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Business breakfast event: Building on the climate change debate by exploring the science behind it

Published: Jul 2, 2021 5 min read


STEM Learning’s recent online business breakfast included an impressive panel who shared their ideas and thoughts around climate change. The conversation looked at how we can inspire the next generation through small scale changes to lifestyles or in their choice of a STEM career path.

The panel of representatives from STEM Learning and lead organisations in the climate sector including the Met Office joined 70 participants from businesses across the country. 
The panel featured:
  • Alyssa Gilbert, Director of Policy and Translation at Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College  
  • Felicity Liggins, Education Outreach Manager, Met Office 
  • Sarah Osborne, Sizewell Visitor Centre Coordinator, EDF 
  • Sam Williams, Teacher and Co-operative Form Lead, Cotham Gardens Primary School 
  • Alex Brown, STEM Support Manager, STEM Learning
The discussion focused on how collaboration was crucial to provide cohesive support to schools and young people. STEM Learning has established a Climate Change Education Partnership to address this need by bringing partners from across education, research and the wider STEM sector to support the delivery of climate change related lessons and activities in education settings.  
Alyssa Gilbert began the session describing why climate change was so important from an international perspective - describing the change ‘as a way we are impacting our planet but not in a good way’.  Referring to this geologic time as the ‘Anthropocene’ - a term being used to describe the time that the evidence of our impact on the planet has become clear - she talked about essential changes required, ranging from renewable energy to transportation – all of which require STEM skills.  She also mentioned the influential role the UK would play over the next year, including playing host to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, and the opportunity this presents to inspire the next generation in STEM subjects.
STEM Learning’s Alex Brown highlighted how important it was to bring together partners across education, research and the wider STEM sector to support the delivery of climate change related lessons and activities.  From inspiring resources, Continual Professional Development (CPD) and events, STEM Ambassador support in class, and competitions and challenges such as ‘Climate Detectives’, this partnership aims to enhance our educators’ knowledge so students understand the science and implications of climate change.  
The Met Office’s Education Outreach Manager Felicity Liggins explained how important the Partnership was for key organisations to work together as a community to ensure teachers and young people were not overburdened by the wealth of information available. She mentioned how connecting science decision makers and enabling members to share expertise, knowledge and resources to ensure consistency of messaging provides an opportunity to encourage young people to engage with the science behind climate change. She also highlighted the work of their STEM Ambassadors and outreach activities ranging from virtual science camps to careers talks to online resources.
Sarah Osborne from the Sizewell visitor centre explained how nuclear power has a key role in tackling climate change by helping the UK reduce its dependency on fossil fuels. The visitor centre which is next to the power station is home to a range of interactive displays that engage students in conversation around climate change and the impact we can have on it.  The centre manages science workshops and have taken them on the road to schools such as Alde Valley Academy in Leiston where they ran a net zero challenge with the students.  With the support of the power station supply chain the students were able to measure their carbon footprint and design ways of reducing it.  . Sizewell’s philosophy of ensuring that they are good neighbours to their communities has clearly led to impactful relationships with schools which is inspiring young people to consider STEM subjects which is crucial in tackling skills gaps in this field.
Sam Williams, a teacher at Cotham Gardens Primary School - a cooperative academy in Bristol - explained how the key to becoming a finalist in the Climate Change Competition had been to listen to their pupils. Their main priority had been to create a safe space for children to have a voice, to address misconceptions and teach not only climate science but also critical thinking skills. He highlighted how they facilitated a debate on the expansion of Bristol Airport which led to exploring alternative solutions to reduce the impact which has inspired and engaged their pupils in STEM subjects.
What was very clear from the discussion was the exciting opportunity that the UK’s role of hosting COP26 has in harnessing the interest our young people have in the issues around Climate Change and inspire them to see the opportunities of STEM that run alongside it. This is not just about engaging them in the debate but also linking the science behind Climate Change to the STEM curriculum so that they are aware of the breadth of opportunities to be part of the solution. By inspiring the next generation of scientists and empowering them in realising their potential and power to make a difference, we will maximise the impact and legacy of the UK's role of climate action to protect our planet and ensure a greener, more resilient future for us all. 
Our next virtual business breakfast – Recovery – What is on school’s minds and how can businesses support them - is taking place on Thursday 29 July.  Please register for your free place here.
If you are an employer that has been inspired by our recent business discussion and share our mission of a world-leading STEM education for every young person in the UK, whatever their background, please contact our employers team.