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


What the students got from it was seeing STEM* subjects in a secondary setting, and taking part.

This is Kim Vale, a teacher at The Holmesdale School - a secondary school in Kent – talking to us about the CREST Awards day she ran for Year 5 pupils last year.

As a science teacher, Kim was keen to organise more STEM activities at the school, and when a colleague suggested working with pupils from local primary schools, the idea of a SuperStar CREST day was born.

CREST Awards is the British Science Association’s flagship education programme to encourage 5-19-year-olds to behave like scientists through investigative, open-ended projects. SuperStar Awards are designed for children aged 7-11, and they must complete eight activities to earn an Award.

In this blog, Kim tells us about the day, offers tips for schools to plan their own CREST days, shares how it benefitted the Year 8 students who helped out pupils from less affluent backgrounds and more.

“The pupils walk out of here head high, feeling a sense of achievement”

Ten primary school classes from various schools, along with their teachers, descended on The Holmesdale School for the CREST day. The purpose, Kim explained, was to expose the children “to what they can do with the STEAM** subjects and what they’re going to be doing with us.”

The children did four SuperStar activities during their day at Holmesdale, and when they went back to their primary schools, their teachers ran the further four activities needed for the children to receive their SuperStar Awards.

Would this experience boost the children’s confidence in STEM as they approach secondary education?

“It builds the relationship between the primary schools and us, and it will have a long-lasting impact”, Kim said. “The pupils walk out of here head high, feeling a sense of achievement and they will link that together.”

The day was such a success that Kim plans to do it again this year, with a small change.

I’ve asked them to do four activities before the day so that once they’ve finished the four activities with us, they’ll have done eight open-ended activities and they’ll walk away on the day with their certificate...At the end of the day the student walks out having had a good day and a piece of paper!

Watch here to hear from Kim about how external STEM ambassadors made the day extra special:

“Using the student ambassadors is gold dust”

The CREST day was designed to benefit not just the visiting Year 5 pupils, but the Year 8 students at Holmesdale who were enlisted to help.

“You’re going to be a science ambassador for the day.” Kim told her students. She found that giving students this leadership role was a brilliant opportunity to let them come into their own.

Students absolutely love showing off their school…[working with younger children] helps them develop. It would be nice if we could offer it to all the year group, but it helps to have the same students with you all day. The first session they might be a little reserved, but by the time they’ve done it the third time they’re experts, and they will actually run the majority of the session for you.

Helping primary school children with STEM projects shows secondary students just how much science understanding they have, and how skilled they are at passing on their expertise.

Some of the primary pupils had special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and needed some extra assistance with the SuperStar activities. The Year 8 students took to this role with aplomb.   

Using the student ambassadors then [with SEND pupils] is gold dust. The Years 8s spotted quite early on those of their Year 5 charges that needed an extra bit of help. And that boosts the confidence of your SEND child.

Watch here to hear more from Kim about making CREST accessible for SEND students:

“The beauty of CREST is that it puts it all in front of them”

Students from less affluent backgrounds who are eligible for free school meals, and are therefore supported by pupil premium, make up around a third of the student population at The Holmesdale School.

These students don’t always have the opportunity to expand their academic and science capital outside of school, with weekend trips to museums or historical sites, and so projects like CREST Awards can be especially beneficial for them.

There will be those families amongst that group [less affluent families] where parents are running two jobs and often the students are going home and they’ve got a caring role at the house, looking after younger siblings. 

And yes, you do see that those students have less background knowledge. The beauty of CREST is that it puts it all in front of them and then they can do that research and they can find those things out and they work as a team.

CREST days also give the pupils something new and different to share with their families when they get home – a chance to get excited about STEM!

I met some of the parents who work either at our school or a neighbouring school and one of them went out of their way to come and tell me what their daughter had taught them the night before.

Watch here to hear more from Kim about the benefits of CREST for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds:. 

Research shows that children who are excited by STEM in primary school often lose that interest in the early years of secondary school, as they can find science lessons to be unrelated to life and with less opportunity for practical work.

CREST projects are a brilliant resource for keeping the enthusiasm for STEM alive as children move up through primary education and into secondary school, as all the activities are based on real-world scenarios, and allow children to get hands-on! Days like Kim’s also allow younger secondary pupils to experience the joy of passing on their knowledge.

Watch the full interview with Kim here, to hear about how to plan the day, its purpose, how it benefitted the Year 8 school ambassadors helping out and more:

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

** STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and maths

More blogs you might be interested in:

CREST Awards and design & technology - perfect bedfellows

Building girls' confidence in STEM with CREST Awards

Making use of our funding and CREST Awards

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