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By Micol Molinari on

Highlighting STEM skills and non-academic careers

In February we delivered a day of activities, as part of the K+ Kings Widening Participation Programme, in the Science Museum, London, for a group of 40 young people aged 16-18. Here we share the day's potential to highlight STEM skills and careers.

Illustration of boy holding map which shows the parts of life that STEM relates to e.g. beauty, food and drink, fashion, law, health, engineering.The day was set up to give young people a chance to hear about, and understand, more about the varied roles and creative outputs of the teams who make the Science Museum what it is.

Whilst many of the young people attending were already considering studying STEM at university, they hadn’t necessarily recognised how science could be useful for work outside of academia, or the diversity of options that could be open to them.

We have run the day for a few years, but we are always looking to improve the day to make it as useful and valuable for the young people involved.

So, how did we tweak the delivery of the day using feedback we had, and using our trusty science engagement reflection points?

  • We ensured we properly introduced ourselves, including information about our backgrounds and experience with STEM. We discussed the work we do at the museum and about the different skills that we use every day. We served as examples of how studying science, or having a passion for it, can open up careers beyond academia.
  • Front cover of the Science Museum Great Object Hunt: Explorer.We showcased two different resources, the Great Object Hunt, and the free digital app, Treasure Hunters. These resources help people orientate themselves in the museum and allow them to follow their own curiosity through open-ended challenges. As well as trying out these activities, the group got to find out more about the thinking and teams involved in developing them. We highlighted the many people involved in creating both resources, and how the activities can empower visitors to feel more comfortable in the museum and confidently take ownership of their museum experience.
  • This year, we increased the number of staff participating in the careers speed networking session and made the session a little longer. This meant the young people got to meet more people working at the museum and had more time to ask questions.
  • Before they visited Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery, we asked the young people to observe the sort of interactions the Explainers were having with visitors, or to try and speak with an Explainer directly. Explainers are facilitators in the gallery and getting the young people to do this task primed them for a session on facilitation skills. It got them thinking about what makes a good facilitator and the role facilitation plays in STEM-related conversations.
  • We included a session on facilitation skills, after the group had visited Wonderlab and been to see a science show. The facilitation skills session used our mystery objects activity to help the young people practice their questioning skills. We wanted to encourage dialogue, promoting STEM talk, framing this as useful for academic scientific enquiry as well as for interactions with the everyday world.

There were a lot of useful reflections and feedback at the end of the day,  the facilitation skills session was unanimously appreciated. The note, “the facilitator is encouraged to think not just of the answer, but how to get there”, really embodies the kind of thinking we hoped the activity would stimulate. It showed an awareness that the journey to understanding something, with all the personal links you might be able to make to it, is as important to the conclusion you come to about it.

Could the day still be improved? Of course. People said they wanted even more time for the speed networking, and opportunities to explore more of the museum. But, using the reflection points to inform our thinking helped us think in practical terms about what the participants were coming away with. We hope it helped strengthen their relationship with STEM, more than just boosting their enjoyment or factual knowledge of it.

If you are developing or delivering a STEM engagement experience our reflection points are a great place to start.

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