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

  • 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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  • A new STEM challenge – Stop the Spread

    April 21st, 2017

    Stop the Spread STEM poster Practical Action Having a new STEM challenge to promote is always such a great feeling!

    STEM challenges are our most popular materials. Teachers tell us time and time again how they love them not just because they inspire their pupils, but because the support materials are so comprehensive their prep time is reduced to a minimum 🙂

    Stop the Spread is our brand new STEM challenge for 7-16 years. Highlighting the global issue of infectious diseases pupils design, build and test a model of a hand washing device and produce educational materials for children in Kenya to encourage hand washing.

    Free materials to support the delivery of the challenge include teacher guidelines, a student pack, PowerPoint, certificates and a poster.

    Stop the Spread is accredited for the British Science Association CREST Discovery Award and can used to enter the Youth Grand Challenges competitions. It has strong links to the Global Goals for sustainable development.

    Perfect for British Science Week #BSW2017, STEM and science clubs, transition and off-timetable days as well as embedding into the school curriculum.

    Elaine Manton, STEM Co-ordinator from Loreto Grammar School said

    ‘We have just incorporated Stop the Spread into our  KS3 curriculum and are not only using it for our Year 8 assessment but also for our Student Leaders Awards.”

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  • STEM careers in International Development

    March 15th, 2017

    STEM careers poster Practical ActionDo you have students who are interested in the big global challenges we are facing? Do they  want to help find the solution to climate change and having enough food for everyone on the planet? If so a career in International Development could be for them.

    My STEM(Science, Technology , engineering and Maths) job at  Practical Action,  is to produce education materials to help students discover how STEM can be used to reduce poverty around the world. Other people I work with have great jobs such as helping people get access to electricity, sharing information about the best materials to use to make a house flood-proof, working with communities to install solar powered water pumps, helping farmers breed salt-resistant crops… they are the scientists and engineers. Then there are people who do jobs you might not think of that are really important to the backbone of our organisation , like working in finance. They also get to travel around the world and see the great work our organisation is doing.

    To raise awareness of the great opportunities a STEM career in international development can bring  we have a lovely free poster you can request and a number of case studies free to download at www.practicalaction.org/careers .  They would make a great display 🙂

     

    STEM careers poster Practical Action

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  • STEM is for Girls – People like me

    Slough, UK, Slough
    February 1st, 2017

    I want to spread the word about a really great initiative from WISE ( Women In Science and Engineering)  which was launched today at CE Technologies in Slough.  Working through volunteers around the country People Like me focuses on helping girls aged 11-14 realise that the aptitude and skills they have are needed for careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), careers that girls in particular do not always believe they are suited too.

    Launch of People like me goes digital, WISE

    Launch of People like me goes digital, WISE

    The scale of the problem was highlighted by Helen Wollaston, WISE CEO, who pointed out that only 7% of girls  go onto STEM careers after level 4, compared to 24% of boys*  Jacqueline do Rojas, managing director of UKI, Sage and President, techUK pointed out that often the ‘T’ in STEM got ignored, but in fact ‘every business has a digital heartbeat’ ( I really liked that!) and that Tech jobs are growing at a rate of 10x more than any other sector.

    STEM education pipeline

    The message was clear, for our businesses to be successful we need to make the most of our talent pool, which of course includes girls. According to Prof. Averil Macdonald we will attract girls to apply for jobs in the sector if we can help them firstly realise that they can do it and secondly that they will fit it.  This was backed up by Paul Briault from CA Technologies who reinforced that what businesses need is a culture of recognising that teams work best when they are ‘happy and diverse and play to people’s strengths’. A culture where women will feel comfortable and have the opportunity to thrive.

    At Practical Action we are also aware of the importance of more girls going into STEM, to become the scientists and engineers of the future that can help solve the big global challenges ahead.  We are delighted at feedback from teachers and pupils which tells us that girls in particular love our resources as they highlight the social impact of science and technology.  See the video below which shows 90 girls from 8 schools in Birmingham taking  part in our Beat the Flood STEM challenge.  We are also partners in an EU funded project called Girls Into Global STEM (GIGS), which aims to engage more girls in STEM by getting them involved in creating and taking part in global STEM challenges and developing their digital skills in the process. We are at the beginning of the project but watch this space for more information.

    If you and/or your organisation are interested in finding out more about the campaign and helping WISE reach their target of reaching 200,000 girls in the next two years please go to https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/about-us/wise-projects/people-like-me.  If you are a teacher  and want to find out how to get girls in your school involved click the same link!

    * More details can be found in the report at  https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/resources/2016/11/from-classroom-to-boardroom-the-stem-pipeline

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  • Our Practical Action schools survey said…

    November 9th, 2016

    A few months ago we asked teachers and educators to take part in an online survey.  We particularly wanted to find out about how they used our schools materials but also a bit about how they found out about us in the first place and if they liked our materials how they promoted them to others.   We did a similar survey in 2012 so were also interested in any changes that had occurred. 383 people took part.

    Infographic Schools survey 2016 Practical Action

    Infographic showing results of Practical Action’s schools survey 2016

    Some  of the more interesting bits from our point of view are summarised in the infographic.

    What we are most proud of…once they know we exist over half of teachers visit our website every 2-3 months, and 93% recommend our resources to others

    What surprised us the most…since 2012 there has not been an increase in the number of teachers and educators who use social media as a tool to gather and share information?

    What has made us think…Over 45% said they found out about us at local events such as Teachmeets where teachers meet to share ideas and good practice. We do a lot of promotion ourselves (social media, newsletters, articles etc.) but clearly teachers and educators are very successful advocates for us.

    What we changed as a result…We estimate the number of pupils we reach, and the targets we set ourselves based on an extrapolation of downloads. This survey enabled us to do that more accurately and we have adjusted our calculations accordingly.

    What was an unexpected outcome of doing the survey?…10% of people who took part in the survey hadn’t heard of us before they did, so just running the survey enabled us to reach more lovely teachers!

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  • Girls into Global STEM – a new Erasmus Plus project

    August 23rd, 2016

    Practical Action STEM challengesI am thrilled to be able to say that having received some EC funding from Erasmus Plus UK we are now able to get started on a new project called ‘ Girls into Global STEM’. The project aims to

    increase the number of young Europeans, especially girls, who choose to take STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)  subjects at school and ultimately go on to careers in STEM. It will take place in UK, Poland, Cyprus and Sweden and the materials form the project will be available to other countries too.

    Ok, so how are we going to do this? Well, from previous experience we know young people especially girls, are motivated by the role STEM can play in improving people’s lives around the world.  So we are going to start by raising awareness of some of the global challenges we all face and then help young people discover for themselves how ‘STEM’ has the potential to provide solutions.

    The project will involve:

    • Young people and their teachers working with us to develop four Global STEM challenges which draw on the need for a certain level of digital literacy and can be used as stand-alone resources by other teachers and pupils
    • A teacher toolkit to include the global STEM challenges and other material which will support teachers including curriculum mapping of the challenges, videos and guidance notes.
    • A teacher training programme which will be both face to face and on-line as well as for pre-service and in-service teachers
    • Academic papers and their delivery at key events to share the project materials and the learning from the project as widely as possible.

    We are really excited about getting started and working with some new partners as well as some partners we worked with on our previous Make the Link project. The project will be led by the University of Hull. As well as ourselves of course the other partners are the University of Boras (Sweden), CCE (Poland) CARDET(Cyprus) and one school in each country, in the UK  this school will be The De Ferrers Academy

    Let the fun/work begin!!   #GIGSPractical Action STEM challenges

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  • Bren Hellier shortlisted for Global Educator of the Year!

    July 14th, 2016

    Bren Hellier, Practical ActionWe are very proud to announce that our very own Bren Hellier, Education Officer for Practical Action was recently shortlisted for Think Global’s  ‘Global Educator of the year’ award. We already know she is amazing but it was great to have this recognised by such a prestigious organisation which works with teachers and young people in the UK to help them develop their understanding of global issues and the action they can take towards a more just and sustainable world.

    Jo Cox, Head of Science at Redmoor Academy who nominated Bren said:

    “Having worked with Bren on a couple of occasions her passion for her work is inspiring and she clearly understands what teachers and pupils want from a resource.  Teachers  who use her material will like me tell you they are both creative and clear, taking pupils on a journey starting with engaging their interest in a global problem then really making them feel that through their own actions now and in the future they could be part of the solution. Her resources have inspired a significant number of my students to take an interest in humanitarian engineering. She is generous, committed and full of vitality and a genuine pleasure to work with – a truly inspirational global teacher!”

    To find out more about Bren’s work and who else was shortlisted please go to  Global Educator of the Year 2016

    To see Bren’s work for yourself please do take a look at her latest fabulous Design for a Better World challenge. Produced to celebrate Practical Action’s 50th Anniversary it includes a competition for pupils aged 11-14.  We are asking pupils for their most innovative designs that could help us achieve the Global Goals and will share 50 of these on our website.

    Bren Hellier, Practical Action at ASE conference

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