Even in maritime areas, people can take the impact of the sea for granted. The considerable achievements of the individuals and organisations that have allowed our island nation to thrive are often hidden rather than celebrated.
But a new extra-curricular competition for Year 8 students, called Go4SET My School is an Island, promises to change that. Over a 10-week period, students, working with teachers and mentors from a range of naval and maritime organisations, must work to resolve the problems that would confront their school if it was relocated to an island.
The project was developed by maritime organisation Seavision and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education charity EDT. It is being piloted at schools in Plymouth and the Solent area, with a view to rolling it out across the country.
The 90 students involved in the pilot project began by spending a day at the Royal Navy training facility HMS Collingwood, where they took part in team-building and confidence-boosting activities, such as walking across assault courses blindfolded, and moving objects and people across a swamp. They quickly realised the value of forward planning and cooperation.
They met maritime and naval experts - some of whom have become team mentors - and were introduced to the projects they would be undertaking. One school, for example, has chosen to set its school under the sea; another is working on resolving environmental waste issues; a third team is developing a safety air bridge to link their island school to the mainland. The students will also meet people who use science andor engineering skills in their jobs.
The project aims to link education and business, and give students the chance to experience the diversity of the STEM subjects that a maritime or marine career involves. At the end of it, students must build a two- or three-dimensional model and give a presentation about what they have devised. The projects will be judged on 20 June at SeaCity Museum in Southampton.
The maritime theme has a double purpose. First, it highlights all the logistical and technical challenges that have to be tackled in any location that is surrounded by sea, including travel, resource management and by-product disposal. But it also effectively relates STEM subjects to everyday life. And the strength of maritime industries depends on making sure that there are plenty of recruits with a passion for science and engineering, who see jobs like this as a real opportunity.
Ewen Macdonald is director of Seavision, which promotes awareness of the maritime and marine sector among young people. Visit www.seavision.org.uk and for more about Go4SET go to www.etrust.org.ukgo4set.cfm
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