Meeting the St. Anne’s STEMettes (17/6/18), by Dr. Jessica Spurrell

Nestled in the bustling Bedford Place, in Southampton’s City Centre, you may be surprised to hear the familiar sounds of bells, laughter, shouting and the footsteps of hundreds of people moving around – or you may not be, as such sounds have been emanating from St. Anne’s secondary school there for over a hundred years!

Situated right in the heart of our city, this all-girls state school serves pupils from Southampton’s richly diverse community. As an inner-city school, it offers extensive support for those from disadvantaged circumstances and is raising the attainment of Pupil Premium[i] students faster than the national average[ii]. As an all-girls school, many initiatives are run to encourage enjoyment, development and to provide role models in fields which will benefit from increasing the number of girls and young women entering them such as STEMM.

One such initiative, co-ordinated by Computing Teacher and Lead Practitioner Rachael Hewitt, herself a STEMM professional before entering teaching, is the STEMettes coding club run by Year 10 pupils for Year 7 pupils – and it was our pleasure to meet them on Tuesday 17th July 2018!

The club offers not only a chance for pupils to further their learning about computing and its applications through fun and unusual projects that spark excitement and curiosity – but also a chance for the younger pupils to learn this from their peers rather than teachers; and for the older pupils to develop skills in mentoring, organisation and taking responsibility. We were therefore thrilled to be able to support this fantastic initiative by providing £200 worth of equipment on the club’s ‘wishlist’, from a set of the versatile Makey Makey GOs, to a whole heap of accessories for use with their BBC micro:bits, and equipment for making stop-motion films.

We were even more excited to lead a ‘Meet the Scientist’[iii] style session when presenting the equipment as WiSET members from across the university spoke to the pupils about their personal STEMM journeys, their research work and the pupils’ aspirations for the future. Topics covered included Neuroscience, Smart Devices, Marine Biology, Cryogenics and more! The WiSET researchers brought props, photos and videos to talk about their work and the pupils were absolutely fantastic, very engaged, asking brilliant questions and seemed genuinely enthused at having this opportunity to talk and have their questions answered directly by women who were leaders in their fields. They were very keen to hear more and we hope to organise further joint sessions with WiSET and the school!

Rachael Hewitt, whose own enthusiasm, energy and hard work in organising such initatives cannot be underestimated, said of the session:

“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for coming in to chat to our girls and for funding our STEMettes enrichment group!

We very much value your contribution and your time!

I look forward to working with you all again in the future, we would love for you to come in again! The girls were so enthused afterwards!”

And of working with the University, including this session:

“It has been a pleasure to work with you these past few months, your hard work and organisational skills have played a massive part in lots more of our girls choosing STEM subjects.

I’m looking forward to the next academic year and lots of new and exciting opportunities to work together!”

We look forward to it too!

With many thanks to WiSET members Dr. Rachel Hale, Dr. Ghaithaa Manla and Dr. Mariana Vargas-Caballero for presenting the equipment to the school, talking to the pupils about their experiences, and being fantastic, engaging role models.

STEMM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine