Evidence demonstrates that even at an early age a child’s engagement with learning is critical; demographic data show that lifelong disadvantages such as poverty and inequality of opportunity can get ‘locked in’ due to lack of educational experience and role models. These issues are current priorities for Scotland and the UK, as is maintaining and enhancing an innovative STEM-driven culture and economy. From an international perspective, it is widely accepted that sustainable, fundamental development of economies and societies requires an inspired, innovative and creative education system, to embed in future generations the expertise, desire and courage to address social, environmental and technological issues.
The belief underlying our proposed programme is that learning about the latest scientific and engineering advances can inspire children to become more creative, innovative, curious, and courageous, with sustainable positive impact on the above issues. The potential impact of STEM research does not have to stop at new technologies or commerce: by bringing together researchers, engagers, educators, policymakers, businesses and parents, there is enormous opportunity for our latest STEM research advances to inspire, engage and motivate future generations across the community, and thus contribute to significant individual benefit and social change.
There are many groups and individuals within universities who do exemplary research engagement with the public; there are many organisations and individuals outside academia who work to address major educational and social issues. Our programme aims to bring these partners together to focus on how engaging learners with the latest STEM research can improve individual, social, economic and business prospects and wellbeing. Through a series of workshops we aim to catalyse new, creative, sustainable partnerships joining together a ‘multivalent’ set of experts and expertise, including researchers, engagers, educationists, parents, businesses, third-sector organisations and policymakers.