One way to spark enthusiasm for physics is to show pupils the dynamic and creative industries that demand scientific skills.
Ashfield Music Festival, a day-long, off-timetable activity designed by the Institute of Physics, offers pupils the chance to create a virtual music festival, and is challenging and quirky enough to appeal to the most reluctant pupil.
Pupils compete in teams of six to win a "contract" to build the main stage. The problems they encounter force them to combine their scientific, entrepreneurial and creative talents.
The institute provides a resource pack so that teachers can lead the day. Pupils are first shown a video detailing how the Green Man Festival in Wales is planned. They are then assigned roles - such as project manager, electrical engineer and sound engineer - after identifying the skill set required for each occupation. There are options for pupils at all levels, so the project can stretch gifted and talented children as well as cater for those whose academic needs are greater.
During the day, pupils also meet science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) ambassadors relevant to their roles in the project, who guide them in making key decisions.
"By using STEM ambassadors as experts, students get the chance to meet and interact with real scientists," says Taj Bhutta, who developed Ashfield Music Festival. "This can be useful in challenging stereotypes and encouraging more students to take science at A level. I've also seen (the project) run successfully with A-level and undergraduate students as experts."
After training, pupils spend an hour and a half preparing their company's bid. Teams also have to agree on ticket prices, design a poster and prepare to pitch to a judging panel made up of teachers and STEM experts.
The feedback has been positive, with schools reporting back on pupils' enthusiasm. "By getting a taste of what engineers do, students come away with a much better appreciation of how important physics is to so many careers," Bhutta says.
Ashfield can be run by teachers; alternatively, STEM brokerages (which provide schools with impartial advice on accessing STEM activities) and some university outreach departments (such as the one at the University of Liverpool) will manage it for a small fee. If your school is part of the Stimulating Physics Network (www.stimulatingphysics.org), you can ask a teaching and learning coach to run the day for you free of charge.
For further details, visit www.iop.orgashfield
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