Are you struggling to find great (or even any) examples of real-world science to support your teaching?
Well, the good news is that there some great opportunities right here in South Wales to help you in this. And even better, some are based in STEM organisations. Step forward six brilliant forward-thinking companies that have done the decent thing, opening their doors to schools and welcoming them in free of charge (I know……free!) to share some of the very important work of engaging our children in STEM. So, get your umbrella (it is South Wales after all) and get visiting these six gems – three in part 1, and three in part 2 to follow.
I don’t always rank these ‘best of’ lists but let’s put our hands together for Renishaw, recipient of my top-of-the-class-this-is-absolutely-how-to-do-it title. I visited Renishaw last year and was blown away by the passion of Simon Biggs, an ex-Design and Technology secondary teacher who set up and now runs their education centre, and the sheer breadth and quality of their offer.
We started with a tour of the site, which included seeing the very first process that Renishaw developed, which is used in a wide range of products even today. I love hearing about things that I haven’t even thought about – like precision measuring – learning more about the problem, and then seeing how cleverly engineers have worked to come up with a solution. There’s some great stuff about how they don’t waste anything too, and I’m sure there’s a lesson there on getting children to think about how they could reuse/recycle materials when they are doing experiments themselves.
Then we went upstairs to the two classrooms, which are kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment, such as 3D printers, a laser cutter, CNC machine, solder stations and a CAD terminal – as you’ve probably guessed, the centre is open for pupils from KS2 to A level. Each classroom holds 20 pupils, so you can bring a class and divide them into two groups.
The workshops can be divided into 6 different types, including electronics workshops, coding and software workshops and engineering workshops. They also support Superstar CREST Awards, so you can work towards pupils achieving these with the help of fully qualified, DBS certified staff.
However, I think the most amazing thing about Renishaw is their commitment to making sure that the centre works for teachers. They encourage discussion before your visit so that they can tailor your experience to your needs, including the times you visit. What’s more, if you would like to use the centre’s resources for a STEM day or a school project, they’re keen to help.
Now the practical bit, because I know you’re thinking about parking and lunch. Maybe just not in that order. Renishaw is situated on an enormous site (the old Bosch building) just off junction 34 of the M4, so easy to get to and with plenty of parking. Renishaw is happy for you to bring packed lunch and they can provide a space for you to eat too. See? They’re wonderful!
The website is here:
and they can be contacted here:
I’ll finish with a sentence I love on their website:
Cost: FREE – just bring enthusiastic young people with an interest in engineering.
2. Welsh Water
And on to the next one, though from here on in, they’re not ranked. However, given my discussion with Sion from Welsh Water, I think that if I had had the time to visit before this blog, it would have run Renishaw pretty close.
Welsh Water has been running its free workshops for schools for many years at its sites across Wales. There are two education centres in South Wales, one at Cof Moors and one at Cilfynydd. At the moment, and for two years, the centre in Cof Moors (which is near Dinas Powys) is closed, but the staff there are working at Cilfynydd (near Pontypridd) instead, so the capacity for workshops remains the same.
Like Renishaw, Welsh Water offers lots of workshop from KS2 to A level, and all are free. Their main focus is behavioural change and they offer over 10 workshops, ranging from Water Efficiency to Clean Water – Clean Earth. All, as you would expect, are in line with the curriculum. Their most popular is their African Village activity, in which pupils role play living in a Ugandan village. For me, the one I would most like to see, in that sounds-so-awful-it-must-be-good way, is the waste treatment works. I know it doesn’t smell, and I know that it is brilliantly clever and so, so important.
The thought of it.
Most importantly, all workshop leaders are seconded teachers and they not only deliver workshops but also develop new workshops where they see a need. The most recent change is that the recycling workshop has been updated to a workshop on plastics and the oceans. Each workshop has associated worksheets so that you can extend the learning back in the classroom.
They are open throughout the academic year, can accommodate two classes from one school on any one day at present and are keen to talk to teachers about their visit before booking. I have to say that Sion was brilliantly helpful when I rang, and I really can’t wait to see it for myself.
And finally. Parking is available and there is a picnic space for lunch.
Their website is here, but get in contact soon, they were full to the end of March when I rang just before Christmas:
And they can be contacted here:
The Apple Store in St David’s 2, Cardiff, runs free education programmes. I tried to ring the Cardiff store to get more information of the sort above, but was told to email the Apple media helpline, which is based in the States, and they’d redirect my queries. Now, I’m not averse to sending an email or two, but trying to explain a visit in our capital city when there are also places called Cardiff in New York and California, I thought could be a long old process.
So, for more information I’d recommend submitting a booking request to the store here:
and they then get back to you to discuss what you want.
I did glean from the website that they run a number of courses, not just in STEM, and that they run for between 60 and 90 minutes for up to 30 pupils. They also run CPD for teachers. All this information and more can be found here:
That’s it for now. Part 2 to follow, celebrating three more brilliant STEM engagement-supporting organisations in South Wales.