Category

Powered By Wonder

The Importance of Teaching STEM

Teaching STEM has never been more important.

Recent studies suggest that 9 out of 10 businesses in STEM fields struggled to find suitably qualified employees in the last 12 months, and on average, there are 10 unfilled roles per business. Likewise, Tencent reported that there are currently only 300,000 AI researchers and practitioners in the world- despite there being a demand for millions.

Given this global shortage of skills, it is vital that the current generation of students are encouraged to explore STEM. Indeed, this is especially important for children, with research by King’s College London finding that “most young people’s science aspirations and views of science are formed during the primary years and solidified by the age of 14.” Therefore, if we want to cultivate a passion for STEM in society, then we need to start with children. I believe in order to do this, we need to look further than traditional classroom-based learning.

This is where The Wonder Why Society comes in. Our online learning platform provides children with the opportunity to explore STEM based subjects, but on their own terms, so they can learn about the things that specifically interest them. Here, children can ask questions, discover answers, and collaborate with other children who share their interests. However, we also hope The Wonder Why Society provides a place where children can learn in safe environment, but one that is removed from parents and teachers. In this way, we want children to learn through their own initiative, rather than viewing learning as a chore or something they are ‘forced’ to do. Furthermore, a unique feature of the platform is the way in which children can connect with industry experts. Indeed, one of our most exciting connections is with Birmingham airport, where children interested in STEM subjects could, for example, speak with an aircraft engineer.

We have also recently established the educational children’s book series – Wonder Books. The series follows the adventures of The Wonder Why Society – a group of kids determined to uncover the answers to life’s difficult questions. The first book in the series is called ‘Project Grabbity’, and follows a STEM theme, in which children learn about the inner workings of gravity. Whilst we want our storybook to answer children’s questions about gravity, we also hope it inspires them to ask further questions about the world at large. With this, we want children to view STEM more like an adventure- an exploration of the world around them, rather than a chore.

If you want to find out more about our learning platform, then please visit the ‘learn more’ page of our website www.thewonderwhysociety.co.uk.

 

https://www.stem.org.uk/news-and-views/news/skills-shortage-costing-stem-sector-15bn

https://www.idtech.com/blog/why-is-stem-important

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/06/20/insights-into-early-stem-learning/#7b3886116992)

Inspiring Creativity Through Art

At The Wonder Why Society, our most important aim is to inspire children.

This takes on many different forms, but with our educational book series, we particularly want to inspire creativity in kids. Creativity is a vital skill, and one that should be encouraged during childhood, but is often overlooked by the education system. Therefore, we want our series to promote creativity and help kids unleash their imagination. As a result, art and illustration plays an integral part of the series.

Our first storybook, ‘Project Grabbity’, follows the adventures of a group of children determined to uncover the answers to life’s difficult questions. Rather than simply reading the words off a page, we take inspiration from visual learning, so each page features striking illustrations. The emphasis placed on art and illustrations throughout the story is part of what makes our series so compelling. When children hold the book in their hands, we want them to feel part of the adventure. Indeed, we hope that our book will encourage children to pursue their own creative endeavours, whether this be through drawing or even writing.

The positive benefits of art on the mind cannot be understated. Renee Phillips, founder of ‘The Healing Power of Art & Artists’ explains, “research has proven the arts… produce a broad spectrum of benefits ranging from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance.” She further describes how the arts can lead to improved academic performance, in addition to helping those suffering from depression and other mental health problems. Consequently, if we introduce children to art at young age, then hopefully we can instil a lifelong appreciation of it. An interest in art may not just be of benefit academically, but may also become a valuable tool to help children cope with any difficulties later in life. Therefore, we hope our series can act as an important first step to a wider appreciation of the arts.

 

https://www.healing-power-of-art.org/art-and-the-brain/

Can we teach motivation to children?

Can we teach motivation to children?

Studies show that motivation in children is a crucial indicator of future success- but is motivation something that can be instilled in children?

The Fullerton Longitudinal Study examines the lives of gifted children, but takes a more unusual approach to how it defines “gifted”. Rather than simply looking at IQ, the study places an equal emphasis on “motivational giftedness”- meaning children who are exceptionally motivated. The study found that motivationally gifted children had higher academic achievement than their peers, and “were more likely to… enrol in 4-year colleges directly out of high school, obtain college degrees, and be enrolled in graduate school at age 24.” Adele Gottfried, who runs the study alongside her husband, told Quartz that “[Motivation] in itself is accounting for a certain amount of variance in achievement that goes above and beyond IQ.” Therefore, being extremely motivated as a child may be a greater signpost for success than even IQ.

Significantly, Gottfried suggests that motivation is a skill that can be cultivated, rather than something that is completely innate. Speaking with Quartz, she advises that curiosity and a passion for learning is a crucial way in way in which children can develop their motivation. As Gottfried says, “Everybody could potentially be motivationally gifted.”

Instilling this curiosity is the basis of The Wonder Why Society. Here, we want children to ask questions about the world, and guide them so they can uncover answers. Our free online learning platform provides the perfect opportunity for this. Children can uncover answers to their questions, be inspired and engage in debates- but in a fully moderated, safe environment. The Wonder Why Society has also established the Wonder Book series that aims to answer children’s difficult questions, but recognises the importance of doing this in a fun and compelling way. Indeed, our books may provide answers, but they also open up the door to more questions and more discoveries. Through this, we hope to instil a curiosity in children that will carry them not only through their academic career, but through their life. Indeed, our goal is to lead a generation of motivated children with a passion for learning.

If you would like to learn more about our Wonder Book series, then please check out our Kickstarter – https://kck.st/2uyTx5p . The first book of the series, Project Grabbity, is available to purchase now.

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ746291.pdf

https://qz.com/1160024/highly-motivated-kids-have-a-greater-advantage-in-life-than-kids-with-a-high-iq/

How can The Wonder Why Society help you to complete your Ofsted checklist?

According to TES, 75%of teachers say that Ofsted Inspections cause them “anxiety and depression”* The pressure teachers feel to meet expectations  placed on them is immeasurable. We want to help. Here at The Wonder Why society, we provide a safe online space which allows children, teachers and industry experts to learn together. By setting challenges and introducing new topics, the society connects children and schools from all over the UK. It takes down the walls of your classroom to bring a whole new dimension to learning.

We supply education providers with inspiring and original materials mapped to the curriculum, with topics covering key Ofsted requirements such as SMSC, British values and the prevent strategy. The projects and topics shared throughout the site encourage children to develop critical and higher order thinking skills.

Ofsted requires the teaching of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. These are big topics, inviting challenging questions and responses. Teaching them can seem like a daunting task. However, at the Wonder Why Society, we want to lessen this challenge for educators, by providing easily accessible resources, that aide the facilitation of high quality topic provision and learning.

The same goes for the teaching of the Prevent Strategy, which involves safeguarding vulnerable young people from radicalisation. The Wonder Why Society encourages students to voice different views, demonstrating that opinions are different to facts and ideas should be supported with an informed evidence base. We give children the opportunity to develop a voice and discuss the issues concerning them, in a safe and controlled environment. This space also allows for the open discussion of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Every school in England needs to promote, and be able to show pupil progress in SMSC. The ability to openly discuss these topics, paired with the resources we provide, makes for a meaningful and effective learning experience.

Not only this, but The Wonder Why Society platform acts as a safeguarding tool. Ofsted requires children to understand how to keep themselves safe from relevant risks such as abuse, sexual exploitation and extremism, including when using the internet and social media. Also, children are required to be personally prepared to respect others and contribute to wider society and life in Britain. Through interaction with other students online, in our environment, children are simultaneously discovering how to treat others online whilst also learning how to embrace a safe online place.

The tool offered by The Wonder Why Society is immensely flexible and easy to use. To see if you can lift a weight of your shoulders during inspection, why not visit www.thewonderwhysociety.co.uk and give it a try?

Education is more than knowledge alone

The headline that is music to our ears. Ahead of his speech to the Association of School and College Leaders CBI President Paul Drechsler CBE will call on policymakers to make education in England about more than results and knowledge recall and to prioritise teaching that encourages thoughts, questions, creativity and teamworking.

He continues, emphasising the need to improve education so that we develop “rounded”  work-ready individuals.

In addition, The World Economic Forum* reports that 65% of tomorrow’s workers will be in jobs that do not exist today. Introducing digital skills, increasing online awareness and improving industry know-how are essential in ensuring young learners can leave school prepared and ready to succeed in life.

The Wonder Why Society and Bridgr our 100% moderated online learning spaces, create connections between teachers, primary school children and industry experts, allowing them to collaborate, innovate and learn together. Breaking down the barriers of the traditional classroom, the spaces are changing the way children learn by providing them with essential digital skills and valuable insight into the world of work.

Sam Fisher, CEO explains; “In school, the focus on passing tests and regurgitating information can be at the expense of encouraging wonder and inspiring innovative thinking. We know that creativity and innovation are essential skills in our emerging digital world and this is the reason we created the Wonder Why Society and why we are launching Bridgr in Spring 2018.

“We are providing a safe space where children can learn, discover, and ask questions about the world they live in. Our online environment allows learners to create, debate and innovate, children can learn about ever-evolving industries, straight from professionals, to set them up for a job in the future.”

We are currently inviting industry partners to be part of this exciting new development so that we can continue to offer this service free of charge to state schools.

Both The Wonder Why Society and Bridgr provide organisations and companies with an opportunity to work with young people and teachers in a completely new way. Benefits for industry partners include;

  • A unique opportunity to collaborate with schools of all types across the UK
  • Address the skills gap and create real social change
  • Have a permanent place in the classroom
  • Inspire young children to learn about the world of work
  • Opportunity to measure all activity and assess impact
  • Create and empower an effective future workforce

For more information on our work in primary schools visit www.thewonderwhysociety.com or bridgr.co.uk to see our secondary school site launching soon.

Let’s work together

The UK has a major skills gap. It’s a problem that we are all aware of. Youth unemployment across Europe amongst 16-24 year olds is historically high and rising. As new types of jobs evolve the skills gap can only get bigger unless businesses and schools work together to change outcomes. Learners need more than ever to understand the purpose of why they need to learn certain things.

This issue starts at the root of learning. Education shouldn’t be just about gathering knowledge, it should be about understanding why we need it and then what we can do with it. Knowledge is power, but it needs to have purpose.

Every employer that I talk to wants employees to have creativity and to be able to think for themselves. However, everyone knows the curriculum has become so rigid and target focussed that it’s knocking the passion out of learning. Learning should be fun and engaging, because that passion is what drives innovation.

My plea to businesses is simple – you know where the shortfalls are, so it’s time to skill up our future work force and inspire learners. Experts should be influencing, be thought leaders, spreading their drive and passion to empower future generations.

It’s not just learners who need the support of businesses. School leaders are crying out for business people to act as governors, especially in the most deprived areas where uptake in these roles is low. We must work together to build a strong vibrant economy.

Collaboration is key. Let’s join the dots and bring learners, educators and businesses together.

 

When I grow up I want to be

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’? A police officer, a chef, a musician, a scientist? Or was it a ‘regurgitator’? A machine that takes information, retains it until it is redundant, and hurls it back out when prompted?

Bizarre as this concept may seem, this is what our school system is doing today creating people that can regurgitate. 65% of tomorrow’s workers will be in jobs that do not exist today, so why are we teaching them to simply recall information that is very likely to be redundant at that time, without them gaining any inherent value.

The current curriculum favours those who can simply retain information. Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted Chief Inspector, has claimed that too many schools in England are guilty of avoiding a curriculum of study with teaching to the test. So what about those not those who are free thinkers, manually talented, those who are witty and quick, and much, much more.

According to CBI/Pearson research, the majority of primary school children will be ‘turned off’ to key subjects like maths and science by the age of 10 and crucially this is leading to a skills gap. This is why change is needed, children need a place to be intuitive, to learn, to discover, to ask questions about the world they live in. Wonder rules.

This is the reason we created the Wonder Why Society, so young learners can do exactly this. They can create, debate and innovate, all whilst learning about ever evolving industries, straight from professionals, to set them up for a job that may not exist now.

Visit www.thewonderwhysociety.co.uk/sign-me-up/  free to state schools.

Be A Pioneer!

From Scott to Berners-Lee and Newton to Pankhurst, Britain is renowned for its ground breaking inventors and explorers. What did all these people have in common? They wondered. Without that curiosity they wouldn’t have started their journey of discovery and gone on to achieve something great and inspirational. Children love to be creative and through The Wonder Why Society they can stimulate their imaginations and feed their curiosity, the minds of children have no limits.

The Wonder Why Society is an online collaborative learning community that safely connects children, teachers and industry experts in one place. We add exciting content which inspires children and engages them in their learning. It can be used in any subject and by any child, regardless of their age or academic ability.

Our current wonderers are talking about about a pink lake, a duck with a 3D printed foot. They are also debating whether dabbing should be banned in schools and if it is ever ok to bully someone.

So put your learners on a top secret mission of discovery. Be the pioneers! It’s free to state primary schools.

Build A Meaningful Bridge Between Business and Education

Do you believe that your business has the capacity to bring about social change? Or at least, would you like to expand its potential to do such a thing? The next generation of engineers, scientists, writers, artists, are all currently learning about the world around them; getting ready to explore their full potential.

As a business, it is important that you can help to inspire these children to learn about the world of work by getting involved in their school and local community; all whilst helping young learners engage with your brand and teach them about your industry and corporate goals. Often, this is easier said than done; but we believe we may have the solution.

The Wonder Why Society is a fully moderated online teaching and learning community.

Why not work with us so we can help change the way that we work and learn together. We provide a seamless link between your workplace and the classroom, allowing you to inspire learners across the country no matter where you are based. It allows your company to take your expertise directly into the classroom.

Your individual business zone allows you to host curriculum resources and mentor and inspire learners virtually. Not got those resources? No problem! We can write them for you!

We can also write stories, create animations and interactive content that will make your business zone the talk of the classroom!

We moderate every post on the site so it’s completely safe for all users.  Everyone can freely explore our inspiring, engaging and aspirational environment. We help you add value to both children’s development and your organisational well being. The platform gives you a permanent presence that children and teachers can access in and out of the classroom, extending the reach of any work you currently do in schools.

Join us at The Wonder Why Society – where learning has no limits.

Visit www.thewonderwhysociety.com/industry to find out how you can work with us.

Let’s work together to save time

As a teacher, do you ever feel like buckaroo? Your workload slowly increases bit by bit, knowing that soon, all will spill out onto the ground. As a busy Deputy-Head with additional teaching commitment and SENCO responsibility, and after 20 years in education, I know just how this feels.

The BBC took a survey of 3,500 members of the NASUWT teaching union, which shows more than two-thirds of respondents considered quitting the profession; with 89 percent of all interviewed citing high workload as their top concern. This is far too high. As educators who are meant to be inspiring the next generation of thinkers, how can we work towards our goals if we are preoccupied with the preparation that comes with it? Sometimes it feels like our job is all prep, no practice.

One way that I found helped alleviate some of this preparation work was signing my school up to The Wonder Why Society platform. Primarily, the custom-made lesson plans that are tailored to the curriculum act as a great starting point for activities and content. They can be used in school as classwork, as part of a series of lessons or as a stand-alone lesson, which really sheds off valued time!

With previous debates already at your disposal you can use questions already asked by children as a stress free way to introduce British Values, PSHE topics and Awareness Days. This element of discussion can also give your class a way to express issues, worries/concerns can be raised and discussed in a safe way.  Also, events of national and international significance are fully researched for you, allowing you to explore them with your class easily, and quickly.  Missions are created for you to use with your class.  In addition, each Mission is accompanied with a teacher resource pack offering ideas, web links, videos that have been written for teachers, by teachers!  The content is linked to the new National Curriculum (2014) saving you hours of planning and preparation!

The platform also frees up your children to work more independently. Your class are free to safely search wonders, comment, give feedback and create their own wonders online. Whilst children work alone you know that every post is checked by a trained moderation team and anything of any concern about will be reported straight back to your DSL so it can be dealt with discretely.

And finally, one of the biggest time savers is the fact that it can all be viewed and contained in a digital environment! No more sifting through piles of papers and sheets, now everything will sit inside your desktop, perfectly ordered for you to mark. This also saves time at the photocopier, waiting for hundreds of hot papers to roll off the press!

I’d recommend every primary school teacher sign up to the Wonder Why Society! Visit www.thewonderwhysociety.com to sign up.

 

Justine is a Deputy Head in the West Midlands. Thanks to Justine for sending us her views and feedback on using The Wonder Why Society in her classroom.