Blogs tagged as schools

  • 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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  • Women in Engineering Beat the Flood!

    Beat the Flood challenge, women in Engineering day8  schools, 90 girls, 15 volunteers from industry; loads of junk modelling material, water and a Practical Action STEM challenge …the perfect combination for a National Women in Engineering and the Build Environment Day event at Birmingham City University. #NWED2016

    The girls had an engineering challenge…to build a model house strong enough to ‘Beat the Flood’. With support from women working in the engineering sector, they had two hours to research the needs of different communities on a fictitious island; test different structures and material, then design and build a model.  The model was then tested outside Millennium Point by standing in water and having water poured on it!

    Based on Practical Action’s work on flood proof housing in Bangladesh the girls found out all sorts of things about engineering, team work and some of the challenges faced by people in Bangladesh that they didn’t realise before.

    ‘Before today I didn’t know engineering could be about helping people in other countries’’

    ’I really like all working together…we didn’t know each other until today’’

    ‘’We had a plan, but then we didn’t have the materials we needed so we had to adjust our design.’’

    ‘That team over there copied our design!’

    ‘That doesn’t work, why we don’t try…’

    ‘I wish we could do more things like this is school’

    ‘How can we make the base more stable?’

    The teachers and mentors were impressed with how well the girls worked together and some of the solutions they came up with. Everyone enjoyed testing the models outside!

    For a set of materials to run this challenge in your school and for other STEM challenges please go to

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  • Inspiring pupils into STEM careers at the Big Bang Fair

    March 21st, 2016

    I was lucky enough to be able to  attend the Big Bang Fair last week . Young people from around the country were really engaged in finding out just what STEM was all about the potential STEM careers that they could go into.

    Tomorrow's Engineers Big Bang Fair 2016

    Pupils at the Tomorrow’s Engineers stand at the Big Bang Fair 2016

    One stand that particularly impressed me was the Tomorrow’s Engineers, where pupils had the opportunity to see how engineers are involved in both disaster risk reduction, and saving lives post disaster.  A career in International Development may not be one that may particularly springs to mind when teachers/pupils think of STEM, but it is a path that many pupils find inspiring. It was great to see this organisation promoting the social side of engineering, which is something we have been told girls find appealing about our own support materials, particularly our STEM challenges.

    It was also good to see so many of the CREST awards projects on display linked to sustainable and global issues such as energy saving devises and flood-proof buildings, and to hear the pupils speak so passionately about their project (even whilst munching crisps!!)

    Well worth a visit so if you didn’t manage to take pupils there this year I would strongly recommend you look at it for 2017…hope to see you there!

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  • Beat the Flood wins an award

    I am very proud to be able to say that our Beat the Flood challenge recently won an award for the Best STEM resource for pupils, from the European organisation Scientix.   As a result it will be translated into all 24 European languages.  In addition we recently went to an event in Brussels and presented to over 50 head teachers from around Europe.

    To find more great science resources from other European organisations, and opportunities to network with science teachers across Europe take  a look at the Scientix website.

    Pupils at Sandlings school testing their flood proof houses

    Pupils at Sandlings school testing their flood proof houses



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  • Flood-proof school …flood-proof community

    March 11th, 2015

    All around the UK are villages and towns with community centres, but just imagine how valued that community centre would be if it was not just a community centre but also a school, and a place of safety. The Multi-purpose Community Centre and School in Saghata, Giabandha, is one such place.

    IMG_2677Most of the time the building is used as a school and this is what it was being used for when I visited it.  The place was full of incredibly well-behaved, delightful children from 5-18 years old.  When I walked into a classroom they all got up to say good morning to me, and were clearly very proud of their ability to speak English, and to recite traditional English rhymes.‘Early to bed , early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise’ was a firm favourite.  Several of the children were able to tell me a little bit about their lives.  Playing football is obviously a popular pastime in Bangladesh!

    IMG_2668BUT…this is a school with a difference, if you look closely at the buildings you will see they are all raised from the ground on plinths and made of brick.  This is a flood-proof school.  When the floods do arrive however it stops becoming a school and is a place of safety for the local community.  The classrooms become places where people and animals can stay until the flood subsides. This Centre was clearly the hub of the community and is making a big difference to the lives of the people who live there irrespective of flooding.

    School2I will always have fond memories of the children who greeted me so warmly and the staff who were clearly very dedicated.

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  • ”Please protect our riverbanks”

    …that was the only thing anyone in Giahbanda, Bangladesh asked of me the whole time I was there. The people I met in a range of communities were all more concerned about giving me things than the other way round…a chair to sit on, food, answers to any questions I might have.  That is why the request from a lady called Rabea really touched me. Practical Action had worked with a community of 100 households to build a flood-proof village 5 years prior to my visit.

    Rabea and her daughter Shilna, giabandha, Bangladesh

    Rabea and her daughter Shilna, Giabandha, Bangladesh

    Rabea told me how the village made her feel secure as previously her home on the other side of the river had been washed away by flooding.  There is still a problem though as the river bank is being eroded away at the rate of about 1 foot a year, so each year the river is getting closer to the village, threating their homes, a shop, and the community centre.  Clearly there is still work to be done to help the community feel safe long term, and I can only hope that Practical Action or another NGO will do that.

    The village is a great example of technology justice (#techjustice) in action through Practical Action’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) work.  Just simple technologies were made accessible to the community to enable them to have a safe, flood-proof community.  Firstly, the ground level where the village was going to be built was raised, then houses were built on concrete plinths.  Lots of plants were planted around the house, to suck up water when it floods.  The houses themselves are made of brick with corrugated iron roofs, so they are strong and waterproof, unlike the traditional straw house. Other technologies essential to life and therefore important in technology justice like water pumps, toilets and solar power were also installed.  The lovely people who live here really do believe they are the lucky ones, as demonstrated in the warm welcome I received.   In Bangladesh I felt especially proud to be able to say ‘My name is Julie Brown,  I work for Practical Action’.

    Flood-proof community centre, Giabandha, Bangadesh

    Flood-proof community centre Giabandha, Bangladesh

    If you are interested in your pupils carrying out an activity around flood-proof housing please look at our Beat the Flood challenge

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  • We’re delighted…

    July 10th, 2013

    Since the current government announced its review of the National Curriculum for schools in England, it’s been a nail-biting time for the Design and Technology community.

    At first, there was widespread uncertainty that the subject would exist in any shape or recognisable form…followed by drafts of the subject that presented concerns for many of us.

    During the formal consultation period, Practical Action along with many other organisations submitted a response to the Department for Education (DfE).

    This week the DfE has published the revised Design and Technology (D&T) programmes of study for KS1 to 3… and we’re delighted with it!

    We believe that the new D&T curriculum will offer young people opportunities to learn about the role of technology to shape and impact on people and the environment and access to real–life contexts in essential areas such as Energy, Agriculture, Construction and Engineering.

    Some highlights for us include:

    Purpose of the subject ‘Through the evaluation of past and present design and technology, pupils develop a critical understanding of its impact on daily life and the wider world’

    Key stage 3 ‘understand developments in design and technology, its impact on individuals, society and the environment, and the responsibilities of designers, engineers and technologists’

    Thank you to all of you that helped to achieve this great outcome for young people in schools in England.

    We are looking forward to supporting teachers to deliver on these new requirements.

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  • Pick up ideas at an ASE Teachmeet

    May 13th, 2013

    I recently attended an ASE Teachmeet at the Think Tank .  It got me thinking, where else would you find out how to:

    • teachersfind an interactive periodic table from the  Royal Society of Chemistry
    • Paint a huge diagram of a heart on a big sheet to use as a teaching aid
    • make a small revision book out of a piece of paper
    • join a network that review research in education methodologies, @bio_joe
    • run a floating garden challenge to teach science in a global context
    • use ipads to provide interesting learning experiences @syded06
    • connect with STEM ambassadors
    • Get support on teaching microbiology using UV light

    …all in a couple of hours?

    Teachmeets are great, informal occasion where you can meet like-minded enthusiastic teachers and pick up great ideas to integrate into your teaching .   You also get a nice up of tea and chocolate biscuits  :-). They occur in 12 different regions around the country. To find the one closest to you go the ASE website or contact your local ASE field officer.  For the West Midlands Teachmeet contact Gaynor Sharp .

    Follow #tmase to keep in touch  🙂

    Heart painted on large sheet to be used as a teaching aid

    Heart painted on large sheet to be used as a teaching aid


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  • David Cameron talks to students about Practical Action project

    Students show David Cameron their ideas of how science and technology can be used to improve lives of the poor at the Big Bang Fair 2013

    David Cameron talks to students about Practical Action project

    David Cameron talks to students about their Practical Action  CREST project

    Students at Ursuline Academy had an experience of a lifetime at the Big Bang fair in March. The Science Angels were one of just two teams interviewed by David Cameron when he visited the Big Bang Fair.  In his speech  captured in the video clip below the Prime Minister  said that ‘ it is important that students make that connection between what they study in the classroom and real lives…the problem you want to solve in the developing world’.

    Watch David Cameron at The Big Bang Fair 2013.

    I joined the students on the second day of the fair where they won and the UKFT Textile edge prize and another group of students from the same school  won the Shell Prize for sustainability  in the National Science and Engineering competition. They were presented with their prestigious awards from the Big Bang at the Award ceremony.  Both groups were also proud to achieve their silver CREST awards.

    Both teams used Practical Action’s Global CREST challenges materials as inspiration for their projects.  The material provides students with support in using real life problems in the developing world to work on for  their CREST awards . It gives students starting points for projects and links to Practical Action’s technical briefs as support material.  The Sustainables were looking at materials suitable for housing in Bangladesh whilst the Science Angels focused on solutions to help grow crops in Kenya.

    As well as an amazing achievement for Ursuline Academy I think it is great recognition of Practical Action’s Global CREST challenges which were launched just over a year ago.

    The Sustainables, winners fo the UKFT Textiles Edge prize  proudly showing their CREST silver certificates

    The Sustainables, winners of the UKFT Textiles Edge prize proudly showing their CREST silver certificates


    The Science Angels, Ursuline Academy, winners of the Shell award for Sustainability

    The Science Angels, Ursuline Academy, winners of the Shell award for Sustainability

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  • Just back from the Geography Association Conference…

    April 8th, 2013

    We’ve just spent three days at the GA conference at Derby University and are feeling inspired!

    It’s the first time since we’ve added a Geography section to our schools website that Practical Action has exhibited at the conference and we’ll definitely be going again.

    We’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm of teachers, lecturers and HMI who came to the conference during their Easter holiday to attend workshops and the exhibition to update themselves on the future of Geography.

    We were there to launch our new EuropAfrica education materials…offering a broad range of activities for 11-16 year old students on small scale family farming systems in Africa. Lots of teachers we met seemed enthused by the case studies and and in particular the Shamba Shape Up activities with an opportunity to develop a TV script based on a real life TV series.

    We’re looking forward to hearing from schools over the next year about how the materials have been used.

    Our new Floating Garden Challenge based on climate change and flooding was really well received too.

    We’re looking forward to a new chapter of keeping Geographers updated with developments at Practical Action.

    GA conf 2013 001


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