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Dr Meryl Batchelder, Subject Leader for Science, Corbridge Middle School

About the Case Study

When I had a career change and became a teacher 10 years ago I knew that I wanted to promote a love of science and enrich the lives of young people.

The Big Bang Competition provides the perfect opportunity to do something inspiring and fun. It is easy to complete CREST Awards in school, either in lessons at Key Stage 3 or as part of a Club, and then register online for a regional Big Bang event.

The first round heats give the pupils a chance to present their projects in a friendly, supportive yet competitive arena and to be quizzed by judges. The pupils receive feedback on their projects so they can make improvements if they are selected to proceed from the regional competition to the intense excitement of the UK Finals.

The judges are all STEM professionals who are able to engage with young people and ask some challenging questions.

Both the regional events and UK Finals are exceptionally well organised and many science and engineering employers have stands so that the students can find out about a huge range of STEM careers. The format provides a real insight into the opportunities in STEM and really motivates young people.

Seeing my students’ success adds to my personal job satisfaction immeasurably and my head teacher thinks we are all fabulous for raising the profile of the school.

My tips for other educators on how to run projects in school 

In our EcoSTEM Club we let pupils chose an area of environmental science they are interested in and then support them through a working scientifically project on that topic; from refining their initial ideas, through planning and conducting their investigations, to making conclusions and evaluations.

They work in small teams at lunchtimes and write up their reports which are then submitted for Bronze CREST Awards. These can be either assessed with a STEM Ambassador or evaluated by a teacher.

We take the best teams to the local Big Bang Fair where they present posters to the judges.

We also enter other competitions and network with STEM providers to promote a passion for science.

There are many organisations from BP to Practical Action that can provide supporting resources or ideas.

What the students get out of the experience

There are so many advantages to running a STEM Club, submitting projects for CREST Awards and getting involved in the Big Bang Competition! 

The students gain confidence in their own abilities, their communications skills improve, they acquire experience of working scientifically which helps their academic studies, they develop team working and management skills, they build resilience which improves their mental health, they use their creativity to solve problems, they meet other students from all over the country, there is a tangible recognition of success and most importantly they have fun.

At the 2018 Big Bang Finals in Birmingham one of my Year 8 students stated that it was the ‘best thing to ever happen to him’ and he wished that he could ‘stay here forever’.

Obviously we had to leave but I have introduced him and many other young people to the wonderful world of science and maybe, just maybe they will be the STEM superstars of the future.