HOW TO TEACH THE FUTURE
“Without climate education, I don’t see the value in going to school at all,” says Eleanor Andrade May, a quantitative social science student at the University of Sheffield (p 4). This is a disconcerting statement. When students are unable to see the connection between their studies and their future, it suggests a deep flaw in our education system. Fundamentally, we are failing our young people.
But young people are taking action. Eleanor is part of Teach the Future, a youth-led campaign that aims to repurpose the UK’s entire education system around the climate emergency, and this action makes for a very positive statement.
Teach the Future’s vision is for broad climate education in the UK. Futurum’s vision is to help students connect the subjects they are learning in school to real-world research projects, all of which aim to solve pressing societal needs. Where there is vision, there is action, and this is how to teach the future.
AN ILLUSTRATION OF INCLUSION
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” This beautifully evocative quote, attributed to the playwright Anton Chekov, has been used by storytellers worldwide to teach budding novelists the concept of ‘show, don’t tell’. The aim of this writing technique is to immerse the reader in the story, drawing them in to the world of the fictional character rather than simply telling them what is happening in the story.
Chidiebere Ibe’s illustration of a Black fetus (p 4), Soapbox Science (p 36) and the Africa Science Buskers Festival (p 68) are all powerful demonstrations of the significance of showing, not telling.
The researchers in this issue come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are communicating their work in a manner that shows students a pathway to rewarding and impactful careers. As Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, founder of Soapbox Science, says, “Scientists come in all shapes and sizes”. Futurum is here to show your students just that!
EVERY CHILD DESERVES A CHAMPION
“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be,” said the late Rita F Pierson, a TED speaker and professional educator who spent her entire life in or around the classroom.
In this issue of Futurum, we feature education champions Keishia Thorpe (p 4) and Matina Razafimahefa (p 40). An English teacher at International High School Langley Park in the US, Keishia has been awarded the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021 for opening up college education for low-income, first generation American, immigrant and refugee students. 23-year-old Matina has set up SAYNA, an online learning and crowdsourcing platform that not only teaches people key IT skills but offers them employment, too.
As Dr Joi Spencer (p 44) says, “I see education as a liberating tool. […] I can train one mathematics teacher who will go on to inspire thousands of young people. That is incredible!”
Between 2010-2018, less than two-thirds (63%) of students aged 15-16 reported having received any careers education and only half had undertaken work experience. This is one of the findings from a report published by academics working on ASPIRES 2, a mixed-methods research project that investigated young people’s science and careers aspirations in England from ages 14 to 19.
High quality careers education is essential for encouraging and maintaining a diversified and flourishing workforce. It is for this very reason that Sir John Holman was commissioned by the Gatsby Foundation to devise a framework for world-class careers guidance in England (p 50). Happily, this framework, known as the Gatsby Benchmarks, is starting to take effect.
Then there is Jack Parsons, the UK’s Chief Youth Officer, who is on a mission to help young people thrive (p 4). He founded The Youth Group, which aims to support young people and connect them with opportunities in the world of work. “With so many opportunities entering our doors every second, there is a huge amount of hope for young people,” he says.
GET INTO SHAPE!
Which word is a verb and a noun, is wonderfully flexible and has the power to steer you towards a rewarding career?
The answer is SHAPE, which stands for Social sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. “SHAPE subjects help shape how we see the world, how we might change it, and how we express ourselves,” says Julia Black, President of the British Academy and one of the architects of the SHAPE campaign. “‘You can shape the future. You can say you’re a shaper or SHAPE person! The word itself seems to be quite inspirational and is giving momentum to our campaign.”
STEM and SHAPE are not opposing forces – they are a collaborative effort, enabling people from a range of fields to solve some of the planet’s greatest challenges together. As artist and environmentalist John Sabraw says, “It’s not just about two disciplines working side by side in a space, it’s about people creating something new from collaborations. Now we’re asking: What is design, what is art, what is data, what is science, and what is the public outreach? It’s all becoming a little blurry and I like it.”
YOU CAN BE WHAT YOU SEE
Positive role models are vital. As children grow older, teachers, friends, peers, people in their local communities and celebrities become increasingly influential – and the wider their circle of influence, the more likely they’ll see themselves reflected in role models who may be BIPOC, female, LGBTQ+ or people with a disability.
Shrouk El-Attar, an LGBTQ+ refugee, belly dancer and one of the UK’s top six young women engineers, says: “Growing up around other people who didn’t feel marginalised or had role models already for them, I could see the difference and how powerful that was for them.”
From a computer scientist using AI for inclusion and social good to an anthropologist advocating the need for Indigenous Knowledge in schools and universities, our researchers are passionate about sharing their work with you, so that students all over the world can be what they see.
STARS IN OUR EYES
Mention the word ‘star’ and some people will think of celebrities and influencers, while others will gaze up into the night sky and wonder at the glittering constellations. What would your students be thinking?
According to Morning Consult, 54% of 13-38* year-olds in the US say they would become an influencer, if they had the opportunity, and an overwhelming 86% are willing to post sponsored content for money. Given these statistics, and the huge numbers of followers that influencers have, it is highly likely that a social media star will be at the forefront of young people’s minds. We want to ensure that young people understand that being a star does not necessarily mean having the greatest number of followers. Being a star is about finding the light that shines within you – finding the subjects and a career path that will give you the most joy, and sharing that joy with others so that the world becomes a better place.
007: LICENCE TO SKILL
Films play a significant role in shaping our perceptions of science and scientists. Take James Bond, for example. It tops all the blockbuster films, including Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. It seems generation after generation cannot get enough of spy-fy – the secret agent, Q, the gadgets and the villainous boffins, whose madness borders on genius.
Over the years, James Bond films have adapted to their time, paying homage to the latest technologies and innovations of the era (nuclear energy, space travel, bioweapons, cybersecurity) and becoming (or attempting to become) more inclusive. And, just as film lovers are fascinated by Q’s latest technical innovations, we are in awe of the researchers who have shared their projects with us in this issue. They are at the forefront of innovation; they are dedicated to equality, diversity and inclusion; and they are on an important and vital mission: to inspire the next generation into STEM, STEAMM and research.
Our researchers are heroic agents of change, too!
How to build a STEAM generation
So many of the researchers we work with mention LEGO. Whether they’re playing it with their children or reminiscing about the sets they played with when they were children, LEGO crops up a lot. Dr Jenny Nash, Head of Education Impact (p4), provides us with a snapshot of LEGO Education’s latest initiatives, designed to help build the next generation of STEAM experts. Ollie Bray, LEGO Foundation’s Tech & Play and Playful Schools Lead (p8), explains the concept of the playful pedagogy, and why playful learning is just as important for secondary and high school students as it is for primary and elementary school pupils.
David Aguilar Amphoux shares his inspirational story about love, loss and living with a disability. He built his first prosthetic arm using LEGO when he was only 9 years old and wants to use his bioengineering skills to help others with disabilities.
Like David, the researchers in this issue are using their knowledge to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. They share their tips and expertise so that a new STEAM generation can follow in their footsteps.
Food for thought, right here…
Food: We all need it to survive; we all use it to celebrate, commiserate and commemorate. Why not let food be the focus of our school curriculum, from which all other subjects – physics, chemistry, social sciences, PSHE – feed?
Dr Christian Nansen argues that food, as an educational denominator, can address societal challenges, elevate levels of empowerment and teach our children everything they need to know about maths, engineering, life sciences – essentially all school subjects and more.
In this issue, we feature 21 research projects that give your students plenty of food for thought. Some of these projects directly relate to food and agriculture; others tackle key societal challenges such as health and wellbeing, and sustainable energy. Above all, the researchers’ passion for STEM and STEAMM education shines through in all 21 of these projects. As Prof Stephen Self says: “You should be prepared to take STEM courses because they essentially underpin many other subjects.”
What happens when geology meets chemistry?
How does interdisciplinary research translate in the classroom? One way to view it is to see it in the context of cross-curricular learning. Even though school curriculums tend to require teachers to teach their subjects in silos, there are lots of benefits to cross-curricular learning: one being that students learn how to see the world holistically.
The research projects in this issue will provide your students with enough inspiration to view the world holistically; to see that some problems need a team of engineers, chemists and psychologists to solve them.
As economist Prof Sayantan Ghosal says in his article (p12), “Try not to get too bogged down in maths – the primary concern behind economics is attempting to understand the world around you.”
Do something amazing. Become a citizen scientist
Without citizen scientists, many research projects wouldn’t get off the ground. Citizen scientists help researchers collect and explore huge data sets, which might need the involvement of thousands of people, or data from people all over the world, or to cover huge distances. What’s key is that citizen scientists don’t need a science qualification. Anyone – and that means you – can participate. In this mag, there are lots of ideas for citizen science. For example, you could:
• Comb the beaches for microplastics
• Classify glitches in space
• Spread facts about biosecurity so diseases don’t spread
• Join a youth jury and advise the government on cyber safety
But, whatever you’re interested in, a simple internet search will have you involved in wildlife surveys, monitoring noise pollution, counting passing meteors – you name it –, a research project that is just right for you!
Where will STEAMM take you?
Social Mobility and the Sciences