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Salesforce volunteer programmes robots with pupils at FabLab

iDiscover – new year, new themes, new funding

Primary School STEM programme iDiscover collageNow that the Autumn term is officially under way, we’re looking ahead to all the new and updated programmes we’ll be delivering over the course of the coming school year.

One of these exciting developments is the evolution (!) of iDiscover, our primary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programme which brings a huge range of related careers to life.

Piloted in three Hackney primary schools last year, supported by funding from the Mercers’ Company, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Salesforce Foundation, the project was a tremendous success. By bringing diverse volunteers from a broad cross-section of STEM-related professions into schools, iDiscover not only got children excited about the possibilities of studying and working in STEM, it also helped to break down pervasive stereotypes about who ‘should’ be doing these jobs. Before taking part in iDiscover, 52% of Year 2 pupils at one primary school responded ‘No’ or ‘Don’t know’ to the question, ‘Are girls good at science?’. After taking part in iDiscover, all but one of these students had changed their minds.

The impact of the programme was clear across the board: a teacher at one of our pilot schools told us that after a session meeting a group of volunteer engineers, all of their pupils “could say what STEM careers were and most expressed an interest in doing one when they are older”.

As a testament to the success of the pilot, we were thrilled to discover back in July that Salesforce employees in London had selected us to receive a grant of $100,000 – one of ten such grants made by the Salesforce Foundation to celebrate the organisation reaching 1 million volunteer hours.

Much of the grant will go towards increasing the programme’s scope and impact, allowing us to make it even more engaging for local young people. Three entirely new themes are being developed for 2015/16: ‘My Biology’ for Year 2 pupils; ‘Showcase’ for Year 4 pupils; and ‘Future Jobs’, for Year 6.

‘My Biology’ will look at a different part of the body each day of the week, using hands-on activities – such as conducting a simple sleep study, testing reflexes or using different coloured sweets to learn about the composition of blood – to help children understand how their bodies work.

‘Showcase’ will offer children a chance to see how STEM skills can be used to bring a creative vision to life, offering an insight into the science behind lighting design, sound engineering, visual effects and more. The children will put their new skills into practice by staging a ‘show in a box’ at the end of the week.

‘Future Jobs’ will look at the ways in which STEM-related professions are changing as the speed of technological development grows ever more heady. Pupils will ‘time travel’ as they look at the STEM jobs of tomorrow, thinking about how the skills they acquire at school today will help to create a better future world.

The tried and tested themes from our pilot sessions have been tweaked and refined over the summer break to make them even more engaging, and will return to cover topics such as forensic science, robotics, nutrition and coding.

Thanks to Salesforce’s support, we are able to offer iDiscover to schools at a greatly reduced cost. Four primary schools have already signed up for iDiscover this school year; we hope to deliver the programme to 8 schools between now and December 2016 . Senior Programme Manager, Hannah Groves, had this to say about the next phase of the iDiscover programme:  “After a successful pilot of our iDiscover programme, we are really excited to have received funding to develop the programme further and to deliver it in new schools this year. iDiscover not only provides exciting STEM lessons for primary school pupils, but also introduces them to inspiring STEM professionals, challenging stereotypes and opening their eyes to a huge range of potential future careers.”

To find out more about iDiscover, or to register your interest in volunteering to support the programme, please email or call 020 7275 6075.