By Orna Herr, Communications Officer (Education) at the British Science Association


Each year, a theme is chosen for our British Science Week activity packs and poster competition - for 2023 the theme is ‘Connections’.

When you think of STEM* and connections, many things could spring to mind; how the parts of a bridge connect to form a strong structure, the connection between animals and plants in food webs, perhaps how our ability to connect through the internet has changed the world.

But the connections at the heart of all scientific learning, endeavor and innovation are the ones we make with each other. Individuals can have sparks of genius and inspiration, but ideas grow and improve when they’re shared and when people bring their unique perspectives.

The power of team work

Julien Magniez, a product engineer, led an engineering team at 3M to meet the demand for disposable respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team, which included Sandra Chauruka, Audra Wilson and Andre Jorge, was featured as part of the Smashing Stereotypes 2021 campaign.

Julien told us, “Teams are like jigsaw puzzles – you need all the pieces to complete the full picture. I believe in allowing people to play to their strengths.”

So this British Science Week we’re excited to celebrate the human connection that helps scientific discovery to evolve, and allows everyone – scientist or not – to feel part of that evolution.

Each of the four activity packs – Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Community – include an activity that is about finding connections with one another, and the power of working together.

Early Years - Make a community connections map 

The Early Years pack is designed for under 5s, the age when children are making new discoveries every day about the world and their place in it.

Our ‘Make a community connections map’ activity, created in partnership with the National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD), encourages young children to see that they’re part of a community that is wider than they might realise. This activity only requires paper and coloured pens, as children create a map of a route they walk regularly, perhaps to nursery or a club, and draw  all of the different people they see and interact with along the way.

They may be a little young for scientific innovation, but it’s never too soon for little ones to think about how they connect to the people around them.

Primary - UNBOXED: Draw a scientist

Studies show that during primary school, children start to form their world view about who can be a scientist. It is crucial to show them a diverse range of role models at this age to look up to, so they see the breadth of not only who can be a scientist, but of the jobs they do.

Our ‘Draw a scientist’ activity in the Primary pack, developed in partnership with UNBOXED, includes the profiles of five scientists that children from different backgrounds might be able to see themselves in and connect with. They can use these profiles as inspiration for their drawing. They’re asked to think about different skills a scientist might have, including creativity, and how it might benefit them to work with people who have a different but complementary set of skills.

Secondary – Reading Sparks making connections

Sharing the joy of reading is a time-honoured way of connecting with others, as people pass on books they’ve loved to friends, family and beyond. Secondary students can share their passion for STEM through reading stories with the next generation with our ‘Reading Sparks making connections’ activity in the Secondary pack, developed in partnership with Reading Sparks.

Students are asked to choose a book with a STEM topic they’re interested in that would be suitable for a younger child, and create a piece of media – this could be a song, podcast or film, for example – about the book and theme to engage children. This encourages to them to tap into what might appeal to primary school pupils, and connect with them through a shared excitement for STEM.    

Community – Connecting through debate

Healthy debate is a brilliant way of developing ideas, and seeing the world through others’ points of view. While debate is about people advocating for contrasting opinions, it can also allow us to connect and find common ground; we may not be as different as we think.

Our ‘Connecting through debate’ activity in the Community pack, created in partnership with Simple Politics, requires just a timer and some ideas! If there are enough community group members taking part, there can be an audience for the debate who can then vote on which argument they found most persuasive, encouraging the debaters to think about how best to get the wider group to connect with their ideas.

Scientific innovation is all about bringing different ideas to the table, communicating with each other to find the best solution; connecting with others and respecting new ideas is key.

Getting hands-on with experiments and building projects is a brilliant way to celebrate STEM with your students and communities during British Science Week, but don’t forget to look around and connect with the people around you too.

*STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and maths.

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