IOP Physics in the Field activities for children : Illustrating the Impacts of the STEM Ambassadors programme
September 16th 2016

IOP Physics in the Field activities for children : Illustrating the Impacts of the STEM Ambassadors programme

Here’s another fantastic case study from one of our inspirational STEM Ambassadors, Harold Stockdale. Harold and colleagues from the Merseyside branch of the Institute of Physics (IOP) were invited to provide Physics in the Field (PitF) activities for children at Cheshire West and Chester Libraries.

Illustrating the Impacts of the STEM Ambassadors programme
Case Study: Institute of Physics (IOP) Physics in the Field (PitF) Activities at Cheshire West and Chester Libraries

Context and Overview

Over the summer holidays, the libraries within Cheshire West & Chester took part in a national initiative called the ‘Big Friendly Read’. To supplement their activities, STEM Ambassador, Harold Stockdale, and colleagues from the Merseyside branch of the IOP were invited to provide PitF activities for children, their parents/guardians and members of the public attending particular libraries.  The PitF activities are relatively simple demonstrations of phenomena usually involving everyday objects.  These activities are very much “hands-on” and visitors to the PitF are encouraged to try the activities for themselves.

The PitF volunteers are able to provide explanations of what happens (sometimes what happens is counterintuitive) and this hopefully encourages children and adults to try the activities at home and think about the science behind what’s happening.

For the programme of library visits in 2016, the STEM Ambassadors and colleagues from the PitF team visited four libraries for two hours each and we had an estimated total number of visitors (children and adults) of 200, ranging from about 30 in one rural library and about 70 in a library in a small town.

The PitF activities are traditionally demonstrated at public events with the main visitors being curious adults and teenagers/school students and the occasional toddler in a pushchair.  In the libraries, most of the children were pre-school and primary school age. This in itself presented a challenge to the volunteers to get the right balance between showing “things that go bang and water dripping on volunteers” and giving fairly advanced explanations of the basic physics behind what was happening!

Impact on young people

Did we encourage any budding Nobel Prize winners?  Perhaps! But the rationale of the PitF in libraries was to supplement the libraries’ reading initiative and to hopefully encourage youngsters and the parents to try things at home and to think those all-important thoughts of why things happen the way they do.

One of the libraries handed out “Tell us what you think” forms and some of the edited comments were:

     “made me want to try some more experiments at home”

    “nice short sessions for the kids.  Hands on science”

    “they enjoyed it”.

Impact on organisation

Ian Anstice, librarian and coordinator for the Summer Reading Challenge for Cheshire West & Chester Council commented

“I was absolutely delighted that PitF could once more offer sessions in our libraries.  The quality of the sessions are very high as are the enjoyment levels of all those taking part.  The Summer Reading Challenge is all about having fun and learning things over the holidays and the PitF sessions fit perfectly into that.  As library budgets grow tighter, it is also absolutely wonderful that these sessions are offered free of charge.”

Impact on STEM Ambassadors

In total, five volunteers took part in the events at the four libraries and they were drawn from a range of physics-related backgrounds.  Demonstrating these activities to youngsters far removed in age from those they encounter in their professional lives required lateral thinking and not a little apprehension. All enjoyed the events and the opportunity to encourage the young (and sometimes the not so young) was a rewarding experience.

Discover more about the STEM Ambassador programme…



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Selena Ledgerton Selena Ledgerton
Selena Ledgerton Web, Media & Marketing Manager e: [email protected]