“We loved the day and wish we could do it all over again now!”
Thandi, Jessica & Max
It was standing room only in the main hall at Alexandra Park School (APS) as Henry Hammond, the Highgate & Muswell Hill Ogden partnership lead, welcomed over 200 primary pupils, dozens of teachers and TAs, along with eight STEM ambassador judges, to the third annual Ogden partnership science fair. Tables were moved and rows of chairs squeezed ever-tighter together to accommodate the sheer number of stalls, all of which were the results of the hard work and patient investigations of young scientists from local primary schools.
An efficient team of Year 10 helpers escorted half the primary school pupils to the science department, where they were treated to special science workshops led by APS teachers. Cassie, a Teaching Assistant from St James Primary School, was full of praise for the secondary teachers, and marvelled at how they had fascinated and inspired the children: “it was lovely to see children enchanted by the wonder of science!”
Meanwhile, the children remaining in the hall positioned themselves by their project displays waiting for the judges; each ready to explain their scientific question, how they had investigated it, and what they had found out all in under three minutes!
The judges, who work in science and industry and volunteer their time to support schools with STEM events, had the difficult job of rating each project according to a strict set of criteria. Sharanya Maheetharan, a local resident and a research scientist at GSK, explained why she decided to take part as a judge for the second year in a row: “when I was back at school there wasn’t anything like this. This is brilliant for dispelling common myths that exist about scientists! I really hope to get involved in future events.”
After a brief break, during which everyone was treated to a healthy selection of fresh fruit, the children swapped roles so that everyone got a chance to both present and participate in the workshops. By lunchtime, when everyone else was taking a break, the judging sheets were filled in and the APS sixth form keepers worked tirelessly to count up the judges' scores.
At the end of the day, the STEM ambassadors spoke briefly about their work, after which every school team was invited one by one to take to the stage to a massive round of applause, and every child received a participation medal.
It was clear from the way the children spoke with the judges, as well as the range of scientific questions being investigated, that the children had taken real ownership over their investigations. For many, preparing for this event had opened up new interests and led to more questions that they wanted to explore further.
To Henry Hammond, who organised the day, the value of events such as this one is clear. “The whole day was brilliant, but to me the most special moment came at the end after Paul Judge, STEM ambassador from TfL, explained that a project he was working on would still need physicists and engineers in 2029 and he hoped that some of the young people in the room might be those physicists and engineers. When the awards ceremony finished, I was mobbed by about 40 children, all telling me they wanted to be physicists and engineers! We can inspire more children to be interested in STEM! Yes, we can!”
Why not look at our handy How to guide if you are planning to run your own school science fair?