London pupils become scientists for a day – sparking an interest to last a lifetime

On Friday 17th March, 285 primary school pupils from across London became scientists for the day at a special festival aimed at sparking children’s interest in STEM. It was an opportunity to celebrate British Science Week with fun-filled experiments but had a serious underlying message; the need to enthuse children early on about Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

This was National Grid’s 8th Science Festival, run with youth social action charity City Year UK. The festivals are part of a wider out-reach partnership, ‘School Power’, which has delivered over 1,000 free extra-curricular science workshops to over 30,000 London pupils from 255 primary schools since 2011.  The collaboration between National Grid and City Year UK, enables City Year’s 18 to 25-year-old volunteers, trained by National Grid, to give sessions which assist teachers with the KS2 science curriculum.

Gareth Burden, London Power Tunnels Manager at National Grid, said: “This festival is all about having fun but behind it is a serious need to close the STEM skills gap in this country.  Our ‘School Power’ partnership with City Year UK enables us to not just turn children into scientists for the day, but perhaps spark an interest that lasts a lifetime.  Through planning, leading and delivering the programme, City Year UK’s young volunteers are also gaining new skills that will set them up for their future careers.”

Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of City Year UK, added: “It has been estimated that around two-thirds of children starting primary school will end up in jobs that don’t even exist yet. Sustained collaborations, like this one with National Grid, are so important if we are to engage and excite the next generation of young Londoners about STEM subjects and help prepare them for the fantastic opportunities that science will offer them in the future.”

This year’s festival saw seven to eleven-year-olds experimenting with everything from gravity, and mechanics to density and energy.  The children learned about blood, with the help of ping pong balls, took part in a sinking surprise and built electric circuits and even roller coasters!

Cllr. Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: It was fantastic to see today’s science festival in Islington inspiring pupils about the technology being used by National Grid in their projects, and the wider application of STEM subjects. I would like to thank National Grid and City Year UK for their excellent contribution to this year’s science week, and their ongoing work with all the local schools in the area.”

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