Free Virtual STEM Workshops for school in Wales

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Luke Clement is part of our Delivery Team who’s been working hard on a new selection of virtual workshops to offer primary and secondary schools in Wales. Find out more about the workshops in his recent blog…

The past couple of months have certainly been strange from a delivery point of view. At the beginning of March, it seemed we had finally found our feet and were all comfortable with the workshops we were delivering. Little did we know that the new virus which had recently been the talk of the office would do its best to undermine our efforts and continue to be an issue 8 months later…

As always, our delivery officers have stepped up to the challenge despite the sudden change from our usual face-to-face delivery of workshops in schools across Wales. Over the past few months, the delivery teams from all of our university hubs across Wales have worked to take our tried and tested physical workshops and refine them for engaging virtual sessions.

The sessions we have delivered so far have been successful, offering opportunities to review and further adapt activities, explanations, and discussions, to maximise their effect on pupils. The core content and learning outcomes have remained unchanged, but without physically being in the classroom, and varying limitations in place within different schools, innovation has been vital. The sessions have been shortened from our usual day-long delivery to sessions of around an hour in length, making them easier to fit in with the difficult school scheduling surrounding the lockdown restrictions. This has led our team to really focus on the most important aspects of our delivery when restructuring the content.

Our new programme of virtual workshops covers a range of topics and we wanted to ensure that these were accessible for everyone. We have a mixture of unplugged sessions and sessions requiring internet-connected devices for both primary and secondary classes. For primary ages, we have 90-minute sessions on Computational Thinking, Ethics & Technology, Machine Learning and an introductory programming session on (my favourite!) Scratch.

For secondary ages, our workshops come in 1 hour sessions, with our unplugged sessions on Cryptography, Brain Games and It’s Easy to be Green. Our plugged sessions then have a strong STEM presence, covering mathematics with Python and Monte-Carlo Simulations, physics and chemistry with Planets and Orbits and Fuelling the Future, and our Biology Animal Classification workshop completes the science trilogy. Of course, these topics will develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the specific STEM subjects they focus on, but also develop pupils’ computational thinking skills and their understanding of core programming concepts. These topics can also be adapted to suit the needs of each class.

The workshops have been very successful so far and the reaction from the pupils has been even better than we had expected given the unusual nature of the sessions. As with our physical workshops, the age of the pupils plays a significant part in their overall engagement but it has been even more pleasing to win over pupils and get them visibly engaged in activities when we are doing so from our own living rooms. One of the most important factors in the success of the workshops has been the way teachers have stepped in to support, by fielding our questions, helping to monitor progress and using the sessions as their own CPD opportunity.

Any teachers looking to book a session can do here. I would advise to do so quickly given the recent upsurge in requests coming through as we continue to deliver, review and improve our sessions. As well as our workshops, we also strive to do what we can to develop teachers’ confidence in their own teaching of computing subjects and embedding digital skills into their classroom. Anyone interested in finding out more about the CPD opportunities we offer can do so here.

Book a virtual session with us here

– Luke Clement, Delivery Officer

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