Inspiring young people through STEM this summer

Fun, hands-on activities suitable for young people and their families this summer; tasks that encourage creativity and independent thinking while giving students the freedom they need to discover and learn

Lots of schools and informal education providers might have been expected to run activities and programmes outside of the classroom this summer, which is a huge undertaking. Not only are many students fatigued and unenthused academically following a year of online-offline schooling, but teachers are also overworked and deserving of a break.

The pandemic has both hindered and boosted science education. Inspirational vaccine scientists like Professor Sarah Gilbert, Dr Hamilton Bennett and Dr Kizzmekia Corbett have helped to protect the world with their breakthroughs, motivating a new generation of scientists – and girls particularly. On the other hand, science classrooms and labs have faced ongoing closures and teachers have battled skyrocketing absences, making practical experiments and engaging lessons a challenge.

This summer, we can reignite a passion for science learning, and practical CREST Award projects are a great place to start. Here are just some of the project ideas that you can offer young people during the remainder of the school break, to help them get ready for the new September term.

Creative projects

Creativity in science is important because it brings the subject to life. When students explore subjects creatively, they are more likely to develop a personal connection with their learning, remember concepts and remain engaged.

There are many free and accessible CREST Award activities that young scientists of all ages and abilities can undertake this summer to nurture their creativity. Why not, for example, encourage them to create their own animation by building a replica of Pierre Desvignes’s kinetoscope?

This task is particularly brilliant because it can be combined with any interest a student has. Once a student creates their animation machine, they can use it to illustrate anything from their love of dancing or music to their favourite Olympic sports!

Alternatively, students interested in the outdoors might want to spend time investigating why and how plants grow. The investigation process will validate their abilities, boost their confidence and help them make the most of their time in nature – something many of us have been craving post-lockdowns.

These creative projects will ensure science learning remains fun this summer, which is so crucial after the disruption of the past year. They will help students to learn in ways that excite and enthuse them, while building on their wider interests.

Helpful, everyday science discovery

Helpful, everyday science experiments are powerful because they encourage exploration and help students place their science learning in a real-world context.

For example, this summer, young scientists might want to create their own toothpaste. Finding the perfect concoction will take time and skill, but the process will build resilience and confidence and strengthen a personal connection with science.

Once students have created their toothpaste, they can reflect on what could be tweaked to perfect their recipe, how it compares to shop-bought products and how challenging they found the process. This reflection will help them to learn from their experiences and encourage long-term exploration which furthers learning.

Young people can also connect this challenge to their wider passions. For example, if they’re interested in the environment, they might want to reflect on the environmental impact of plastic toothpaste tubes. As an extension activity, students might then want to explore alternative packaging and consider how sustainable making your own toothpaste may be. They might also want to experiment with the creation of toothpaste tablets in their environmental quest.

The endless possibilities are an effective way to help students connect science with everyday applications. Each time the toothpaste creator uses their toothpaste, they might be reminded of how science impacts their daily life and feel more motivated to continue studying and investigating STEM subjects.

Food-related fun

Mealtime can also become science time. Food-related science experiments are fantastic for the summer holidays because they encourage experimentation, improve food education, help connect science with something positive and rewarding and take the pressure off parents when it comes to preparing meals.

For example, students might want to design and create a waste-free lunch. This challenge is perfect for students interested in the environment as it encourages them to find recycled or re-usable packaging for their lunches. To complete the project, they need to consider the scientific composition of materials and think critically about how useful they are in relation to their environmental impact.

As an extension task, students might want to get creative by producing a re-usable material of their own. There are a variety of materials they can make and use, including wax cloth cling film. They can start using this material right away and, from September, for their own school lunches!

There are many other food-related activities that students can embark on this summer. These include investigations into the science behind dehydration, the effects of additives on bread, what makes the perfect cup of tea or how to make the crispiest crisps.

Get creative and curious

There are endless ways that families, educators and students can revitalise STEM learning this summer and set up young scientists next term. Whatever the topic, CREST Award projects can be enjoyed by students of all ages and abilities, and many require only a few materials or equipment that can be found around the home. Students can become scientific investigators using items that are already at their fingertips!

We can encourage all young people to get creative with and curious about science, and to discover how central the subject is to their everyday lives.

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