Maintaining curiosity in STEM

Science presenter Maddie Moate talks about the value of staying curious in science, showing young people the connections between STEM subjects and the range of careers they can lead to, and speaking up for the environment.

 "We need to make STEM careers options and the connections to STEM subjects much more visible"

Children are born curious, especially at pre-school age; you can’t stop them asking questions, it’s impossible. As they get older, they can get bogged down by life, they stop being curious, they can lose that wonder. I think staying actively curious is really important, especially when it comes to STEM.

Without curiosity STEM fields would come to a halt. Innovation would stall because we wouldn’t have anybody asking the important questions. Science is just a much bigger term including asking questions about how the world works, observing the world around you, and wondering why things are the way they are, then going looking for answers.

"Science is for everybody."

Sometimes, especially at school, the word ‘science’ becomes pretty inseparable from the subject or a lesson and I think a lot of youngsters choose not to like science because of the context. But when you take that word away, everything just boils down to curiosity. Once you realise that, then you see that science is for everybody.

Making careers visible

At school I really enjoyed science and I particularly enjoyed biology because of one teacher because he was so passionate. He loved moths and he was so proudly nerdy. Now it’s kind of cool to be nerdy, but it wasn’t at the time. He completely owned it.

He was really good at getting us out in the field, he was always organising trips. Not just down the road, he got us on trips to Egypt where we were actively involved in conservation. We were able to see what a career in STEM could look like, and I found that so interesting as a young teen who didn’t think she was interested in science.

We need to make the careers options and the connections to subjects much more visible. That will help students to understand that following a career in STEM or science isn’t necessarily the stereotypical guy in lab coat doing experiments every day. There’s a huge variety of roles out there, which is something I’ve learnt in my job now.

STEM clubs

Another thing is to encourage extra-curricular activities. I always took part in singing, dancing and theatre outside of school, so to me it was always clear that drama was going to be ‘my subject’. I was already invested in the subject and I knew it was going to be fun. If a child feels invested in it and empowered and part of a community with their friends then they are more likely to carry on with it. STEM Clubs do this for STEM subjects brilliantly, and can really inspire a love of science. STEM Clubs Week this year is well worth taking part in – 22-26 June – on the very important topic of sustainability.

Practical experiments and activities are also an opportunity to create a memorable moment and promote discussion and ownership in students. I do feel for teachers because I completely appreciate that practical experiments can be quite daunting and stressful for teachers who are already struggling to get everything done. It’s great to find some activities that will promote discussion without requiring lots of preparation or causing chaotic consequences.

"There’s an obligation to talk about the environment; it is so important."

STEM and sustainability

There’s an obligation to talk about the environment; it is so important. I don’t have the science expertise, but I do have an audience so if I can help children to think more about sustainability and the health of the planet I see it as a duty, but one I enjoy and feel passionate about.

If there is an opportunity when talking about STEM to also talk about the environment and sustainability then I’m going to do it. The younger generation are the loudest voices for the environment.

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