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My First STEM Ambassador Activity - Monica Higgins

I have worked with children and young people for many years, but it was still very daunting heading out for my first solo STEM activity. I chose to go to a Guide group of around 20 girls, having previously been a Guide myself I thought it would help me understand what they were looking for. Their leader had asked for some hands-on science experiments and, although my time in a chemistry lab was long gone, I thought it was a great chance to have a bit of fun with something that had initially attracted me to STEM. Furthermore, it was an excellent opportunity to talk with a group of young girls on the precipice of choosing their own career path, with the hope of encouraging them to consider pursuing a STEM subject.

To prepare for the session I did some reading of the documentation provided in the STEM ambassador homepage to come up with any inspiration of possible experiments. At the time I was carrying out an industrial placement with an energy consultancy company, and therefore I wanted to ensure they somewhat linked to the energy industry, particularly oil and gas operations. My aim was to involve them at every stage of the experiment to create something for them that was both educational and enjoyable.

The three experiments I chose were as follows: Density and buoyancy – making an egg float in a glass of water by adding salt Acid/base reactions – lemon and baking soda reaction Density and mixing – oil and water ‘lava lamp’ I made a simple worksheet for each of them to have during the session, and this is something I would definitely do again as it meant they could carry out the tasks independently, while keeping them on the right track. To ensure it got them talking I added some questions at the end of each experiment so that we could have a group discussion.

During the session I started with a brief chat about myself, then did a demonstration of each experiment. I picked a different helper for each one so that they were always involved in the activity, and this helped to keep their engagement throughout. After this, I allowed them to split into pairs or threes, and carry out each experiment independently.

I think that the session was very successful as they were all engaging in the activities and asking questions, and some of them even went beyond the questions I had prepared. In retrospect, I think the acid base activity was a bit messy for the room that we were in (there were no sinks for easy clean up). However, in the feedback at the end the girls unanimously agreed it was the most fun, and it got them all talking about chemical reactions which was ultimately the greatest outcome I could have asked for. For future activities I would definitely use the worksheet again, but perhaps have a more thorough discussion with whoever has advertised the activity to fully understand the facilities available. Overall, I think having the opportunity to visit groups such as the Guides to talk to them about STEM subjects is incredibly rewarding, and I would encourage anyone who is considering becoming a STEM ambassador to give it a try.

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