STEM4Me: A student-led STEM buddies scheme focused on enhancing primary school pupils’ STEM aspirations, widening participation and improving access to science

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsConference Presentation


There is international concern about young people’s diminishing interests in and affinity to STEM subjects, especially given recruitment shortages in these key areas. The pandemic has interrupted children’s learning in school and restricted opportunities for them to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) outreach activities. Access to resources and support has been particularly reduced for children with low cultural and science capital when widening participation schemes are either cancelled or restricted to online platforms. These limitations further exacerbate the STEM crisis as well as the inequalities in career prospects and the attainment gap. The lockdowns and restrictions in face-to-face interaction have also limited university students’ access to placement and changemaking activities, leading to much-reduced opportunities to develop their employability skills. As we slowly transition out of the pandemic, it is timely to address the issue of limited STEM affinity in young children and provide opportunities for UON students to enhance their employability through innovative changemaking projects.

In our talk we will describe the STEM Buddies scheme, which forms part of the STEM4Me 2021-22 funded innovation project. The project involves a series of outreach activities where UoN students (as ‘STEM buddies’) design and run workshops for children in local primary schools to engage them with Psychology and Sports Science. This initiative is designed to improve UON students’ employability skills by engaging them as partners who enthuse children about STEM subjects, particularly those who would not normally consider higher education as an option for them.
We will summarise the progress that has been made so far, and what has been learnt from the project. We suggest that student involvement in outreach work with young people in this way has a range of benefits, including children developing positive STEM attitudes and increasing their science capital, and students enhancing their subject knowledge and identity in addition to developing valuable employability skills. The STEM4Me project also aims to develop partnerships working with local teachers and students ensuring resources are shared for best practice, with findings disseminated nationally.
Period23 Jun 2022
Event titleLearning and Teaching Conference 2022
Event typeConference
LocationNorthampton, United KingdomShow on map