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Science is for Life - Not Just for Science Week!​​​​​​​

Dr Ajay Sharman, Regional Lead STEM Learning and proud Chair of Trustees at Dartford Science & Technology College

As British Science Week 2022 approaches (March 11-20) I’ve reflected on its ability to highlight just how important science remains for society. As the headline suggests (shamelessly stolen from the legendary Dogs Trust campaign), BSW should be a celebration of science, the doing of science and the public recognition of science. This year’s theme is all about ‘growth’.

It’s supported by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), which is the agency that brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Funding from UKRI enables the British Science Association (BSA) to deliver the core BSW activity through a wide grassroots campaign that aims to reach a diverse range of audiences, including more disadvantaged communities and people who might not usually engage in science. Albert Szent-Györgyi (a fellow Biochemist) noted “Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.” Science does not know its debt to imagination.

As well as my role at STEM Learning, I’m a Chair of Trustees at the incredibly proactive Dartford Science & Technology College. I’m constantly amazed by the inspiring teachers who go above and beyond to offer incredible science experiences to young people. They inspire via science activities, projects, bringing in role model volunteers (STEM Ambassadors) and debate key topical scientific subjects. Employers are also key to showing the career opportunities available in STEM subjects. 

For example, 3M – a Principal Partner of BSW – will be publicising their varied resources during the week to support STEM diversity, equity and inclusion. This follows on from their successful ‘Smashing Stereotypes’ campaign in 2020 which featured many of their employees, who are also STEM Ambassadors, sharing stories about their roles and highlighting the importance of diversity in the STEM workforce. They’ve also developed a resource to support careers education for secondary age children. 3M Career Capers Cards, in a similar format to ‘Top Trumps’, showcase how 3M employees use STEM skills at work, and promote the fact that science is a collaborative, collective effort.

Engaging in science fundamentally helps young people develop key life skills, including communication, organisation and planning and allows them to form their own opinions based on observation. Science supports children as their awareness, problem-solving and critical thinking skills develop, making it one of the most important subjects.

Science in society generates solutions for everyday life and helps us to answer the great mysteries of the universe, look at solutions to climate change and offers opportunities to help healthcare – just look at the incredible impact of Covid vaccines, rapidly developed during a global emergency. It brings innovative technology and engineering solutions. Science at its very core creates new knowledge, improves education and increases the quality of our lives.  

As a father, I’ve seen the natural curiosity of children of primary school age. Through a number of activities, including CREST, we must allow teachers to support young people in nurturing this curiosity, encouraging them to ask questions and develop the skills to understand the answers.

Primary science helps pupils to investigate problems. With Covid, climate change, a dramatically changing media environment, challenging economic climates and shifting relationships between citizens and policy makers, science stands as a ready tool to help combat many modern difficulties.

CREST is a British Science Association scheme which provide teachers and home educators with simple and adaptable activities aligned to the national curriculum. It inspires young people to think, dream and behave like scientists and engineers. It helps them become independent and reflective learners through enquiry-based project work, and CREST activities can be run in schools, clubs or at home. With no set timetable, projects can start whenever you want, and take as long as you need. They also have an Awards scheme.

Back to my wonderful school in Dartford – here’s some feedback from students undertaking CREST projects; 

“I know that the skills I gained have helped me in my studies, but will also show future employers that I am dedicated and hard-working. I used the CREST awards to help me stand out from the crowd.” Sophie
“I know that CREST awards are valuable as it shows that you have committed to something and put the effort in, it shows that we had resilience.” Hannah

Science is impactful. It continues to make human life much more convenient, healthier and more accessible by saving labour, time and creating a safer world. Indeed, its series of discoveries has helped understand the nature of the world around us, improving society. I urge all parents and educators to ensure that science is for life, every year and not simply just for British Science Week!