People like me can do STEM

18 December 2019

Dr Jean-Christophe Denis, Ogden Outreach Officer at the Edinburgh University School of Physics and Astronomy, has been working alongside staff and students from the department together with colleagues from the University’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, to deliver a range of science engagement activities at a local primary school.

The school has now been named as the overall winner of the 2019 Rolls Royce Science Prize, recognising their excellence in science teaching across the full spectrum of teaching contexts.

Castleview Primary School had been shortlisted as one of six finalists for the prize thanks to their project ‘People like me can do STEM’. The aim of this project was to raise aspirations and increase pupils’ confidence in STEM. Based in Craigmillar, an area of multiple deprivation in Edinburgh, the school recognised that their pupils’ science capital was not the same as others and saw it as their job to build it. In order to achieve this, the project sought to get the entire school and their families excited about science and create on-going partnerships with local STEM institutions.

Jean-Christophe, who lives in Craigmillar and is known within Castleview Primary as the ‘local physicist’ has worked closely with the school over a number of years, supporting (amongst other things) a community science festival and science clubs.

Jean-Christophe with the science club.

“The School of Physics and Astronomy is one of the world leading physics academic centres, and it's important that young people in the neighbourhood have the chance to access world class STEM education and opportunities,” says Jean-Christophe. “I am very pleased that our community engagement efforts have been recognised by such a prestigious award.”

Kate Carter, class teacher at Castleview Primary School and project lead for the Rolls Royce Science Prize said: “We are all so proud, it is such a privilege. The award acknowledges with loud celebration that the UK STEM community share our belief that our young people deserve the same opportunities to develop science capital as others and that our innovative community approach is both pioneering and successful in achieving this.”

The judges praised Castleview Primary School for their efforts to change preconceptions on who can be a scientist and for helping to raise positive ambitions by building relationships. They also highlighted the partnership approach and the involvement of parents. The project resulted in a 20 per cent increase in students enjoying STEM and wanting to do STEM related roles, with parent’s perceptions of science positively increasing by 100 per cent.

Castleview Primary has also received the Eden Award which recognises the most environmentally focused project. This award highlighted the school’s belief in their young people and in the development of sustainable communities, recognising the neighbouring connection and partnership with Edinburgh BioQuarter and The University of Edinburgh.

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