Growing STEM

Community outreach for parents and children

Aims

The project’s aim was to introduce and promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects) to parents and children from a variety of backgrounds through engaging interactive sessions held at family centres and activities to do at home. It aimed to engage children at an early age in STEM subjects, to get parents and children to learn together, and for young parents/carers who felt unable to access higher education to re-explore their career options and meet other parents who had gone back to study after having children.

METHODOLOGY

A partnership between SLN, the University of Chichester and West Sussex County Council, Growing STEM worked with several family centres along the coast. It offered interactive sessions for children aged three to 10 and their young parents/carers, which included practical activities and storytelling, teaching the children the basics of how plants grow and survive.

While the children were having fun learning, their parents/carers were able to talk to coordinators, and parents who had returned to studying after having children, about continuing higher education at the university. These parent ambassadors shared their stories to help the others explore the concept of further education as a parent, to challenge negative assumptions about HE, and to enable them to understand that it’s never too late to commit to learning.

Parents/carers also watched a demo on how to make a lava lamp and terrarium, and were given all the necessary materials and instructions to make these at home with their children. A booklet with several other STEM activities was also provided.

IMPACT

The project was very well received by the parents attending, family centre staff and the children, who enjoyed taking part in the activities. The project enabled university staff to meet parents/carers from a range of different backgrounds who they might not otherwise have reached.

After attending the sessions, parents/carers said they had a clearer understanding of what STEM was, what the university has to offer them and the possible routes they could take to access further education.

The sessions enabled children and parents to network with other local families, and to learn what the family centres offered, encouraging them to access the centres in the future. The centres hosting the events are now able to host similar activities in the future based on these concepts.

KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Engaging children from an early age in STEM paves the way for them to build the skills they need to pursue STEM degrees and career opportunities in the future.
  • The children learned so much more by working with their parents, and seeing their mum or dad do experiments at home had a massive impact on their learning and development.
  • Undertaking STEM activities with their children at home helped parents/carers build their confidence and encouraged them to explore the possibility of further education for themselves.   
  • Through the sessions, university staff were able to identify potential students, develop a link with them, build on positive learning experiences, promote STEM and create a platform for testing out future STEM activities.

TALKING POINTS

The importance of introducing STEM to younger children and embedding learning across the whole family.

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PROJECT SUMMARY

Context

STEM education is a priority nationally. The demand for qualified STEM professionals is high, but the supply of workers to fill these positions is low, disproportionately so among students from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, in the UK, only 15% of scientists come from working-class households. (Nature, September 2016)  

Duration

February 2018 to September 2018

Partners

University of Chichester and West Sussex County Council

Funding source

Uni Connect (Innovation Fund)