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‘Eco Explorer Club’

The Eco Explorer Club delivered by Learn by Design is a fun, team-based programme created to inspire Key Stage 1 and 2 students to find out more about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths), local industries and different careers within local industries, funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority as part of the Primary Careers Pilot.

This programme gives students the opportunity to explore 4 key environmental themes and engage with local industry ambassadors introducing them to some of the real jobs available to them in their local areas. This is done through an interactive, virtual webinar, which can then be followed up by in school learning that is supported by a pack of downloadable resources ahead of students developing an entry to the competition.

Between March and May 2021, over 914 Key Stage 2 students across 9 schools across the Tees Valley engaged and committed to the Eco Explorer Club. This included the following schools: Mowden Primary (Darlington) participated with 3 classes of year 5 students. Bader Primary (Stockton), Eldon Grove Academy (Hartlepool), Thorntree Academy (Middlesbrough) and Norton Primary Academy (Stockton) took part with their year 4 cohorts. Lakes Primary (Redcar) involved years 3, 4 and 5. St Mary’s C of E school (Stockton), Hartburn Primary (Stockton) and Grangetown Primary (Redcar) get their whole key stage 2 involved in The Eco Explorer Club.

They all participated in an interactive online webinar, followed by 6 in school activities before one team from each school was invited to participate in a virtual final. The students had been challenged to design a product that could make their school environment better, so to support them on their journey they were introduced to 4 key themes: renewable energy; sustainable travel; recycling and protecting habitats. To scaffold the development of ideas, challenges were introduced ‘Improving Ideas’ and ‘Illustrating Ideas’.

Each school was invited to present their best innovation to a virtual judging panel of local industry ambassadors at the semi-final event. There were 5 semi-finals with schools only competing against other schools in their local authority area. Judging was held online via Microsoft Teams and schools joined in at an allotted time, presented their ideas, answered questions asked by the judges, and then left before the next school arrived. Judging was facilitated by Learn by Design staff, but all judges were industry ambassadors who gave each school a mark out of 10 in different sections that were being judged. Scores were then accumulated by Learn by Design, and winners announced.  The top 3 schools from each semi-final were invited to a celebration day. The winning team from each local authority area received a hands-on STEM Day at the end of the academic year bespoke to suit their needs.

Lakes Primary School, the winner from Redcar & Cleveland said,

“Due to COVID, I ran the Eco Explorer club in our Year 4 bubble, it was an open invitation for those who wanted to come and we ended up with a total of 10 children. We completed it after school for 45 minutes a week and focused on one/two sections of the booklet per session. It was helpful to have the resources readily available to work with and the children loved thinking about and researching the different contributing factors of what is affecting the environment, especially with the links it had to our local area.

“Due to the short, snappy nature of the video call sessions, we could fit them in around teaching, it wasn’t too much time to take the children away from their learning and the children found them informative and engaging. When it came to our competition entry, the children discussed everything in the booklets and had a think about what needed improving in school. Once we had decided, they came up with what they wanted to say and took home the pitch in a script style format so they could practice. They enjoyed having a trial run with our science lead for confidence and showing their design to our headteacher. On the day, they loved speaking to scientists and the STEM ambassadors and were so proud of themselves and the idea they had created.

We were over the moon to have won the STEM Day and all the children in KS2 had a fantastic time completing their STEM activity. They thoroughly enjoyed programming the robots to dance and couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards! It was a fantastic experience, and we were so grateful to have had the opportunity.”

Bader Primary, the winning school from Stockton said “The STEM Day we ran at both schools we shorter sessions with all of key stage 2 and saw the students take on the challenge of coding. I took in Lego vernie robots, and at Bader primary the students were tasked with getting their robot to perform a dance (this was due to very short sessions as the school wanted to get all 7 key stage 2 classes involved in the day) and at Lakes primary this saw students try to code their robot to navigate a maze (you can see me holding this up in one of the pictures). At both schools, we saw teams with varying levels of success in regards to achieving the task, but all teams demonstrated a mastery of team work skills, problem solving and overall had a great day.”

The design of the programme also gave the students opportunities to work on many of the Skills Builder Framework skills. Teachers recognised that by taking part in the programme students were given the opportunities to learn things that wouldn’t normally be covered in the standard curriculum and develop some career related skills. The students also recognised that they had developed these skills. The most identified skills were speaking and listening, teamwork and creativity.

Feedback received has been brilliant. All schools reported that the competition and subject matter had engaged the children and they enjoyed its competitive nature, and all would take part again. All teachers said that taking part in the project had improved the wider school curriculum and given students opportunity to learn things they otherwise wouldn’t have. 69% of students who responded to the online survey said that they enjoyed the activities, and 83% of students said they had learned something new. Many of the written comments from students say that they enjoyed working in teams to create and design their idea, with the majority saying they enjoyed every aspect of the competition.

This programme is running until July 2022, if you are interested and want to register your interest, get in touch by emailing stem@bydesign-group.co.uk