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Ep 4 – Shooting for the Moon with the next generation: Fran Long of Sublime STEM

The teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – STEM – is possibly *the* hot topic in education at the moment. It’s no exaggeration to say that we need hundreds of thousands of new scientists and engineers in the coming years, but in a time of huge educational challenges, how exactly do you inspire and ‘hook’ young children on science, and give them the hunger and resilience to succeed in STEM subjects for the long term?

(Listen now on SoundCloudiTunesStitcher) – for a comprehensive set of show notes, including links, analysis and organisation contact, consider becoming a supporter through Patreon – or email us for more details)

Even the government’s own figures are stark: we need 20,000 more engineering graduates every year just to replace those retiring from the profession. But the challenges in STEM teaching are not just getting more students to pick subjects to study at university: how do you get school pupils to stay the course in secondary school, where do we get the resources from, and what exactly should children be doing not just to learn about STEM but see themselves as engineers and scientists in the future?

To begin to get some answers, we had an inspirational chat with Fran Long of Sublime STEM, educator and Primary Science Specialist. Her passion and enthusiasm for getting primary school children hooked on science is all the more remarkable considering the fact that she struggled with science herself when at school.

Fran’s path into STEM teaching started in perhaps the last place you might have thought: working out how to boost literacy and ‘reading for pleasure’ amongst primary age children (another urgent concern in schools). Fran adopted a very scientific approach to the problem, trying different things, and getting hard data to provide evidence of what worked.

This approached grew into ‘start local’ philosophy of STEM teaching, in which she reached out to everyone from school parents to global companies, and in the process turned dry curriculum science topics into interactive spectacles to wow young people.

Earlier this year, her hard work paid off: Fran won the UK’s Primary Science Teacher Award.

This episode of Stories from Science is both eye-opening and contains a lot of pieces to the STEM puzzle.  We discover why children need to get hooked on science by age 10, why family involvement is crucial and why current methods of encouraging girls into STEM might be counter-productive.

We explore why you need good storytellers in science, and we look at the networks and organisations that exist right now to help teachers and parents inspire children in science. Above all we link literacy to science in a way that would make CP Snow proud.

The interview lasts about 45 minutes, which is no time at all for all the topics we touched upon. But with Fran starting a new role with the Natural History Museum in Oxford we’re sure to be inviting her back for a follow-up…

(Listen now on SoundCloudiTunesStitcher)

We have produced a comprehensive set of show notes, including links, analysis and organisation contacts. Members of the Stories from Science community automatically get access to these by becoming a supporter through Patreon – or email us for more details.

If you enjoyed this and other episodes, please consider rating us on SoundCloudiTunes or Stitcher. But please become a supporter through our Patreon page!

2 Comments

  1. Congratulations Fran, “primary science specialist” is spot on. We have been privileged to work with Fran at different Science events offering unique Virtual Reality experiences to immerse students in a variety of scientific themes using Google Expeditions and VR headsets. We are looking forward to our continued collaboration in Fran’s future projects as they are always outstanding. This might offer a better visual idea of how VR can enhance the scientific learning experience for students, and even teachers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1CkSNUJucg&t=18s I really enjoyed this interview, as educators, we really do need to go the extra mile for our students. Thanks again.

    • Thanks Neil – that’s a lovely comment, and also a fabulous video (although as I saw ‘Ready Player One’ at the weekend the vision of all those kids with VR headsets on was a bit unnerving!).

      Blockchain and AI might be the current hot fads in tech, but I pretty much advise everyone to look at how they can begin to use VR in business, education or academia, particularly for complex engineering challenges and education. VR is well along the ‘slope of enlightenment’ in the annual Gartner Hype Cycle and now that the tech is mature enough to start focusing on applications, the time is right for a whole slew of applications to emerge.

      Thanks again for your positive comment – and hope you continue to enjoy future editions of the podcast 🙂

      Mark

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