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Website: STEM Clubs Network

STEM ClubsThe STEM Clubs Network, which caters to schools in the United Kingdom, also provides best practice information, professional advice, shared resources, tips, and more for starting and running STEM-based extracurricular clubs for the middle and high school levels.

STEM clubs allow children to explore, investigate and discover STEM subjects in a stimulating learning environment, away from the constraints of the school timetable or a prescribed curriculum. They allow pupils and their club leaders to work together and explore many different ideas and activities.

The overall aim is to help pupils gain a wider perspective of how STEM subjects interlink and relate to the real world. Emphasis is also being placed on the importance of enhancing the professional. Although they complement the curriculum, they are not designed to be about writing, tests, or exams. Activities may involve practical experiments, investigation, discussion, and reflection. They can motivate and build confidence in young people who struggle with STEM subjects, and provide an extra outlet for children who already show aptitude and are interested in furthering their learning. Most of all, they should be fun.

The steps to beginning a STEM club, according to the STEM Clubs Network:

1.) Decide on why you want to set up a STEM club.

This will give your club an ethos and give you something to say to people when you ask them to get involved. Do you want to integrate together different aspects of STEM? To offer more personalized learning? Or do you just want more time for the fun stuff?

2.) Approach people who might be interested in getting involved.

Teaching staff in other STEM subjects might be the obvious choice, but schools are full of people with relevant interests and skills. Technical support from technicians and/or site staff will be vital. Outside experts from industry and higher education and parents can also be very useful.

3.) Decide who your club members will be.

You could decide that any student can participate in your STEM club, but you might want to have more control over who comes along. You could get students to apply for a place in the club, or target specific groups of students in line with your school’s priorities. Bear in mind that a STEM club is supposed to be fun for everyone involved. Both the club members and the club leaders should be happy to be there.

Students Manipulate Fire4.) Get people hooked with some great activity ideas.

Launch events, flashy one-off activities, competitions – they can all create a real buzz about your STEM club, even before it starts. Having a theme (e.g. climate change, space, survival, etc.) could help you think of ideas for activities that will sustain the club. Longer projects can be very rewarding, but it can be difficult to maintain motivation. STEM clubs should not be about homework or writing. Try searching the resources database for ideas.

5.) Decide on your locations.

This will probably be dictated by your choice of activity, but take any opportunity you can to move the club out of the classroom, lab, or workshop. Trips and visits are great for motivation and can add a real-world dimension to your club activities. The health and safety of club leaders and members needs to be considered, possibly by carrying out a risk assessment (where necessary).

6.) Timing

Find out when other after-school clubs are on and try not to clash with too many of them. Try to take into consideration the transport arrangements of club members, their personal safety (might they end up walking home alone in the dark?), and other out-of-school events like major sporting events and religious observances.

One-off activities

One-off activities are completed in one session. They are often highly engaging and can have a real wow factor. Consider using them at recruitment and launch events, scattering them throughout longer projects to reinvigorate the club, and using make-and-take activities (where participants physically take something away with them at the end).

Short projects – Any activity that takes club members two to three sessions to complete might be considered a short project. Search the project database for ideas that have worked for other clubs. With a short, prject you can extend a classroom activity to allow for more free investigation, enable club members to participate in a number of related one-off activities, and allow club members to try something out before committing to a longer project.

Long projects – Any activity that takes half a term or more to complete might be considered a long project. Completing a long project can be very rewarding, especially if there is an award or a prize involved. Showcase your club’s efforts by getting members to present their work in an assembly, at a parents’ evening, PTA or governors’ meeting, or a regional or national science fair.

For UK schools, affiliation with the STEM Clubs Network provides many more perks and resources.

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