Julie Brown

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Julie Brown is head of Practical Action's education team in the UK, which produces teaching resources for teachers of Science and Design & Technology.

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org/schools

Posts by Julie

  • Using real-world context in science and STEM

    October 27th, 2017

    I have always been passionate about both children’s education and global issues, so it’s a bit of a no brainer to me that where possible children’s learning should be set within a real-world, global context.  Happily this is also something that both the new science and D & T curricula in the UK are encouraging, so there is more reason that ever before for teachers to use this approach.

    In addition to making subjects more relevant and engaging Global Learning fosters respect for others, cultural awareness, empathy and a desire to make a difference to the world…all important values for the future generation, and the skills employers are looking for in a globalised society.

    For many years now at Practical Action our schools team have been producing resources that fit the UK science and D & T curriculum, but are also flexible enough to be used in STEM/science clubs, off-time-table days, transition and more. Our resources can also be used to gain a CREST award from the British Science Association, or as part of the Eco-schools initiative

    Most popular are our STEM challenges, which challenge pupils to find a STEM solutions to a global issues e.g. how to grow crops on land prone to flooding ( Floating garden challenge), gaining access to clean water and hand washing facilities ( Stop the spread) and what to do with waste plastics (Plastics challenge).

    Teachers around the UK are including our material in their planning, not just because they raise awareness of global issues and help develop those vital values and skills but also because they engage and motivate young people, and increase their interest in STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

    So, if you are a teacher and have not tried our materials with your class before then why not:Plastics challenge

    • Take a look at our documents showing where our resources fit the UK science curriculum and choose one to make your lesson more engaging.
    • Try out a STEM challenges in your STEM/science club
    • Look at which resources can be used to gain a CREST award and maybe entered into the Big Bang Fair competition

    If you do use any of our materials with your pupils please let us know…we love feedback!

    I will be hosting an #ASEChat on Monday 30th October 8-9pm UK time, on this subject so please do join me to share any ideas or resources you may have that have worked for you…and to pick up some new ones.

    To keep in touch you can also follow me on twitter @julieBrown01, and  FaceBook  and sign up to our STEM Matters newsletter.

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  • Global Project Ideas

    September 29th, 2017

    Personally I don’t think there could be a better way of engaging young people with issues around poverty than giving them the opportunity to explore potential solutions themselves.

    If you agree then you will be pleased to know we have some new resources to help student do exactly that!!   Our Global Project ideas provide inspiring starting point for projects, with a focus on how STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)  skills can help us achieve the Global Goals, or sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

    The materials are perfect for the CREST award scheme and can also be used as the basis of an extended project, or for the skills element of the Duke of Edinburgh award. They can also lead to great projects to be entered into the Big Bang Fair competition.

    We selected 5 global goals we feel have a particular STEM focus.

    Global Goal 2 – Zero HungerGlobal Project Ideas from Practical Action

    Global Goal 5 – Gender Equality

    Global Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation

    Global Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy

    Global Goals 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities

    The Global Project Ideas sheets material provide suggestions for starting points for projects plus also really useful weblinks to help  pupils with their research.

    To find out more about the Global Goals themselves go to either the main UN site or a more schools focused site

    To see how you can get engaged in the CREST awards scheme go to the CREST area of our website

    If you do use these with your pupils please do let us know…we love feedback!

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  • Who’s responsible for the Global Goals?

    August 25th, 2017

    At Practical Action we believe it is everyone’s responsibility to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s)  or Global Goals as they are also known. As an International Development charity committed to alleviating global poverty we are working towards achieving a number of goals, including those focusing on renewable energy access , gender equality, water and sanitation, climate action and no hunger…to name a few!

    What do young people think?

    We recently asked young people from around Europe that very question during a 5 day workshop that formed part of  our Girls into Global STEM project and their answers were really interesting. The overall feedback was that they felt it was their responsibility on several levels, both in the choices they make individually e.g. around reducing waste and carbon footprint, but also in that in the future they will be the ones deciding which Government is in power. There was also a strong feeling that the Governments around the world were responsible and could be doing more…who can disagree with that!

    Because of the real depth of critical thinking and discussion that resulted from this activity we thought other teachers around the world might like to use it too, so we decided to develop it into a freely available  teaching resource. Aimed at young people aged 10-18 It is a great activity for pupils who have some understanding of the Global Goals.

    Please do take a look at ‘Who’s Responsible?’ and use it to give young people the chance to think about their role and the role of  others in ensure we reach those all important goals.

    For other materials we have produced to develop understanding and promote action around the goals visit the Global Goals area of our website.

     

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  • Inspiration teachers – Think Global Educator of the Year Award #GEYA2017

    July 21st, 2017

    This year, in my role as a trustee I was privileged to attend Think Global’s Global Educator of the Year Award celebration event. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day to be on a roof terrace next to The Oval.

    Four really amazing teachers, this year’s finalists, came together with friends, families and guests to share what they had been doing to encourage young people to find out about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals and what action they could take to help achieve them.

    The teachers had all worked in different ways, but what came across load and clear was their commitment to helping pupils understand how achieving the Global Goals are relevant to the whole world, UK included, and what action they could take as a result.

    Think Global Educator of the Year Award 2017 #GEYA2107

    Nathan Atkinson, Lottie O’Brian, Jane Yates ( winner) , Elena Longthorne ( winner 2016) Andrew Christie

    The winner, Jane Yates from Armathwaite Primary School has embedded global learning throughout the curriculum at her school, and inspired and encouraged students to be active citizens and critical thinkers. She also took the lead in developing awareness of the Global Goals through the schools 23 Global Learning Programme (GLP) partner schools, and other GLP expert centres across the country.

    Nathan Aktinson, Head of Richmond Hill Primary School in Leeds set up the incredible Fuel for Schools project which now runs in 60 primary schools around Leeds. Lottie O’Brien, Head of Social Science at the Commonweal School created a new curriculum which threads global learning and in particular the Global Goals into teaching. Andrew Christie, Geography Coordinator at Whitehill Junior School leads the GLP network of 14 partner schools and has introduced a wide variety of projects linked to the Global Goals at his school.

    Paul Langley from Oxfam, one of the judges said:

    “The Global Educator of the Year award, and the work of Think Global, in inspiring, equipping and recognising the role teachers at the heart of global citizenship education is fantastic. Oxfam is delighted to be part of such an important event, congratulates all the finalists and looks forward to seeing what teachers will be doing in 2018!”

    If you know anyone who is doing great work in schools around global learning please contact Think Global and they will remind you when it’s time for next year’s nominations. We want to shout out about all the great work that is going on in schools around the UK.

    For activities round the Global Goals you could do with students please take a look at the materials on our website.

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  • Supporting pupils taking part in Eco-Schools

    July 17th, 2017

    If you are looking for a programme that is pupil led and encourages pupils to improve the sustainability of their school, community and the wider world, you really can’t get better than Eco-Schools.

    Pupils work on a number of topics in order to get an Eco-schools green flag, and amongst other things are required to show how the work they have done links to the curriculum.

    As an Eco-Schools assessor myself I very quickly saw how Practical Action’s resources could be used by pupils as part of the scheme. As well as being relevant to a number of topics such as Global Citizenship, Waste, Water, School Grounds and Healthy Living they would provide pupils with evidence of how the work they have done links to the science and D&T curriculum.

    So…I decided to make life easier for both teachers and pupils by pulling together all the relevant resources into a new area of our website. Feedback so far has been great, and we have had a surge of people looking at the new area of the site. Please do take a look, and if you know of any pupils using our material in this way please do get in touch, it will make my day!

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  • Inspiring girls on International Women in Engineering Day

    July 7th, 2017
    Lauren Padmore, STEM Ambassador, BWB Consulting

    Lauren Padmore, STEM Ambassador, BWB Consulting

    What a great initiative Women in Engineering Day is! Currently only 19% of engineering graduates are girls, so we are potentially missing out on a lot of talent. There are many reasons why that may be the case, but one thing is for sure, time and time again we are told that if you give girls good role models, and show them how engineering can be used to solve real problems faced by real people they are more inspired to go on to an engineering degree.

    Women in Engineering Day gives organisations like the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Build Environment at Birmingham City University the chance to do just that.

    They held an event in June 2017 where 80 students from 8 different schools got together with mentors from industry, many of whom were STEM Ambassadors,  and had the opportunity to find out about a number of different engineering careers young female engineers enjoy, plus try out being an engineer themselves by taking part in our very own Stop the Spread challenge, based on Practical Action’s work on Urban Water and Sanitation programmes in Kenya.

    The day clearly had an impact on the girls who were there, both in terms of their own belief in what they can achieve and what options are out there.

    ‘People underestimate what girls can do. After today I think that if we believe in something we should just, like, go for it’

    ‘Before, when I thought of engineering I only thought about mechanical, but now I know there are lot of different types and opportunities like biomedical.’

    As part of the Stop the Spread challenge the girls had two related tasks

    • Design and build a model of a hand washing device for a primary school in Kenya
    • Produce education materials that will encourage children in the school to wash their hands

    Stop the Spread challengeBoth tasks were presented to the rest of the students and the judges. The range of different designs was really impressive, as were the education materials which included songs, plays and posters.

    I was particularly pleased that the design task really brought out a deep level of thinking of around the importance of considering how and where a product will be used; how to factor in relevant scientific knowledge, then incorporating all that into the design. Great STEM skills.

    ’I’ve learnt that the environment is different in different places so you need to think about that when you design something. So in Kenya water will evaporate really quickly so you need to find a solution to stop it from evaporating’’

    Hanna, Langley School

    My favourite quote of the day however has to be this one,

    ‘Today I have learnt that I am more creative than I think I am’   …Go girl!!

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  • Why aren’t more girls in Europe studying STEM? What can we do to change this?

    June 19th, 2017

    That was the subject of a huge Pan-European research project conducted by Microsoft and the subject of a recent webinar they held.

    As someone who is passionate about encouraging more girls into STEM and reducing the inequality around STEM in the workplace I was also interested to see if there were any insights that I could incorporate into my own work. I work within a team that produces free STEM resources for girls and boys in schools, and runs a teacher training programme.

    11,500 girls aged 11-30 from 10 different countries including the UK took part, the top insights are below.

    Interesting isn’t it? Good for us to see that ‘girls crave creativity and hands on experience’. Our STEM challenges in particular give them the opportunity to do that, so according to the research will help convert their interest into a passion…so we’re on the right track!

    The report also stated that the closer work around STEM was to real life the more helpful it was for girls. They really like to understand how STEM can be applied. This backs up something else I heard at a presentation from Raspberry Pi…that in the main boys like tech for tech’s sake, whereas girls like it as a tool to achieve something.  Again this support how our STEM challenges and other materials that focus on real life applications of STEM in the developing world.

    Other points that got my interest were that the teachers were actually more influential than parents, and it didn’t matter if that teacher was male or female. Mentors also hugely influential, which support the UK STEM Ambassadors programme.  One slightly quirky finding was that whilst for some girls approval of peers to go into STEM was important, others quite liked that it was seen as a bit unusual, it was that that attracted them! A breakdown of the most important factors can be seen below.

    At Practical Action we will continue to work with partners to ensure our materials are inspiring to girls as well as boys.

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  • GIGS – Inspiring girls and boys into STEM through Erasmus+

    Poland, Dalików
    June 8th, 2017

    ”To begin with one of the girls we were working with wasn’t interested in coding or drones; but when she saw how they could be used to help people by transporting water she became really interested.”

    Students from Poland presenting their global STEM challenge GIGS project, Warsaw 2017

    Students presenting their STEM challenge

    So said Sabrin, a year 11 girl from The de Ferrers Academy when she was feeding back on her experience of working with a year 8 class in her school as part of our EU funded project, ‘ Girls into Global STEM’ (GIGS). Working with other pupils in her year Sabrina had devised a global STEM challenge for younger pupils in the school. Sabrina’s experience showed that she and her classmates had achieved exactly what we hoped our project overall would achieve…inspiring girls in STEM through global issues. The idea that girls in particular are motivated by working in real world context formed the basis of our project and it is fantastic to see some evidence of that already appearing from our project.

     

    Who is responsible for making the global goals happen? GIGS student conference warsaw 2017

    Who is responsible for the Global Goals?

    At a presentation by Raspberry Pi on their digital making curriculum they quoted a study that found that generally whilst boys are interested in technology for technology’s sake girls are more motivated in how technology can be used as a tool to solve a problem. Over the last few years we have had anecdotal feedback that said the same thing and helps explain why girls in particular love our exiting STEM challenges. We believe our project, which includes pupils, teachers, NGOs and Universities from Cyprus, Poland Sweden and U.K. will continue to demonstrate that working on these problem solving challenges based on global issues such as climate change, food security and access to clean water and energy can inspire girls in particular to engage with STEM.

    If our recent student conference in Poland was anything to go by there will be a lot of highly motivated girls and boys in Europe keen to use STEM to help solve global issues and help us achieve the global goals.

    Students, teachers and partners at the GIGS student conference in Warsaw June 2017

    Students, teachers and partners at the GIGS student conference in Warsaw June 2017

     

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  • STEM Matters …our revamped Practical Action schools newsletter

    Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
    May 17th, 2017

    We asked you what you wanted to call our newly revamped newsletter…and you told us!!

    Over 200 of you took part in our poll and chose STEM Matters as the name for our newsletter. Thank you to everyone who took part, including those who came up with their own wacky ideas ‘ STEM-Y McSTEMFACE’ from science TV presenter Dallas Campbell was my favourite!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Our new, more compact style newsletter now comes out once every half term. Signing up to our newsletter means you will be kept in touch with any new materials on our website , conferences we are going to, and a few other bits and bobs related to STEM and/or global issues we think you will be interested in.

    Please do sign up to our newsletter if you haven’t already.

    You can also read our first ever STEM Matters newsletter, out today which includes links to documents which show where our materials fit the science curricula in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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  • STEM conference on Practical Action projects

    Eastbourne, UK, Eastbourne
    May 5th, 2017

    Isn’t it just great when a plan comes together and gives you that warm fuzzy feeling?

    Well I got that fuzzy feeling when tweets started appearing in my twitter feed all about a STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)  conference organised by Pevensey and Westham CE Primary school in Eastbourne.

    Pupils at STEM conference Eastbourne120 students from 11 different schools got together to share work they had been doing on global challenges, inspired by Practical Action projects around the world and using Practical Action’s STEM challenges as a basis for their own work. Students presented their projects which included aerial ropeways to transport tomatoes; wind turbines; hand washing devices and flood resistant houses.

    The conference had come about on the back of some training we had delivered in Eastbourne organised by Marcus Cherrill, Director of I Can teach Ltd, who had approached us having discovered our materials on line (so all that work on SEO paid off!!). Marcus got in touch with us and said he would like us to deliver training to teachers in Eastbourne around our STEM challenges in preparation for the pupil conference.

    Tweet from I can teach ltdIt was great to see that the training really paid off and the teachers’ enthusiasm about our materials clearly transferred to the pupils when they took them back to the classroom. Pupils were inspired by Practical Action’s work and keen to develop models of their own solutions to global poverty. They had obviously put a lot of thought and work into their presentation and one of the teams even had t-shirts printed with their group name on!  The local press were there too so the conference got good coverage in the Eastbourne Herald.

     

    A huge well done to all the students who took part, we hope you go on to be the scientists and engineers of the future that we need to help us alleviate poverty and solve some of the huge global challenges we are currently facing.

    Eastbourne Herald - STEM conference

     

     

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