Project Kick Off
In September 2020, after many emails back and forth, multiple meetings and phone calls, aligning time zones and navigating developing pandemics, and of course thousands of hours collaborating on a successful application, we officially launched I-Stem. The project involves seven organisations from Poland, Ireland, Finland and Holland, with the main intention of boosting engagement in STEM subjects through artistic methods, specifically comedy.
I-Stem responds to a significant problem: that of the lack of young women and people who identify as LGBTQIAP+ from cultural minority backgrounds choosing to study STEM subjects at third level. Our project aims to tackle this Europe-wide problem by developing new teaching techniques that science teachers can adopt to enhance engagement within their classrooms.
The partners (The Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, Trinity Access in Dublin, St Joseph’s post-primary school in Rush County Dublin, DIAK the Applied Science University Helsinki, Varsztatovnia, an arts advocacy organisation in Warsaw, Piter Jelles Leeuwarder Lyceum in Holland and Jezioranski Liceum in Warsaw) will draw on a large body of research with students, teachers and performing arts professionals to develop resources and masterclasses that will fuse comedy and science.
Despite the fact that scientific developments permeate and enrich the lives of young people on a daily, or even hourly basis, studies across Europe have identified pockets of this specific group that are struggling to relate to and engage with the science curriculum in the classroom. An example of this; Science Foundation Ireland’s 2015 Science Barometer report, which states that young women from less affluent backgrounds are less inclined to identify with science education at second level. The lack of engagement at secondary school obviously has a direct impact on the number of students from this demographic advancing to third level and ultimately working within the field.
Drilling down further into the statistics, researchers have found that young women from a cultural minority background or who identify as LGBTQIAP+ are even less likely to develop a positive scientific identity, meaning a far reduced number of people from these societal groups tend to aspire to careers in science. The place to address this is through schools and by equipping teachers with new and innovative methods that break down the fear and anxiety often connected with STEM subjects. These methods will be accessible through a variety of resources which are currently in development, including masterclasses and e-books, all of which you can access on the I-Stem website.
Comedy and improvisation are proven methods of removing barriers and improving communication, and will be the main tools used in the I-Stem resources to enhance young people’s engagement in STEM. The I-Stem team are currently in the process of developing content and plan to release the first resource in April 2021. You can sign up via the website to be one of the first to benefit from this innovative project – we’re looking forward to sharing it with you!