Scrapheap December 2018

Wow, the last of the year, 1000 pupils later and the ideas are still coming thick and fast! Today we have the fabulous Oakdene, Grangetown and St Josephs Primaries from three of our Local Authority areas. Nearly 100 pupils, plus the ever impressive student STEM Ambassadors from Hillsview Academy helping out.

As usual, the challenge is set and the children have to focus on effective teamwork to develop a plan which can be made as a model from the recycled materials we get from Percy our local Scrapstore. Developing a team plan, assigning roles and then working effectively in the very limited time available has proved time and time again to be a great hit with the children. They are certainly working under pressure to get finished but they seem to thrive on it. As usual there will be live presentations of their work here this afternoon form about 1.50. But for now: planning!

Inspiring STEM

IMG_5288How do you get pupils interested in STEM subjects?

I think it is fair to say that our STEM Days are often the first events that get completely booked up when we release dates each year. To try and compensate for this we have upped the numbers by 20% this year and still the waiting list grows!

A fantastic day saw the usual amazing support by Connor from Cleveland Bridge, Julie from Inspiron Learning, Teesside University (both Student Ambassadors and Dale) and the fantastic ladies from WSP. 120 children from 3 schools were split into smaller groups and spent nearly an hour with each of three workshops. The feedback has been brilliant and pupils seem to love the fun aspect but also having meaningful interactions with adults that that they wouldn’t normally come into contact with. In essence, that is why we create these days. To inspire but also broaden the social and cultural capital that is developing fro each child.

As usual we finish the day with a science showcase in the auditorium with some bloke in a fancy jacket and top hat. And no he isn’t Willy Wonka! The aim of this is not just to leave a really exciting memory of the day, it is also an opportunity to build in some of the really exciting information about the local area in terms of developments and ultimately employment for the children in their futures. And after this week’s announcements that information gets even more exciting!

Concrete Coding

Our first Robotic Coding of the term and the lovely Y2s from Acklam Whin, Newcomen and Saltburn have been busy using Dot, Dash and Cue in a range of challenges and activities that have escalated in difficulty as the day has progressed. Linking coding to concrete outcomes is important to really establish a deep level of understanding between what is being ‘typed in’ and the effect on a real object. At Y2 this is especially important and the children have taken to it like ducks to water.

As you can see from the videos below, the huge maps that we created allowed the children to express their understanding of what they had learned and add in some finishing touches: victory dances were optional!

Scrapheap Challenge November 2018

IMG_5161Yes it is yet another set of pupils having an attempt at the scrapheap challenge in order to develop team skills and creative thinking. We have the fabulous St Benedicts, Oakdene and St Josephs with us today and the pupils have been working brilliantly. More than that, they have shown wonderful respect for other children and adults in the building, whilst not squashing their enthusiasm too much. As we head up to lunchtime I’ve included some of the images below of their work so far. You may notice a bit of a Pudsey theme creeping in but that is no bad thing!

What a fantastic day we have had. One of the teachers told me that one of the groups was made up of girls who unfortunately had a habit of arguing constantly in class. She said that the they hadn’t crossed words once during the day! We believe that developing teamwork skills is vital and this type of event is a good example of how to structure activities that focus on that key skill.

The models today really were finished beautifully. That is never the point of the day but you will see below that some even had demonstrable features. Well done to everyone.

Maths in the World of Work

IMG_5117It has often been commented on by teachers who bring students to our events that they are impressed by the quality of the speakers that we work with. This is no accident. We don’t always get it right but that is usually because it is someone’s first time, they don’t know what to expect and we haven’t been able to help them as much as we would like to. Today was a good example of how it works well. Over 60 students from 4 schools across the Tees Valley attended our Maths in the World of Work day. Most of the presenters hadn’t been before but we had taken the time to speak to them in some detail and the result was a varied and engaging set of activities across orange of disciplines. Huge thanks to Teesside Uni Ambassador programme (again!), Russell Mills, Rob Wilson (of Wilton Engineering) and three apprentices from the ever supportive Accenture. The quality of the interactions on these particular events is second to none. When designing our programme we look to make activities as meaningful as possible both through our own experience of what works and what the research is telling us. Our World of Work days are probably the best example of this. The pupils were split into four groups and completely mixed up so they had to work with pupils form different schools. They took to it brilliantly. We also finished the day with a challenge based on cryptography and it was with a huge number of groans that I had to stop the pupils at the end of the day.

What was also brilliant to hear came from the presenters after the pupils had left. They genuinely felt that they had made a difference and really enjoyed the different audience to the people they usually work and deal with day to day. This is a recurring theme and companies are increasingly sending a wider range of their employees because they tell us that they go back to the office the next day absolutely fired up with enthusiasm. We aim to please and we thank everyone for their support. if your company hasn’t taken part yet please send me an email, through effective collaboration we are really starting to make a difference.

Locomaths November 2018

IMG_5088Just spent the morning trying to work out how to bottle enthusiasm because Whale Hill and Acklam Whin pupils seem to have it in abundance! Wow they have hit the ground running as the latest groups of pupils to take on the Locomaths Challenge. Based on the real life challenge of creating anew railway route through a country the children have to work out costings, test alternative routes, evaluate impact, both social and environmental and present it all to the group (and this web page) by 2pm. I have no worries that they will succeed magnificently.

As usual, events here are based around team working skills, applying existing knowledge and working out creative solutions to problems. Three of our teams today are even mixed schools so the pupils really have to develop their ability to mix and work effectively with other children they have never met.

And here are the presentations:

Scrapheap October 2018

IMG_4959Well the Halloween craziness has started early here at I2L and the looks on the faces of the pupils from St Benedicts, Saltburn and Ormesby Primaries was a joy to behold! It set the tone: you are here to be creative…..and creative they have been. It is often a challenge when we invite multiple year groups to the same event. Pitching the stimulus right is a balancing act but one that we think we are particularly experienced at.

You can see from the pictures below that every group has been full of ideas and are now in the process of bringing those to life as I type. The focus again has been on the key skills that you need in a workplace such as effective listening, compromise, collaboration etc and there will be prizes at the end of the day based on that. As usual we will also be treated to each group presenting their work at around 2pm this afternoon on this webpage.



Videos will follow soon due to a technical hitch but you can see from the pictures below taken during the afternoon that the enthusiasm didn’t abate. Several children from each school were also chosen to receive an Inspire2Learn t-shirt for showing an exemplary teamwork ethic. But believe me, it was hard to choose, all pupils worked really hard, in  really effective teams.



Aspiration: Making a difference

It might not feel like it when you spend 20mins talking to a group of 13 year olds about what you or your company do all day long, but the research evidence suggests you make a massive difference to the rest of their lives. I won’t spend time discussing the various pieces of research here (but if you are interested please visit here) but trust me, the evidence is weighted heavily in favour. And so it was that today we welcomed Sharon and Sophie from Resolution Communications, Kirsten and Lily from PD Ports, Erika from Nifco, Vicky and Sarah from South Tees NHS, Wendy from the Civil service, two incredibly enthusiastic ambassadors from Teesside University and Leanne from CUBIC to speak to over 200 children split into small groups over the course of the day. Yes some are always going to be more switched on to the opportunity than others but the feedback from staff (we had 8 schools over the course of the day) was really enthusiastic. These events are based on what the research evidence suggests has meaningful impact and have been running successfully for the past three years. Half the year focusses on Y8s and the other half on Y5, which we also know from lots of previous experience has a huge impact.

The speakers were mixed in that some had been to events previously and some were here for the first time, after trying many times to fit us into their busy diaries. I get lots of of apologies from people who can’t make our events but I reassure them that it isn’t necessary. When people can come, they do and it is a growing set of maybe 200 businesses that are represented from the Tees Valley across the year. Each does a handful of events at most but by sharing the burden the provision grows. It is a real feature of the Tees Valley business community that the number of well supported events that we run has grown considerably in the four years we have been running them. Around 10 000 pupils benefitted from our programme last year and this is on course to be surpassed in 2018. Thank you to you all for your continued support.

And if you haven’t been yet? Just let me know…

Locomaths October 2018

IMG_4866I know that when our courses were first advertised, Locomaths was a bit of a slow burner in terms of bookings. I think many schools only booked on when they saw the waiting lists on everything else. It was a shame in a way because the activity is a real life application of both maths and english. The pupils have to take the role of building a section of HS2. They are given a 4m map showing various features: countryside, town, wetlands, rivers etc and they have to plan a route across it using a wooden train set. Of course every piece costs money and crossing various features also multiplies the cost. Crossing a river for example multiplies the cost by 5 for that piece of track. The children are encouraged to plan at least three different routes and also consider the environmental and social implications of each route. They will be presenting to camera what their preferred option is in a few m minutes and it will be uploaded on to here by 3pm. The task involved teamwork, a clear plan of work, practical application of maths and english and also the opportunity to present effectively. I have been particularly vocal about that so far today because I want the pupils to present effectively, not just stand in a line reading off a sheet of paper so they ‘get a go’.

Today we have pupils from Acklam Whin and St Paulinus. You can see from the pictures below the level of engagement and it we have had some lovely feedback from the teachers so far today. If you want to see children applying maths and English in context, this is the event!

We have spent time today ensuring that the teams think hard about their presentations. Do you need everyone on camera? What are you showing as graphics? How can you avoid simply reading off a piece of paper? You will see below that the pupils really took this on board with the support of their teachers and it was lovely to see use of cue cards, simplified graphics and even use of film (ideally we would have had it on a big screen which was difficult in because of the way that I filmed it but I loved the idea).

And now the presentations:

STEM Boats October 2018

IMG_4853We enter a run of three busy pupil days here at I2L with three fabulous schools, Whale Hill, Handale and William Cassidi attempting the STEM boats challenge. As usual the aim of the day is to build a boat with a sail that will race down our drainpipe canals. However with a bit of direct input each design decision needs to have been made through rigorous testing. We started the first session with a whole group exploration of using the Post-It method for defining variables in a test situation. This allows the pupils to understand what needs to be controlled, what changed and what measured. After a quick break the pupils have then been asked to apply this systematic way of working to create the best sail boat that they can – with evidence! The pictures below show the level of engagement that this has created. A strong teamwork ethos runs through the day and it is lovely to see all of the pupils getting involved.

I’d also like to add a special mention to some STEM ambassadors that are helping out today. Hillsview Academy have created the role (and in other areas of the curriculum too) and the successful ambassadors have had to submit a letter of application followed by a rigorous interview by SLT. They represent the school on various projects and at events. I can categorically recommend them to anyone who would love some brilliant role models from one of our local secondary schools to come and work with you, whether that is in a primary school or the wider community. A teacher from one of the attending schools today was incredibly complementary about the way that the older students had support her class. When we hear that young people from schools don’t have effective communication skills, engagement in activity or problem solving skills I would invite you to come and see this lot in action. I’d employ them tomorrow!

And congratulations to our winning team who made the ‘Speedy Moose’. Not only were they fastest but they took the time to show other iterations of their design and explain the testing that they had done to ensure they had the best boat available in the time scale. I couldn’t have plan ned it better! The strongest scientific approach probably produced the winner. Real engineers of the future I reckon.