An event to contextualise science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) learning in rural areas has been held at locations throughout Dumfries & Galloway.
Organised by the region’s Raising Aspirations in Science Education (RAiSE) team, the two-day visit demonstrated to colleagues from throughout Scotland how STEM is applied in a range of industries and settings and examples for meaningful opportunities to engage children.
Dr Gillian Brydson, Head of Education at Dumfries & Galloway Council, said: “Dumfries & Galloway is a region which combines the traditional with a forward looking economic perspective. This STEM programme has given us a platform to showcase many STEM opportunities in our rural context.
“Our traditional employers welcomed the group to demonstrate how their industries continue to evolve and embrace STEM – this is important for our young people as many jobs for the future will be within these sectors. It is through equipping our pupils with STEM attitudes and attributes that we will prepare, enable and inspire the growth of our local economy.”
As part of the two-day tour, the delegation observed technology used in the egg and dairy industries at Elrig Farm, Port William and Brigehouse Farm, Whithorn. Engineering used by small businesses in the food and drink sector and the biodiversity of gardens were explored in detail.
The group of eight visited sites including the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Gardens and Estate, Galloway Hydropower Scheme at Tongland Power Station, Crafty Distillery in Newton Stewart, River Cree Hatchery and Habitat Trust.
Karen Creighton, Primary Science Development Officer (PSDO) for Dumfries & Galloway, said: “We’re really addressing two issues here in terms of broadening the STEM educational mind set within rural communities such as those here in Dumfries & Galloway.
“One is the well-reported ‘brain drain’ in rural areas with many young people moving to cities once they leave school in the belief there is a need to do so to pursue career opportunities. The other is the need for a new generation to be equipped with the STEM skills industries needs to thrive in the decades to come.
“There are some absolutely fantastic examples of STEM in action across a range of very diverse settings in Dumfries & Galloway. It is wonderful to highlight that breadth of innovation and use that to inspire the teaching of the next generation.”
The event was delivered with the support of Dumfries & Galloway’s Education Officer David Maxwell. He added: “Our aim is to promote, enthuse and recognise the importance of STEM in our nurseries and schools. We are working to enable and build STEM-related knowledge and skills to better secure our young people’s futures and for our region to thrive. STEM is vital for our region’s future.”
RAiSE is a four-year pilot, funded and delivered by The Wood Foundation, Education Scotland, and participating local authorities, to increase the confidence and skills of teachers to deliver effective and engaging science education to primary pupils.
PSDOs from eight regions are currently supporting more than 780 primary schools through professional development training, knowledge sharing and fostering networks for science learning.
Gayle Duffus is the National Education Officer for RAiSE. She commented: “Dumfries & Galloway’s RAiSE team is doing fantastic work in establishing meaningful partnerships with local industry which is providing a great context to STEM teaching in the region.
“The point of RAiSE is to work collaboratively while applying local know-how to ensure sustainable and workable networks are in place to truly embed STEM education in primary schools in the long-term.”
The event was also supported by the John Muir Trust, Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, the planetarium based near Loch Doon and Royal Highland Educational Trust.