the workshop and is bringing her colleagues with her on school visits. ‘I’ve done five local schools and other teachers are requesting it. Lockheed are continuing to support and pay people to come and give me a hand. I’m still seeing what works and what doesn’t, but I’ve got feedback saying it’s good to see engineers are normal people, which is always a good message to spread!”

Emma has also gained on a personal and a professional level as a result of taking part. “My public profile was heightened from doing I’m an Engineer, and then the university invited me to do Bright Club and perform on BBC radio,” she says. “It’s also part of my doctoral portfolio, and the feedback I’ve had from my school visits will be part of my application to be a chartered engineer.


To take part in a future event, apply now. Scientists see imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information. Engineers, take a look at imanengineer.org.uk/engineers/, or contact admin@imanengineer.org.uk.

Posted on June 17, 2019 modamy in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Long lasting benefits for employees and employers

Two-way engagement: immediate feedback on communication

 

Before taking part in I’m a Scientist, Max Jamily’s previous outreach experience was mainly blog posts and summer camps. “That definitely sets I’m a Scientist aside, where the main focus was me and my work,” he says.

 

Two-way engagement where you’re having a scientific discussion at the right level is so much more productive.

Through participating in I’m a Scientist, Max developed a “better arsenal of metaphors and analogies” for describing what he does, and feels he has more confidence and a much better understanding of what public audiences find interesting about his work

Learning from your audience
For Max, the ‘two-way’ nature of I’m a Scientist was key to the impacts on his communication skills. Responses and feedback from students directly helped him develop new analogies, and told him when he wasn’t explaining himself well enough.

“The whole thing was very two-way — you’re giving answers to the questions people are directly asking you, and then you get their responses as to whether or not they like the answers, both immediately because they’d say ‘that makes sense’ or they’d ask another question, and also long term because of the voting.”

A new culture of communication
Since taking part, Max has found himself talking much more with colleagues in the lab about their work and his own, and in a way that is more meaningful than technical.

“I think the amount that I chatted with my colleagues when I had these inventive questions from students in I’m a Scientist, made me see that if I had that same level of discussion with them about my work it could be really productive. In general I’ve been trying to see the wood for the trees a bit more and actually talk about the concepts, rather than just the finer details, which as technical scientists we always get bogged down in.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 6, 2019 modamy in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Two-way engagement: immediate feedback on communication

Improving communication skills through text-only conversations

 

Euan Allen took part in I’m a Scientist during the second year of his PhD at the Quantum Engineering Centre for Doctoral Training. Answering questions through the text-based format allowed him to ‘recalibrate’ his language to suit his audience.

 

Now when you go to do face to face outreach, you feel more equipped.

Euan had done some in-person engagement previously but does not think of it as the best way to develop communication skills.

“When you are face to face, you don’t hear what you have said afterwards, there isn’t that self assessment,” he says.

The text-only format of I’m a Scientist was a more useful environment to test his skills.

“When answering a student’s question, you are trying not to use jargon and technical language. It is much easier to spot that when you’re writing it down. It was a good training lesson in recalibrating yourself to remember that type of language isn’t useful… That was one of the biggest things I got out of the experience.”

Euan says he now has more confidence talking about his work to public audiences. “The students were really comfortable online, you received lots more probing questions… Now when you go to do face to face outreach, you feel more equipped.”


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on June 4, 2019 modamy in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on Improving communication skills through text-only conversations

STEM engagement for scientists’ busy schedules

 

Hayley Pincott took part in I’m a Scientist in June 2018, spending two weeks chatting with school students about her role as an Associate Practitioner Healthcare Scientist at a University Dental Hospital. Hayley found the experience flexible enough to fit around the workload of a public sector scientist, and it gave her the skills and confidence to do further public engagement.

Accessible to those with busy working lives

Hayley was recommended the I’m a Scientist activity by a friend who’d previously taken part, but admits she was initially “slightly dubious about how easy it seemed to fit in around work.”

It didn’t take long for her to “completely fall in love” with the experience, though. “You don’t have to go out to visit, and it can all be done as and when you have time.”

This flexibility throughout the two weeks helped her balance the activity with her day job, and even when her availability changed she was still able to engage with students at a time that suited her.

“I could sign up to as many live chats as I wanted, and if my workload meant I could no longer attend a live chat then there was no pressure… there is always ASK [questions from students], which can be done at any time.”

Introducing students to biomedical science

Before taking part, Hayley had visited a few primary schools to talk about her role in biomedical science and pathology. Through I’m a Scientist, she hoped to “reach a different audience and give pupils another possible career choice that they might not have even heard of previously.”

Talking with students in the live chatroom and answering their questions through the I’m a Scientist website offered Hayley “a really simple but effective way to engage young people in a scientific career they might never have heard about.

“My main goal was to try and explain that to be good at my job doesn’t need me to be highly intelligent – it needs me to have a specific skill set… I just wanted pupils to take away the message that science, and a scientific career, needn’t be unachievable.”

The confidence for further engagement

Following “some amazing chats with great students”, Hayley felt she’d gained the confidence to do more public engagement with a range of audiences, not just the primary age students she’d previously had experience with.

“Having this new confidence in reaching out to this age group has meant that I’ve written an article aimed at teenage girls, and have tried to organise a few events that targets a wider variety of people.”

Hayley is also continuing to engage with students in I’m a Scientist through the Careers Zone, answering questions about her career path, what it’s like working in a University Dental Hospital and the wider world of biomedical science.


To take part in a future I’m a Scientist event, apply now at imascientist.org.uk/scientists, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

Posted on April 3, 2019 modamy in Case Study, News, Scientists | Comments Off on STEM engagement for scientists’ busy schedules

Showing students the ‘bigger picture’ at A Level

“I’m a Scientist encourages independent thought and shows students the practical applications of their studies. Connecting with real psychologists also helps them decide what they’ll do next year and into the future.” – Lesley, Head of Psychology at Bay House School


Bay House School is a large comprehensive school with mixed attainment. In June 2018, sixth form Psychology students from the school took part in the Society Zone. Head of Psychology Lesley tells us how the activity supported her students’ progression and taught them the real-life applications of their subject.

Why apply for I’m a Scientist?

Lesley regularly takes part in the I’m a Scientist activity to open her students’ eyes to psychology beyond the limitations of the A Level curriculum. “Students can get bogged down in memorising facts and not see the bigger picture,” she says, “particularly in A Level, with so much theory based learning.”

Using the activity with sixth form students

With sixth form students being more independent than younger classes, Lesley introduces the activity a week before their chat lesson and has them spend time engaging with the psychologists during their personal study. Students prepare by reading psychologists’ profiles, posting questions in the Ask section and preparing questions for the class live chat. Lesley’s students cast their Vote for who they want to win the competition straight after their chat. When it comes to using valuable lesson time on the activity, Lesley says “the benefits of the chat far outweigh the time you spend on it.”

Practical applications of curriculum content

Through the I’m a Scientist activity, Lesley’s students learnt about the process of carrying out research, something that is vital to aid their understanding of the research methods unit in their Psychology A Level. Students were able to explore different areas of psychology by chatting to the psychologists about their work, which, in the Society Zone, ranged from researching conspiracy theories to the language we use to talk about alcohol use.

Real people, real jobs

I’m a Scientist tackles current stereotypes by showing students that psychologists are a diverse bunch, not all old men as some textbooks could lead them to believe! Lesley’s students found they could relate to the psychologists in their zone and really engaged with the opportunity to speak with real psychologists currently working in the field. “Students read about studies in books but don’t see those researchers as actual people — the idea they can speak to a real psychologist through this activity kinda blows their mind!”

Whole-school benefits

Lesley’s students really enjoy taking part in I’m a Scientist, and word of the activity spreads around the school. “It’s a great experience and the students are very engaged… Seeing our A Level students get this opportunity encourages lower school students to stay with us into the sixth form.”

Supporting progression and careers guidance
For Lesley’s school, the timing of the June event is ideal. “It’s perfect as students come back after mock exams and are thinking about their next steps and starting university applications. Connecting with real psychologists helps them decide what they’ll do next year and into the future.”

With the full range of A*-E grade abilities in her psychology classes, it was important for Lesley’s students to find out about a range of careers within psychology. “It was good for them to see not all psychologists are lecturers or have PhDs, and that there is a range of levels of career. For those who love psychology and want to pursue it, this gives them an idea of what they can do other than teaching.”


To show your A-Level students the ‘bigger picture’ through I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest at imascientist.org.uk/teachers, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

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).

Posted on July 16, 2018 modamy in Case Study, News, Teachers | Comments Off on Showing students the ‘bigger picture’ at A Level

Showing students the relevance of their learning

“Doing something engaging like this creates a more well-rounded education and my students have now seen real-life applications of curriculum content.” — Lucy, Maths Teacher at Cornelius Vermuyden School, Canvey Island

 


Only a small proportion of students at Cornelius Vermuyden School aspire to go to university or move out of the local area, and many don’t see the point in what they study in school. Lucy tells us how their involvement in I’m an Engineer helped them see the importance of maths and broaden their horizons.

Why apply for I’m an Engineer

Many of Lucy’s students don’t see the relevance of maths, and engaging and motivating them can be challenging: “Some have very low aspirations, so convincing them they need a pass in maths for their future — let alone showing them how the maths content relates to their lives — can be difficult.”

Lucy wanted to give her students an awareness of careers and what engineers actually do to open their minds. “I really wanted to broaden horizons from their tunnel vision and, often insular, island mentality.”

What did students do?

Lucy introduced her class to the I’m an Engineer website and set them homework to log in, research the engineers and come up with some questions they could ask. After some preparation, they took part in an online live chat with engineers, having a two-way conversation in real time. Following their live chat lesson, Lucy kept students engaged throughout the two-weeks of I’m an Engineer by looking at the site for a few minutes at the end of their lessons.

Showing students the relevance of curriculum content

Through I’m an Engineer, Lucy gained real, tangible examples to show her students the application of the maths they are learning. These examples and links with the engineers’ projects helped students appreciate the relevance and value of maths. “When teaching about drawing or using compasses, I can now say ‘that engineer had to design the robotic hand before they made it and getting the proportions correct would have been very important.’ This is helpful in engaging students in the maths we learn.”

Raising aspirations and broadening horizons

Lucy was surprised at how much the students engaged with each engineer’s area of work and how this fed into their own career plans. “They were really interested in the different projects the engineers were working on — they started to think about what they wanted to do in the future and wanted to find out more.”

Lucy’s students now have a much broader understanding of what engineers do. “At the start, lots of them thought engineers were people who fixed lifts or cars, but they’ve broadened their views about what engineering jobs can involve. Many students are now interested in what they could do or build as an engineer.”


To show your students the relevance of their learning through I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer activities, register your interest at imascientist.org.uk/teachers and imanengineer.org.uk/teachers, or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

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).

Posted on July 13, 2018 modamy in Case Study, News, School, Teachers | Comments Off on Showing students the relevance of their learning

Changing attitudes across a whole year group

“Organising the event for the whole of year 8 meant that everyone could enjoy the benefits” – Polly, Science teacher at Willows High School, Cardiff


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”


To help change your students’ attitudes through I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest at imascientist.org.uk/teachers or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

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).

Posted on July 12, 2018 modamy in Case Study, News, School, Teachers | Comments Off on Changing attitudes across a whole year group

Increasing students’ confidence with I’m a Scientist

“Many of our students lack confidence in their academic ability so they were buzzing when they realised they can hold their own in a conversation with intelligent, educated people and this helped them realise they are all scientists too!” – Julia Anderson, FE College Biology Lecturer


This general further education college is split across 3 sites in a large, post-industrial, non-university town. Students at the college took part in the I’m a Scientist Immune System and Genes Zones in March 2018. Julia tells us how meaningful engagement with the scientists increased her students’ confidence.

Why apply for I’m a Scientist?

One of the key things Julia is addressing with her students is their confidence issues: “Our students come to us lacking confidence. They’re doing A Level qualifications, but because they’re at FE college rather than a Sixth Form, they think they’re ‘2nd class’ and they really aren’t. I wanted to show them how worthy they are.”

Julia also wanted to get her students more involved in science so being able to connect them directly with scientists through the activity was another key incentive to apply: “They get unbridled access to scientists they wouldn’t normally get to talk to.”

What did the students do?

Students prepared by logging in to look around site and read scientists’ profiles. “We had a class discussion about how each scientist related to the A Level curriculum and debated the sort of questions students might want to ask ready for their live chat with the scientists.” Having access to the site for the full two weeks was helpful for Julia’s students to prepare and follow up either side of their live chat. “We finished with a de-brief lesson, talking about what was useful, what interested the students and their thoughts about the scientists as people.”

Growing students’ confidence

For Julia, the biggest benefit of the activity was improving her students’ confidence. “It was so good for them to see they can hold their own in a conversation with intelligent and educated people who have studied these topics for 10 years. They were buzzing and so excited to be talking to scientists and not sounding like idiots!” Taking part in I’m a Scientist not only helped Julia’s students gain confidence in their abilities, it helped them “realise they are all scientists too!”

Engaging students in a 2-way conversation

“Students and scientists were on fire, sending questions back and forth throughout the chats.” Julia explains how this 2-way interaction differs from a recent face-to-face where her students wouldn’t speak up; “we went to a university event and I was trying to get students to talk to the scientists and find out more about their work. They were too shy, saying things like ‘what if they don’t want to talk to me?’ There was none of that in the I’m a Scientist live chat. No fear from students that scientists would be too busy to talk to them, they were really comfortable.”

Improving social mobility

One of Julia’s students, from a deprived working class town he wishes to leave, was particularly interested in the background of the scientists; “the first thing he wanted to know was where the scientists went to school, was it state or private?” Participating scientists are selected to ensure a range of backgrounds and routes into science are represented. Julia’s student initially switched off from one scientist who attended private school but soon changed his mind, “when the scientist explained that the majority of students on his undergraduate course were from state schools, my student could relate to this academic route.” Julia managed to talk this student out of leaving college part way through his qualifications “I felt if he did, he would never leave the town he wants to leave. The scientists in this activity had varied backgrounds and he was content with that, it helped him see you can grow up working class, on a low income and get ahead.”


To help your students gain confidence in their abilities through I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest at imascientist.org.uk/teachers or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

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).

Posted on May 14, 2018 modkatie in Case Study, Evaluation, News, School, Teachers, Widening Participation | Comments Off on Increasing students’ confidence with I’m a Scientist

Using I’m a Scientist to increase participation in higher education

“Traditionally, not many of our students go on to university. I’m a Scientist helps by allowing students to relate to scientists and helping them see the value of studying at a higher level.” – Mark McNally, Science Teacher


A mixed 2-19 academy, where over two thirds of the school population are students from disadvantaged backgrounds, took part in I’m a Scientist in March 2018. Mark tells us how the activity helped interest his students in science careers and consider higher education.

Why apply for I’m a Scientist?

Despite a good attitude to learning among the students, not many go on to higher education; something the school is working to improve. Mark explains how he wanted to challenge his students’ preconceptions of scientists and help them consider studying science at a higher level; “I wanted to show our students science is not just for ‘weird people with crazy hair and lab coats’ and help them find interest in things going on now in science to increase the chance of them pursuing STEM subjects in the future.”

What did the students do?

The activity was covered in three lessons led by the class teacher across a two week period. Students started by considering how to judge the competing scientists, then got to know them using their profiles and asking questions on the site. The final lesson involved an online chat where students typed their questions and responses to scientists in real time before voting for their favourite scientist.

Did it work?

Mark agrees that I’m a Scientist helps raise students’ science capital, increasing the likelihood of them studying STEM subjects or using science in their future professions. “Raising awareness of a variety of careers they can go into and getting them in contact with scientists helps students see it’s something they could do.”

Opening students’ minds to higher education

I’m a Scientist provided an opportunity for Mark’s students to engage with science professionals who have studied at a high level, helping to open students’ minds to options they may not have otherwise considered. “I think one of the main barriers for our students is that not many come from families with an academic background so they don’t often consider academic routes,” explains Mark, “through this activity, my students connected with academic people and found out about things that interest them in terms of a future career, so they are more likely to pursue an academic route.”

”Even if students don’t want a career in STEM, they can now see the value of studying at a higher level and if they do want a career in STEM, this activity helped cement that for them.”

Satisfying quieter students’ curiosity

Mark’s students developed knowledge and understanding on current scientific topics, “I’m a Scientist allowed the students to engage with the kind of science that’s going on right now in the world.” Mark also told us of the importance for his students to be able to ask whatever they liked throughout the activity, “for a lot of students, I’m a Scientist was about satisfying their curiosity. It’s important because they have so many questions and they don’t always ask, especially the quieter students, but using this platform allows them to get their questions addressed.”


To support your students in considering higher education through I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest here: imascientist.org.uk/teachers or contact admin@imascientist.org.uk for more information.

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).

Posted on May 2, 2018 modkatie in Case Study, Evaluation, News, Science Capital, Teachers, Widening Participation | Comments Off on Using I’m a Scientist to increase participation in higher education

Providing STEM opportunities for distant schools

“As we are a remote rural community we do not have a huge variety of careers on our doorstep but these events help to bring them closer to pupils. More students should be getting these funded opportunities across the UK.” – Emily Tulloch, Science teacher on the island of Unst.


Baltasound_Junior_High_School_in_the_snow_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1725784The most northerly school in the UK is located in one of our most distant areas in the Shetland Isles. Emily tells us how I’m a Scientist allowed her remote students to explore a range of STEM careers and increased motivation to learn science.

Why apply for I’m a Scientist?

“For me, it’s all about increasing Science Capital.” Emily often tries to provide STEM opportunities in school, particularly to help students broaden their understanding of careers, but it can be a challenge. “The STEM ambassador programme is great and we have a number of ambassadors based in Shetland. However there are significant barriers for them to reach the school – it can take almost a day to visit for a 1 hour talk and of course there’s the cost implication too.”

The school often rely on parents to demonstrate different careers to students “we’re lucky that our community is so supportive and parents working in STEM are very willing to visit the school, although the variety of careers is still limited on our island”. Emily wanted to use I’m a Scientist to increase the range of STEM roles her students find out about.

What did the students do?

The 17 students in S1-3 (Year 7-9) took part in the Molecule Zone this March. They read scientists’ profiles and posted questions to scientists on the site throughout the 2 weeks. Students also took part in a 30 minute live chat session where they typed their questions and responses to scientists online in real time.

Emily used the activity to connect to curriculum areas and the careers work going on in school. “It’s a broad activity so easy to link to something we’re doing or have just covered in class. I also tie I’m a Scientist into My World of Work, which our students access to find out where they could study the course or the career steps required for their preferred role.”

Did it work?

Being online, I’m a Scientist provided a chance for Emily’s students to connect with scientists in a large variety of roles, generating interest in STEM careers without the need to travel. “They see different careers we don’t have in the local area by chatting with scientists all across the globe…There are lots of young people who live in remote areas compared to the rest of UK and they should all get same opportunities; this activity allowed me to provide this at no cost to the school.”

Emily also told us how involvement in the activity has improved science learning in her classes “It’s engaging and stimulating for students to actually speak to live scientists doing real-life science and discuss what they think might happen in the future. When students are engaged and start to see the real life impact of a subject, they’re more enthusiastic about it – I noticed an increased motivation to learn following I’m a Scientist.”

What else did students gain?

Asking questions to the scientists allowed Emily’s students to “develop essential literacy and communication skills, particularly in the live chat where they have to consider how to engage in a group conversation” whilst “researching the scientists helped them learn how to find information online.”

Emily also commented on how the activity is good for students’ health and wellbeing, by using the internet chats as a relevant educational tool “students like communicating in this way online and this activity helps promote positive online communication and staying safe online, rather than fighting against social media and similar technology in school.”

What would you say to a teacher who is hesitant to take part?

“Give it a go – it’s amazing and you don’t realise the full impact before you take part but afterwards, you realise how hugely beneficial it is, especially for students in rural communities. The whole process has knock on effects for your science teaching as students are more engaged. It’s very stimulating for science and every pupil should have access to it.”


Distant (under-served) schools are given priority places in I’m a Scientist. To support your students in exploring a range of STEM careers with I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest here: imascientist.org.uk/teachers or contact katie@mangorol.la for more information.

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).


 

Posted on April 6, 2018 modkatie in Case Study, Evaluation, News, Science Capital, Teachers, Widening Participation | Comments Off on Providing STEM opportunities for distant schools

Broadening horizons for students in a deprived area

“It was a really easy project to engage with for both children and teachers; it only took me about 30 minutes to prepare for all 3 lessons. I was pleasantly surprised with just how excited students were to get responses from serious adults about their work and the adults’ interests.” – Vicky Heslop, Year 6 teacher


A junior school that meets our widening participation criteria took part in the Climate Zone of I’m a Scientist for the first time in March 2018 with their three Year 6 classes. The activity broadened student aspirations, improved enquiry skills and challenged their perceptions of scientists.

Why apply for I’m a Scientist?

The school is in a small town with low levels of aspiration and social mobility where very few young people go on to higher education. 47.5% of students at the school qualify for Pupil Premium funding and the proportion of free school meals eligible students is over twice the national average.

Teachers were finding it difficult to promote working scientifically skills and to support students in developing an enquiring attitude within the curriculum. “We wanted to provide a broader experience of what science is and to increase student aspirations,” says Vicky.

What did students do?

The activity was spread across 3 lessons on different days which Vicky felt was “particularly good for the anxious students in Year 6, allowing them to ‘take a break’ from SATs preparations with something that was still a valuable use of time.” Students started by considering how to judge the scientists, then got to know them using their profiles and asking questions on the site. The final lesson involved an online chat where students typed their questions and responses to scientists online in real time. “Connecting with the scientists online provided an opportunity to have positive social contact with adults in roles they wouldn’t normally have contact with,” observed Vicky.

Did it work?

Vicky told us science has become more relevant and attainable for students and how their aspirations have broadened to include science – “After the live chat, students were telling me how they’d like to become scientists.”

Students’ perceptions of scientists have changed as a result of taking part – “I thought scientists were boring but now I think they’re AWESOME!” – Year 6 student

What else did students gain?

“Students developed oracy skills,” says Vicky “and the ability to ask appropriate questions.” Vicky also explained how the school has had issues with inappropriate use of instant messaging and how I’m a Scientist was “a great way to demonstrate a positive use of this technology,” helping students learn appropriate online etiquette.

When asked if she’ll take part next year, Vicky says “I hope to and I’ll be telling the other teachers about the activity as it’s such a good one for our students.”


If you’d like to broaden your students’ aspirations with I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest here: imascientist.org.uk/teachers

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).

 

Posted on March 27, 2018 modkatie in Case Study, Evaluation, Teachers, Widening Participation | Comments Off on Broadening horizons for students in a deprived area

Working with I’m a Scientist to produce STEM engagement for your discipline


After psychologist Sam Smith took part in I’m a Scientist, we worked with him to secure funding from the British Psychological Society for 3 more zones. As a result, more than 1,100 students across the UK were able to connect with psychologists in 2017.

Why work together

Sam believes public engagement is essential for a modern researcher. “It’s in my promotion criteria”, he says, “and you have to write about it when applying for research grants”. However, he thought that it was often hard to evidence the full impact of outreach and felt that, despite the popularity of the subject at schools, real psychologists aren’t visible to students. “When I was at school I had to make the effort to find people to email myself!”.

For our part, although we’re keen to have a diverse range of scientists participating in I’m a Scientist, many funding schemes of Learned Societies and professional organisations are open only to members. This is a problem for us.

Helping each other out

When Sam received his zone report, packed with data, charts and examples evidencing his engagement, it sparked the idea: “I thought, here is something that’s tangible”, he says, “A lot of applied psychology is really interesting, this would make it easier for students to find out what it’s really like”.

We collaborated with Sam on an application for the British Psychological Society (BPS)’s public engagement scheme, open only to members like himself. His expertise proved invaluable, for example when deciding the themes for the zones. Sam also enjoyed the process. “It was the easiest grant application process I’ve done,” he says, “and it was interesting to see things from the perspective of professional public engagers”.

Once the funding was in place the collaboration continued. From zone logo design to researching promotion channels for reaching psychologists, Sam’s feedback was valuable at every stage of developing the zones.

Real results

The outcomes from the three psychology zones speak for themselves. “The sheer volume of pupils who were interested and engaged demonstrates how useful this can be in reaching a wide range of children and young adults from across the country”, says Sam.

BPS were equally pleased: “The Society sponsored the zones as part of our work bringing evidence-based psychology to a wider public.” says Lisa Morrison-Coulthard, the Society’s lead policy adviser, “We are delighted with the findings of these evaluations.”

From our side, working on an application and the development of zones with a former participant like Sam has helped us to see new aspects of the project and come up with better ways of talking about it.

Doing more in partnership

Thanks to this success, the BPS recently agreed to annual support for psychology zones. We’re continuing to work with Sam to gain backing for regular psychology zones and adding new features. “There’s huge potential in the volume of data generated by the event to be used for research into students perceptions and attitudes”, says Sam. “Incorporating a research element into future plans could help provide even more value to the psychology community”.

Have you been involved with a I’m a Scientist or I’m an Engineer event? Feel inspired by Sam’s story to do the same for your discipline? Get in touch with shane@mangorol.la to start a conversation.

Whether support comes from a learned society or professional organisation of which you are a member, or your institution or employer, we’d love to hear your ideas.

Posted on March 22, 2018 modantony in Case Study, Event News, News | Comments Off on Working with I’m a Scientist to produce STEM engagement for your discipline

Widening Participation School case study

In our experience, the longer it takes for a scientist or engineer to reach a school, the less likely those students are to have visits. We’ve done some research that suggests schools more than 30 minutes travel time are less likely to receive visits.

We also think looking at Widening Participation schools is useful to understand the variety of schools we have wanting to take part.

A school that met both our under-served and widening participation definitions took part in the Organs Zone, March 2017.

Based in one of the most rural counties in England, 23.5% of students are eligible for free school meals, and the driving time to the local HEI is over an hour. They have participated in I’m a Scientist once before.

Event participation

Two classes took part in March 2017; one year 10 and one year 11. Both classes were in the Organs Zone, a themed zone funded by Wellcome.

Schools data

62 students were active in the event, using ASK, CHAT or VOTE at least once. On average students asked 14 lines of live chat, with one student accounting for 75 lines. 54 questions were approved through ASK.

Live chats

Keywords from the two live chats. Size of the word represents its popularity.

 

ASK questions

Students can ask anything that want. Looking at the types of question asked is a great way to see what students were interested in talking to the scientists about. How science works, which includes the process, motivations and ethics behind science was the most popular topic of questions. We’ve looked at the percentage of questions in each category, and compared the specific school with a wider range of questions asked in the events. 

Questions asked by the students include:
What’s the fanciest piece of kit you’ve used?
What do you think you will be able to do with your research?
Is it possible in the future to two people to have the same DNA and they would think speak and look the same
How do you think the cells are connected? Is it not just electrical signals between?
what made you want to take biology into the real world and go into more depth into the human body
Have you discovered any groundbreaking results?
if you can change 3 thing about the world what would they be

What counts as a WP schools?
As there is no set definition of what makes a school a widening participation school, we use the following.

A school will be classed as WP if:

  • an above average number of students are eligible for free school meals. Currently schools with more than 14% free school meals. (England, Wales and NI)
  • more than 20% of its pupils live in the 20% most deprived datazones (Scotland)

 

 

Posted on December 15, 2017 modnaomi in Case Study, News, Widening Participation | Comments Off on Widening Participation School case study

Enquiry Zone: Students as scientists

Some say there are no new ideas, just new interpretations of old ideas: primary school students designed the Blackawton Bees paper with the help of a parent scientist; citizen science runs online at scale with Galaxy Zoo; the BBC, with Terrific Scientific, help primary schools conduct their experiments.

There is an idea missing in this panoply: School students helping to design and run a new experiment at scale.

In March 2017 we ran the Wellcome funded Enquiry Zone, a zone created with one fundamental question: Could we use an I’m a Scientist zone to give hundreds of school students the chance to help design an experiment, which they could then carry out themselves?

Yes, we could. And what’s more, it’s clear there is value in giving students input at all stages of the project. It gives students ownership over research, and they gain real insight into how science works.

What happened

1. Students questioned five scientists, and chose the project they wanted to carry forward

Ideas for projects covered research on lung capacity, health apps for smart phones, animal behaviour, and nutrition. Students asked questions about the projects, and discussed their own advice and suggestions with the scientists. After all, the students were the experts on what would work in their schools.

In both CHAT and ASK, the scientists research project ideas were of keen interest, with “project” being a common topic for discussion in live chats, and in ASK, there were many more questions about “research ideas” than on any other topic.

Word cloud showing popular topics in live chats in the Enquiry Zone. Read the full zone report here, or click the image [PDF]

The winning project was that of UCL researcher, Sallie Baxendale: Does what you know about someone influence how attractive you think they are?

The class had done a lot of work in March, discussing the different proposed plans, and they were happy when Sallie won because the nature and biology ideas were similar to things they had already done.

— Jenn, Teacher at Doonfoot Primary School, Ayrshire

2. Students helped design the final experiment

Students and teachers reviewed the draft experiment plans and fed back ideas. One teacher reported that their school is “big on school values of fairness, respect, equality.”  The students discussed the ethics of getting a fellow pupil to judge someone on their appearance. To address this they suggested holding an assembly to explain the project to their classmates and research subjects, after working out the results for their school. This suggestion was then incorporated into the final lesson plans for all schools.

They liked the interaction with the other classes and the responsibility, they liked coming up with stories, they loved the creative bit, it wasn’t just them being told this is how you do it, they had independence.

— Sue Grubic, Teacher at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Lincolnshire

In the experiment, the student scientists came up with some brilliant stories; nice things such as the person they were judging was a very thoughtful friend, someone who always eats lunch with new students and and makes sure they are not lonely, or someone who used her pocket money to pay the vets bills for an abandoned puppy. Suggestions of ‘not nice’ traits included kicking over a chair and swearing at the teacher, bullying, and picking her nose and eating it.

Interestingly all of the bad stories had examples of [the subject] losing her temper and being violent or destructive. This is clearly something that all of the children recognised as something that is unattractive in someone.

— Sallie

3. Three schools took part in the research stage

Often, more complex citizen science projects such as Enquiry Zone take place within one school. Here, the online factor allowed feedback and results to be collated from multiple schools across the UK — Doonfoot Primary School in Ayrshire, Irchester Community Primary School in Northamptonshire, and St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Lincolnshire all sent in their results.

We would have liked to see more schools take part after the first Zone in March; more registered interest but ultimately did not take part in the experiment. In future we will look for ways to increase this uptake.

4. 138 students conducted the experiment, interviewing 236 of their classmates

One school reported that the project gave them lots of opportunities to discuss the ethics of research, as well as discussions around whether people should do things because an adult in authority told them to. The senior management team at the school have seen the experiment and results and they planned to use it this year with the whole school as a topic to discuss making judgments on people.

The children were really enthusiastic about it, they felt it was a special experience … It felt real to them, It was something we would never normally do.

— Jenn, Teacher at Doonfoot Primary School, Ayrshire

One student said:

Its inspired me to know that I could be a scientist and do this.

Tweet by Tracy Tyrrell, teacher at Irchester Community Primary School, Northamptonshire

5. The results were significant and in part surprising — The research will be submitted for publication

Sallie and the students discovered that when you hear something nice about someone else it doesn’t really change how you think they look. However, hearing about negative traits does influence the judgement of the person’s looks. Interestingly, they showed that the stories with the most negative impact were those with a “yuk factor”.

Ratings of attractiveness after no information, after hearing good things, and after hearing bad things. Full results

The results were written up and send back to the teachers and students. See the results here.

Sallie is now finalising the manuscript of her report and plans to have it submitted to a journal in the next few weeks.

If you have an idea for a project you would like to run with us — citizen science or otherwise — get in touch! Leave a comment below, or email Shane at shane@mangorol.la.

Posted on November 23, 2017 Moderator - Josh in Case Study, News | Comments Off on Enquiry Zone: Students as scientists

I’m a Scientist and STFC

STFCThe Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) first funded I’m a Scientist zones in November 2011 when it supported both the Subatomic Zone and the Zinc Zone. In March 2012 it funded the Electromagnetic Zone, and it supported three more I’m a Scientist zones and one I’m an Engineer zone in our June 2013 event.

Why STFC funds us

Chris Woolford, STFC Science in Society Office Manager, talks about why STFC continues to fund I’m a Scientist, and in particular what they will gain from their most recently announced funding:

The IAS and IEng programmes reach out to a wide audience, some of whom may be a new audience to science, engage them with cutting edge STFC science & technology and could inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

With this continued funding from STFC (via our Public Engagement Large Awards Scheme), I’m a Scientist and I’m and Engineer Get me out of here will create 27 STFC zones with 135 STFC facility users and will engage with 9,000 secondary school pupils across the UK. These pupils will be able to interact with scientists working on world leading facilities such as the Central Laser Facility, which carries out its work using the world’s most powerful, most intense and fastest lasers, the Diamond Light Source where beams of light are used to study solids, liquids and gasses to gain information on their atomic & molecular composition and ISIS, which uses neutron and muon particles to reveal the link between the invisible world of atoms and the world of everyday life.”

Cutting edge research topics

STFC-funded zone scientists have included those working with lasers, image is an AVLIS laser by LeastCommonAncestor for Wikimedia

STFC-funded zone scientists have included those working with lasers, image is an AVLIS laser by LeastCommonAncestor for Wikimedia

Since 2011, 35 STFC-funded zone scientists, from accelerator physicists to software scientists, have given nearly 4,000 answers to over 1,500 student questions. The range of questions asked is huge, from could we sleep without eyelids? to what shape are raindrops? Nanobites, gravity and evolution have all been covered, alongside can we cryogenically freeze someone then bring them back to life again? and questions on the Earth’s oxygen supply and whether you can survive with only half a brain.

There’s been talk of inventions, discoveries and challenging stereotypes, alongside lots of zone-specific science questions, including: How fast can lava get when spurting from a volcano? Are crystals living organisms? and What’s the strongest material? 

STFC has recently committed to supporting both I’m a Scientist and I’m an Engineer zones until March 2016, enabling even more students to learn about cutting edge topics from top scientists.

STFC-funded zones to date

November 2011 – Subatomic Zone and Zinc Zone

March 2012 – Electromagnetic Zone (evaluation)

June 2013 – Crystallography Zone (evaluation), Extreme Speed Zone (evaluation), New Materials Zone (evaluation) and Detection Zone (evaluation)

Future funding

We’re looking forward to continuing to work with STFC so students can learn from scientists working at their world-leading facilities. If you think your organisation would benefit from connecting scientists directly with students all over the country too, please get in contact with us: email shane@gallomanor.com or phone 01225 326892.

Posted on August 9, 2013 in Case Study | Comments Off on I’m a Scientist and STFC

I’m a Scientist and RCUK

logoResearch Councils UK (RCUK) first funded an I’m a Scientist zone in June 2011 when its Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme supported the Healthy Ageing Zone. In March 2012 the RCUK Energy programme funded the Energy Zone, and in March 2013 the RCUK Digital Economy programme supported the Digital Zone.

Why RCUK funds us

Ruth Williams, Senior Policy Manager for Public Engagement with Research at RCUK, explains why RCUK chooses to continue funding zones in I’m a Scientist:

RCUK has provided funding for I’m a Scientist in order to provide RCUK researchers with a platform to engage young people in their research and develop transferrable skills such as communication. A key aim for RCUK is to encourage engagement between young people and researchers to inspire, enthuse and motivate the next generation of researchers and enable more young people to act as informed citizens. I’m a Scientist gives young people a flavour of life as a researcher and engages them with some of the cutting-edge research funded by RCUK in areas such as healthy ageing, energy, digital economy, space and food science.”

Inspiring the next generation

From DNA damage in the Healthy Ageing Zone to computer games in the Digital Zone, image by Fæ for Wikimedia

Gaming questions were popular in the Digital Zone, while DNA damage was a hot topic in the Healthy Ageing Zone, image by Fæ for Wikimedia

A zone a year since 2011 means that RCUK funding has so far brought 15 scientists together with well over 600 students. The scientists, including a statistical geneticist, professor of organic chemistry, digital research engineer and senior lecturer in computer science, to name but a few, have given in excess of 1,400 answers to over 1,000 student questions.

Specific topics covered include the effects of video games on social skills, the generation of energy using nuclear fusion, and the science of ageing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Personal questions to the scientists and a whole range of broader science questions on everything from animals to space have allowed students to discover just what it means to be a scientist. 

RCUK-funded zones to date

June 2011 – Healthy Ageing Zone

March 2012 – Energy Zone (evaluation)

March 2013 – Digital Zone (evaluation)

Future funding

We hope to continue working with RCUK to inspire the next generation of scientists and to inform future citizens. If bringing students and scientists together is something that could benefit your organisation, please get in contact with us: email shane@gallomanor.com or phone 01225 326892.

Posted on May 8, 2013 in Case Study | Comments Off on I’m a Scientist and RCUK