Sparking science confidence in children in a post-COVID world

Group of school kids listening to female teacher showing plasma ball during physics lesson

Everyone has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic but, after the better part of a year of home schooling, our young people have been particularly affected.

It is with this in mind that the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has teamed up with the Reading Agency charity.

They aim to ensure those young people most affected by the pandemic get the resources they need to foster their engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Developing confidence in STEM

The pilot project, delivered by the Reading Agency and supported by funding and educational resources from STFC, will run from 2021 to 2023 and will aim to encourage engagement in STEM subjects.

It is hoped that the project will help to develop confidence in the STEM subjects among families living in some of the most deprived communities in the country. This is a demographic with traditionally low engagement in these subjects.

The project will be supported by 11 service partners in England who will distribute reading materials and activity packs to the families.

The service partners will work together with:

  • local youth organisations
  • schools
  • social care partners.

They will develop activities designed to boost confidence in the sciences for young people aged 14 to 18.

New opportunities to learn

As well as being engaged themselves, the 100+ students will be given their own roles as ‘creative producers’.

With the help of library staff and youth workers, they will be tasked with developing new reading and science activities for families with younger children aged four to 11.

COVID restrictions allowing, this development will take place in the library buildings or remotely via the magic of video conferencing.

To help develop and deliver the programme, the Reading Agency will also work closely with publishers and specialist science organisations.

Science education experts at the University of Northumbria have assisted with development of the STEM reading materials and activities as well as contributing to the programme as a whole.

Inspiring young people

The project’s official partner, the British Science Association, will recognise the children’s achievements through its Crest Awards. The scheme is for STEM project work that inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers.

Other organisations contributing content include:

  • Dorling Kindersley
  • Otter Barry
  • Raintree
  • STFC.

The project has been supported with:

  • £289,000 from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants programme
  • £232,000 from STFC.

Boosting life chances

Reading Agency CEO, Karen Napier, said:

There has never been a more important time to use reading and the library network to reach out to families and young people, and provide them with new opportunities to learn, have fun and build confidence that can boost their life chances.

Sue Williamson, director for libraries at Arts Council England, adds that the project will:

Ensure that children and young people across the country will have the opportunity to develop that curiosity and playfulness which will support learning, help to give young people the skills and the confidence to experiment in this field and encourage a creative approach to science and technology.

Jenni Chambers, head of public engagement and skills, at STFC added:

At STFC we know that science and technology is exciting, accessible, and leads to many types of rewarding work. By exploring the role that reading can play in engaging young people, children and families in STEM, Reading Sparks aims to make a contribution to reducing the numbers of children who feel that science and technology is not for them.

Top image:  Credit: izusek/GettyImages

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