Let’s start Celebrating Scientists
We know that representation matters and often if children can’t see it, they can’t be it. Role models are vital if we want more children to consider STEM careers. Here at Explorify, we have created a new science topic called ‘Celebrating Scientists’ providing teachers with easy-to-use resources which relate the work of scientists to the primary science curriculum.
Kiara Nirghin (age 22), addressing the United Nations in New York on International Women's Day, 2019. Image credit: UN Women via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Without role models, many children (and adults) picture scientists as ‘mad professors with wild hair’ and engineers as ‘men in high visibility jackets and hard hats.’ Exploring the work of real scientists and engineers broadens this view. STEM professionals are diverse, in terms of their skills and interests, as well as what they look like. They showcase what careers in STEM might look like and how the science knowledge and skills that children are developing in school are directly related to STEM jobs.
We now have a new activity type designed to introduce children to important STEM professionals by asking the question, ‘Who is…?’ In true Explorify style, we have made this question accessible to all by providing photographic clues. Each activity links to a range of videos in the ‘Watch’ section with at least one featuring the scientist. We have also partnered with the Royal Society and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to create some new What’s Going On? activities based on STEM professionals.
Annual celebration days in 2023
We know that linking scientists to the science curriculum helps make the learning relevant to children. However, there are also opportunities throughout the year to focus on STEM professionals with National and International days. Here’s our introduction to some of these:
For a flying start, join in with RSPB's annual Big Schools' Birdwatch (27th-29th January, 2023). Who is Mya-Rose Craig? introduces children to Mya-Rose, a young scientist. Her work as an ornithologist, author and environmentalist links well with topics on animals, and habitats.
The International Day of Women & Girls In Science (11th February, 2023) is organised by the United Nations and this year focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals. Meanwhile, International Women’s Day (8th March 2023) has the campaign theme ‘embrace equity’. Women still form only a minority of the people working in STEM and both special days could be the perfect opportunity to inspire the girls in your school. Who is Kiara Nirghin? features another young scientist who has invented a biodegradable super absorbent polymer can protect crops during periods of drought. Meanwhile, Who is Maggie Aderin-Pocock? encourages children of all ages to make the most of the longer winter nights and links to Maggie’s Top Tips for Stargazing on CBeebies.
British Science Week’s (10th-19th March, 2023) theme this year is connections. Find out about the engineer who created the mobile phone network in Nigeria with Who is Chi Onwurah? This links brilliantly with the ‘Noisy Neighbours’ string telephone activity from British Science Week’s primary pack. Many scientists in the past have made connections that we now take for granted. Learn more with Who is Mary Anning? and Who is Florence Nightingale?
2023 is set to be an important year for space missions as shown in this edition of Newsround. On National Space Day (5th May, 2023) or during Space Week (October 4th-10th, 2023), find out about the achievements of a hidden figure with Who is Katherine Johnson?
For World Environment Day (June 5th, 2023), we have the perfect activities to inspire your class. Who is Jane Goodall? and Who is David Attenborough? celebrate two pioneers in conservation.
Meanwhile, during Insect Week (19th-25th June, 2023) children could be encouraged to go minibeast hunting or even take part in the Great Bug Hunt. The activity Who is Adam Hart? provides a glimpse into the life of an entomologist. Meanwhile, Who is Maria Sibylla Merian? reveals how we first learnt about the lifecycles of insects.
October every year brings us Black History Month and we have a dedicated blog packed with recommended Explorify activities including What’s Going On? films focused on leading scientists from diverse backgrounds.
In November, the Royal Society of Chemistry brings us Chemistry week. With What’s Going On? Life-saving chemistry we learn about the little-known and supremely talented chemist, Alice Ball, who defied conventions and discovered a cure for leprosy. In Who is Marie Curie? we learn about what it took to be the first women to receive a Nobel Prize for Science.
The STEM calendar is packed with many more opportunities to celebrate scientists and we plan to create lots more resources in this section - so keep your eyes peeled!
Remember, there are short slide shows about other diverse scientists working in a range of different contexts, available from the PSTT resource, A Scientist Just Like Me. The Primary Career Tool, from NUSTEM provides a useful database linking STEM jobs to every National Curriculum topic and the Royal Society of Chemistry have resources linking STEM careers to skills. Finally, inviting scientists and engineers to visit your school might be easier to arrange than you think. Try contacting STEM learning ambassadors and get that inspiring in-person experience.