Small changes: contextualising the curriculum
Use examples from both the inspirational and the everyday to help students understand how STEM subjects are used outside of the classroom.
Keeping it local
Local stories and personal connections can help students to understand how STEM subjects are important to their lives and the lives of people living in their community.
Ideas to try:
- Display a map of the local area and use it in lessons to identify STEM specific employers or industry links to your lessons. Explore with students where their families might have connections, for example, working for or with a local employer. Colleagues can also provide a source of local information, adding their personal experiences of local industry through links to friends or family.
- Share your personal career experiences by talking to students about your own study routes and previous jobs. Expanding on this idea, your school or college is home to a range of professionals, each with their own career pathways to share with young people. You could ask colleagues with professional experience, including teachers, governors and trustees to share their stories with students. Your STEM technicians may be a good starting point. Further information about the importance of this career pathway (in industry as well as education) can be found in Technicians Make it Happen.
- Set homework tasks for students to elicit information from friends and family. For example, you could challenge students to find out what steps their parents have taken to protect themselves from cybercrime or ask friends their opinions on whether driverless cars are a good idea. Having these types of conversations with family and peers will support students to draw a link between your curriculum and their own lives.
- Ask students to identify local issues that they care about and use these to frame the context for future learning. For example, teaching sustainability issues like recycling by using a local fly tipping site or littered area as a starting point.
Referencing wider issues
Setting the learning in the context of a national or global issue with provide students with experience of how STEM subjects are important to the lives of others.
Ideas to try:
- Use a news story to set the context for a classroom topic. For example, the high volume of plastic in ocean waste when teaching polymers. The rapid growth of the robotics industry when teaching new and emerging technologies. The race to develop new antibiotics when teaching aseptic techniques. The challenges and opportunities faced by data scientists when teaching algorithms.
- Show a video of someone working for a STEM employer on a national or global challenge. For example, a Civil Engineer working to prevent flooding in Bangladesh, a Climate Scientist studying climate change, a Humanitarian Engineer working with communities across the world to improve living standards.
Tip: Right click links (or hold tap on mobile devices) to open in a new tab.
Think about the informal discussions that occur in your classroom. What can you pick up from these that might identify personal, local and global issues that your students are interested in?
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