AROUND 12,400 primary and high school pupils in the Highlands and Islands have taken part in 629 science sessions and extracurricular events since the first Newton Room was opened in the region, three years ago.
Last week (30th March), pupils from Muck and Eigg Primary Schools travelled by ferry to visit the Fort William Newton Room.
The learning centres are designed to inspire more young people to become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and encourage them to study these subjects in school and beyond.
The Science Skills Academy (SSA), which is behind the initiative, is encouraging more schools to get in touch and book a session, in particular schools in the Lochaber area that have not yet participated in Newton Room activities.
Five Newton Rooms have so far been created in the Highlands with the first one opening in Thurso in March 2019, followed by the second one at the Caol Youth Centre in Fort William in April. Another Newton Room is located at An Lòchran on Inverness Campus and the Dingwall Newton Room was officially launched in March this year. The fifth, being a Pop-Up Newton Room, recently toured Skye and Lochalsh as well as Badenoch and Strathspey, allowing nearby schools to take part in practical STEM sessions.
Nick Sedgwick, SSA’s Fort William STEM Engagement Officer, said:
“It’s such a fantastic experience being part of the SSA delivery team and having the opportunity to work with pupils from the Lochaber area. It’s great to watch them learn new skills and knowledge in a fun and interactive environment.”
“All of our team come from backgrounds in STEM or education, so we are passionate about inspiring young people about these subjects. By bringing what pupils learn in the classroom into a practical scenario, it gives them the opportunity to better understand how it could become a career for them in the future.”
The SSA is a partnership project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with £3m of Scottish Government funding from the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. Other organisations behind the initiative include Skills Development Scotland, the University of the Highlands and Islands, High Life Highland, The Highland Council and NHS Highland.
Scottish Government Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said:
“The Scottish Government’s £3m investment in the Science Skills Academy, through the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, is helping develop a pipeline of STEM skills which will be critical to Scotland’s future economic growth.
“That is why Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation recognises the importance of providing the current and future workforce with lifetime access to learning new skills, upskilling and retraining as part of plans to unlock Scotland’s economic potential.
“Across the Highlands, the Academy’s five Newton Rooms will inspire young people to pursue successful careers in STEM areas – from renewables and bio-fuels to health science and robotics – and equip them with the skills they need to do so.”
The Highland Newton Room network ensures all 10–14-year-olds (P6-S2 classes) from the region are given the opportunity to take part in educational and inspiring STEM sessions.
Sue Hollands, Eigg Primary teacher, said:
“The children described the day as amazing, such fun, great, inspiring and incredible. I thought the activities were really interesting and challenging enough to ensure the children pushed their learning whilst remaining engaged in the activities. Our thanks to the SSA for providing the opportunities which we are unable to access on Eigg and Muck.”
Despite covid restrictions and implications over the past two years, the Highland Newton Room network has been open and remains accessible to schools. Activities have focused on STEM sectors that are important to the economy of the Highlands and Islands such as renewable energy, life sciences, health sciences, robotics, aquaculture and space.
From August 2021 to March this year, 281 sessions have been delivered to 5457 pupils from 130 Primary and Secondary schools, which demonstrates the success of the programme this academic year.
Schools interested in finding out more about their nearest Newton Room should visit www.scienceskillsacademy.co.uk or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.