2023 was something of a landmark year in the UK and globally – it was time to leave COVID-19 lockdowns firmly in the past - after all domestic restrictions were officially lifted in 2022 - and celebrate togetherness again.

The city of Leeds did this in style by hosting LEEDS 2023 – Year of Culture, a year-long, city-wide celebration of culture, supported by Leeds City Council and many other illustrious partners.

The festivities of the Year of Culture were truly inclusive, with events happening across the city that invited people of all backgrounds to enjoy every aspect of culture you can imagine, from music and food to art and engineering. And this is where CREST Awards come in!

Free CREST Awards for young people in Leeds

Engaging young people and exploring the value of education was a key part of the celebration, so LEEDS 2023 developed accredited CREST Awards in partnership with Smeaton300.

CREST accreditation allows other organisations to offer young people the opportunity to earn a CREST Award through using their resources. The resources must meet certain criteria, and once accreditation has been granted, the CREST logo can be added.

Smeaton300 is an art and engineering project by Foxglove. The two-year project was launched in partnership with LEEDS 2023 and is now in its second year. Its events, research and resources are inspired by the work of Leeds-born John Smeaton, the UK’s first civil-engineer. Exploring the work of an engineer from the past can inspire the STEM professionals of the future!

Together, LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture and Smeaton300 developed a CREST SuperStar resource pack, for ages 7-11, and a CREST Discovery pack for ages 11-14, all about civil engineering in their local community.

Abby Dix-Mason and Jane Earnshaw, the co-founders of Foxglove, said:

It is really important that our Smeaton300 art X engineering programme inspires the next generation of engineers. The Smeaton CREST awards bring an interdisciplinary STEAM ethos that encourges young people to work across science, art, engineering and design and develop a diverse range of skills, in the same way that John Smeaton did in his lifetime. We are really happy that the CREST Awards are still available to access during the second year of Smeaton300 and will continue to be a great legacy for the project when the programme completes in December 2024.

These resources are all still available.

Download here

As with all CREST resources, these were free for schools to download from their website. However, as part of the Year of Culture celebrations, LEEDS 2023 also funded the CREST entry fee and certificate costs for all Leeds schools who completed the activities. In total, over 1,000 Awards were funded for Leeds school children throughout the year.

Chris Ansell, Head of Creative Learning and Engagement at LEEDS 2023 said:

To find solutions to real-world challenges, the next generation of artists, engineers and leaders is going to need to be creative, inclusive, and innovative. 

‘Smeaton300 CREST resources have been designed to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and help students develop creative approaches to engineering and problem solving.

Equipping STEM education in the region

LEEDS 2023 were able to extend Leeds-themed CREST Awards across the region and beyond.

CREST projects allow students to think and behave like scientists and engineers, and see the real-world applications of STEM. Working on the projects can boost team-work skills, communication, confidence and many other hugely important transferable skills.

It can also help young people see themselves in STEM roles, which could help improve diversity in the STEM sector in the future – something every region across the UK would benefit from.

Managed by the British Science Association, CREST provides a holistic education package for teachers, including free activity resources with teacher instructions and demo videos, student activity Passports (to record their progress), award badges and certificates, online support, and more.

The collaboration has equipped STEM education in the region with easy-to-run and flexible resources teachers in Leeds only needed to make minimum effort to run CREST activities easily with their students using the Smeaton300 CREST Awards resource; what’s more, all of the activities are aligned with the national curriculum so they could be included in their teaching plan.

The resources also helped to make STEM more relevant to young people in Leeds, as the activities were inspired by a son of Yorkshire, and focused on designing a park in Leeds.

Long-lasting impact beyond the region

The other benefit of the collaboration between CREST and LEEDS 2023 is that by partnering with CREST, and other partners including Leeds City Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Arts Council England, and many others, LEEDS 2023 were able to maximise the impact of their funding for creative learning programmes. CREST is an established STEM education scheme that is nationally recognised. All the resources are available online, as well as the application of the Awards. That means young people in other regions of the UK can also access this resource. By working with CREST, LEEDS 2023 were able to extend Leeds-themed CREST Awards across the region and beyond, and expand the impact.  

These resources are all still available to download today for everyone. The funding and support the partners provided helped to champion children and young people to engage with STEM through CREST, and has created a positive and long-lasting impact, particularly on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, making STEM teaching and learning accessible for all children in the region.

LEEDS 2023 managed to reach an impressive number of students via CREST Awards, a model that could doubtless be replicated in other regions to enhance the accessibility of STEM education resources, especially for remote areas.

Design a SuperStar park and plan a Discovery Day

The SuperStar pack includes eight activities which explore all sorts of civil engineering topics. To encourage children to understand the importance of green public spaces, and how civil engineers work to ensure they’re accessible and sustainable, several of the projects are based on a fictional new park in Leeds – aptly named Smeaton Park. Children are asked to design and build a bridge, explore which trees would be best to plant in the park, and how to reduce the amount of waste and litter, take part in activities based on Smeaton’s famous lighthouse, etc.

Discovery Awards are group projects that should take students around five hours to complete, meaning they can be done in one day – a Discovery Day! For the Discovery Award, Smeaton300 and the Year of Culture developed resources for students and guidance notes for teachers. This includes a PowerPoint slide show which can be found here. There is also a student pack, to give students autonomy over their work.

As with all Discovery projects, students work in self-led teams, which include a project manager, research manager, design lead and several other roles. The project aligns with several topics on the KS3 curriculum including citizenship, design & technology and physics.

Take part

As part of the Year of Culture celebration, Leeds 2023 funded the Smeaton300 CREST Awards for over 1,000 young people at eight schools across Leeds!

While 2023 maybe over, all the resources to run these projects and activities are still available and are applicable to young people from all around the UK.    

Find all the links you’ll need here:

SuperStar Awards pack

Discovery pack – teacher information

Discovery PowerPoint

Discovery student pack

The project was supported by Leeds City Council, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, Bruntwood, Burberry and Scottish Power Foundation.