Project team Learning and Outreach Officers will be working with local schools cross-tier, to increase pupils’ confidence in science, technology, engineering and maths. This group of school subjects is commonly known as “STEM”.
Among many other things, the schools’ programme will cover story-telling, problem-solving, and an introduction to the concept of scientific experimentation in the very earliest years in primary schools. Slightly older children will further develop this, by exploring scientific and technical concepts in greater detail in an interactive, hands-on learning programme, drawing on expertise from within the project team and nationally renowned STEM teaching from NUSTEM, who are based at Northumbria University .
Pupils about to move up to secondary school will have the opportunity to work with the Institution of Civil Engineers to bridge the gap between school tiers, and secondary school students will work on a rapid response engineering challenge and with Berwick Records Office to produce a creative response to the Union Chain Bridge project. STEM teachers from both Scottish and English schools will have the opportunity to network, receive continuing professional development training and share good practice: as it says on the Union Chain Bridge itself, united we are stronger.
The overall aim is to provide a long-term strategy to address the many issues currently facing STEM, such as the national skills crisis, and misleading media portrayals of STEM professionals, particularly with respect to female rôles in careers stereo-typically seen as masculine.
But let’s not forget the cultural and historical importance of the Union Chain Bridge. A complementary offer for schools across the broader curriculum is an important part of our education work. Using resources from Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Museums Northumberland and beyond, we aim to put Captain Brown’s tremendous feat of engineering into its context, to help pupils understand something of the world in the 1820s, when the bridge was first built, and of the way time has passed in the intervening 200 years that it has bestrode the River Tweed. We will offer Heritage Heroes awards in partnership with Archaeology Scotland. Ambitiously, on the project team we like to think we can offer schools a Union Chain Bridge-related learning activity for almost every school curriculum subject, both sides of the border!