Home » Blast off! Glamorgan teacher inspires pupils to design and build out-of-this-world science projects
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Blast off! Glamorgan teacher inspires pupils to design and build out-of-this-world science projects

Design and Technology (D&T) teacher Matt James is working to inspire and widen pupils’ understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM )by demonstrating how science is integral to D&T and challenging them to create their own solutions to scientific problems. 

By using the British Science Association’s (BSA) CREST Awards resources at Lewis Girls’ School in Ystrad Mynach, Mr James has encouraged pupils to explore the cross-curricular nature of science and demonstrated the real-world applications of STEM subjects. 

CREST Awards is a nationally recognised STEM education scheme that helps to empower children and young people to engage with the STEM subjects by acting like real-life scientists as they undertake hands-on, investigative projects. CREST resources are free and available in Welsh translations, and all CREST Awards are free for pupils of all ages across Wales to apply for.

Ensuring that the learning is relevant and applicable to his pupils, Mr James centres the curriculum for Years 7, 8 and 9 around ‘big questions’ pertaining to planet Earth; how life is sustained on Earth, what it is like to live on Earth and how to leave Earth. As part of this theme, Year 9 pupils at the school were challenged to design and build rockets that could ‘reach Mars’, should humans ever need to leave Earth, utilising the Bronze CREST project ‘How do rockets work?’ and earning the Award in the process.

In his Year 7 class, Mr James utilises Discovery Awards, which are designed for 10-14-year-olds, and include projects that help his pupils explore Earth’s agricultural needs through Sustainable Solutions. Pupils are challenged to think about how best to feed the planet’s growing population through innovative solutions such as building hydroponic, vertical farming towers to maximise how many crops can grow in space. 

By utilising CREST Awards in the classroom, pupils are empowered to complete relevant and engaging science projects while they earn a certificate of achievement that is recognised across the UK and is a valuable addition to UCAS or job applications, helping them to stand out and demonstrate their aptitude for project-based work. Pupils behave like scientists by leading their own investigations into real-world issues, producing designs that answers a problem facing today’s society. Doing so helps them to understand more about the extremely varied definitions and roles of modern-day scientists, building aspirations and helping them to discover their own passion for science. Contextualising learning also allows pupils to develop essential STEM skills which will prepare them for the future workplace.

Further, running CREST Awards can support teachers to meet the Welsh Government’s four key purposes of a good curriculum. By encouraging independent investigation and with the variety of subjects to be explored with the help of CREST, pupils can build a wide range of skills whilst becoming ambitious and capable lifelong learners, enterprising and creative contributors, ethical and informed citizens, and confident and valued members of society.

The BSA is committed to inspiring and supporting more young people to engage with science, particularly those from underrepresented groups. . However, between 2010 and 2022, the number of students who earned a D&T GCSE fell by 71 per cent, which is a crucial subject in the STEM sector. Encouraging younger pupils to earn a CREST Award earlier in their education can help fill this gap in engagement and inspire more young people to pursue an education or career in the STEM sector.  

Matt James, Design and Technology teacher at Lewis Girls’ School in Ystrad Mynach, Wales said:

“Design and Technology lessons set pupils up with problem-solving, technical, resilience and creativity skills, which are increasingly required by all jobs, not just those traditionally associated with D&T. This way of teaching gives students the vital opportunity to think outside the box, achieve a degree of independence and not be afraid to fail while developing so many skills needed for the modern world.

“CREST resources are a useful tool to support the D&T curriculum. It gives the pupils that extra bit of authenticity to their project, creating an invaluable learning experience.”