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Year 8 get a 'handle' on STEMM through inspiring Award scheme

Year 8 get a 'handle' on STEMM through inspiring Award scheme

STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) enthusiasts in Year 8 have had a busy year completing the Junior Youth STEMM Award.

The extra-curricular option to take the Youth STEMM Award in Year 8 is proving to be very popular with students, with this year's challenge inviting them to investigate the best material for creating door handles to reduce the spread of bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

In a series of enrichment sessions during time-tabled hours, students took their first foray into Microbiology, using non-pathogenic bacteria to practise aseptic techniques whilst creating microbial lawns.

New techniques were deployed to test household substances – many of which possess natural antimicrobial properties, such as garlic, ginger and mouthwash. Completion of the Award challenged students to apply their knowledge, consider and discuss unexpected results, and to adapt their approach through experimentation and reflection.

This project also honed the new skill of operating micropipettes, using research equipment rarely available in school settings. Students also really enjoyed discussing the role of microbes in Medicine and Food Technology.

Mathematics featured throughout the project, for example, in measuring sample sizes or zones of inhibition and in formulating calculations. As well as antimicrobial performance, door handle materials were also tested for durability, heat and electrical conductivity and chemical reactivity. Cost and environmental impact were also considered as part of the overall analysis.

Students in action Studetn completing an experiment
Academic benefits

Working independently, students presented findings in scientific research posters, building both their research and oracy skills. They explored primary research and scientific journals, including peer-reviewed science papers containing research carried out by members of the St Mary's Science Department. The final aspect of the project involved using Python to design and code a fun, interactive game.

The Year 8 enrichment programme empowers girls to find their voice in STEMM, an area traditionally regarded as one that girls may not feel is ‘for them’. ‘Real-life’ projects cover experiences not normally encountered in timetabled lessons and highlight the breadth of opportunities in STEMM. #YesSheCan

Holli Bielby, Biology Technician

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