A group of 10 Scottish science teachers have become the first to benefit from a new pilot programme designed to enhance technology and programming education for secondary state school students.
Led by Diamond, in partnership with the Scottish Schools Education Resource Centre (SSERC), the aim of the programme is to work with physics and technology teachers to provide skills and resources that can be incorporated into the classroom.
Diamond supports scientific research into everything, from drug design to smart technology.
Dr David Price, Public Engagement Officer, explained: “We’re a real resource for scientists in the UK, but we also serve the needs of the wider education sector by providing tools and events, just like this one, that enhance teaching of the curriculum.
“Throughout the year, we welcome many students to the facility here in Oxfordshire. They meet scientists and engineers, and see first-hand what STEM careers look like. We think programmes like this one – run in partnership with SSERC – are a great way to reach more distant schools like these in Scotland. We would like to make this pilot into a national offer because it provides learning tools and skills directly to teachers, enabling us to reach and inspire even more young people around the UK.”
Diamond’s pilot Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for teachers began earlier this year, with teachers coming to the facility on the 7th and 8th of October.
Prior to their visit, the delegates took part in a series of webinar-based workshops in which they were introduced to the BBC’s micro:bit technology: a mini computer that can be programmed to perform a variety of tasks, from powering robotics to performing musical compositions.
During the recent 2-day workshop, the group had the opportunity to build on their understanding of the mini-computer, and develop ideas for using it in the classroom.
The workshop incorporated a variety of training sessions and practical, hnads-on activities. In addition to advanced tours of the synchrotron and talks from the scientists and engineers who work at the facility, the group also took part in a ‘coding dojo’, learning how to better harness the power of programming. They also worked with some of Diamond’s engagement tools, like the LEGO beamline: a programmable simulation of a Diamond laboratory that can perform mock experiments.
David Price adds: “Computing is a major area where there is currently a real skills shortage. So anything we can do to help support teaching to inspire youngsters, we’re keen to offer.”
Malcolm Thomson attended the recent Diamond workshop. He commented “It’s fantastic – everything I’ve seen today I can apply to my physics lessons. It’s also great to see so many female scientists at Diamond. We have a shortfall of women in STEM subjects, so I’m glad to see these positive role models.”
Kenneth Hodge also attended the visit. He added: “It’s really helpful to see real, interdisciplinary work taking place here. This facility is not just about science, it also crosses over into technical and engineering – and it’s great to have Diamond as a concrete example of that.”
Diamond’s Head of Communications, Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke observed that experiences like Malcolm and Kenneth’s demonstrate that Diamond is not just a valuable resource for scientists, but also an important tool for teachers and academic institutions, adding: “Teachers are critical because they enable science organisations to reach a large number of students. Many young people may not be able to visit the facility in person.
“There are many barriers to attendance at Diamond events for state schools especially, but we are determined that these can be overcome. The science that Diamond supports is truly inspiring, and events like the CPD workshops help to enhance learning experiences for teachers and students alike.”
The teachers will reconvene in two months’ time to discuss progress.
Diamond hosts regular open days for schools, and more than 2,700 students and teachers visit the site every year. From specialist masterclasses on physics, engineering, biology and computing to more general tours of the facilities and talks on cutting-edge research, there are a wide range of opportunities for students at the synchrotron.