News Archive


YGN Project STEM in a Box!

Cast your mind back to primary school… You are 8 years old and your head is brimming with a whole host of exciting, unanswered questions. How does my kite soar up into the sky? What is it keeping my feet firmly on Earth rather than flying up into space? What actually is my reflection? These were just some of the thought-provoking questions posed by year 5 and 6 students at Richmond Hill Primary School to Beacon Hill Community High School students.

Expertly facilitated by the Centre for Leadership Performance (CfLP), an organisation which works to develop Cumbria's future leaders, the Young Generation Network (YGN) collaborated on an initiative to help the year 9 and 10 students develop a series of innovative, curriculum-relevant STEM boxes.  These interactive resources then went onto help primary school children learn about the topics within the curriculum.

Starting with questions being posed by the primary school students, the 6-month project aimed to teach the Beacon Hill pupils a range of skills related to business and product delivery as well as of course the science.  The teenagers worked closely with the YGN and the CfLP spending time every week learning how to develop their STEM in a Box, from concept to delivery through tailored workshops with experts from innovation, marketing, public speaking, finance and many more.

The students gained a well-rounded understanding of how to design and build a product, plus confidence and communication skills were also developed via the weekly presentations back to the YGN/CfLP. Robert Alford, Chair of the YGN Education, Attraction, Outreach Committee noted “This has been a wonderful experience to see the primary school science curriculum come alive with innovative ideas from the senior school. It has been an immensely challenging year for students and to see the hard work from all the senior school children to develop these ideas whilst also thinking about sustainability and safety has been brilliant to see.”

Value of the project

Facilitation by the CfLP was key to ensuring the YGN links with the schools were long-lasting and meaningful to the students. Due to the time invested in them, the children formed strong links with the CfLP and the YGN over several months enabling more significant personal development opportunities.

Over the course of six months, students from the Y9 and Yr10 class, along with their teacher Mr. Esslemont, gradually developed their boxes. Guided by topic prompts from primary students and fuelled by creativity they carefully crafted the educational resources. At the end of this process the secondary school students presented their ideas as fully realised and functional boxes.

In total some 12 questions were tackled by the senior school students; one of which was “How do reflections work?”. The team chose to tackle this by showing how light interacts with glass in a novel way. Onto sheets of laminated paper they printed facts and messages in reverse. They then held a piece of glass over the top to demonstrate its inverting properties, expertly using this to explain why a reflection is reversed. In their presentation the team went on to highlight how they had considered the longevity of their resource; laminating cards and choosing durable materials so that they could be reused.

A different group took on the challenge of “How do periscopes work?” a question often solved by constructing a rudimentary two-right-angle scope out of carboard and mirrors. Instead the students developed something completely unexpected! They saw the opportunity to innovate on the traditional cardboard periscope so they increased complexity and produced a modular hallway comprising of six mirrors that could be taken apart and rearranged into any shape required (like a mirror maze). The students acknowledged that with the increased complexity and distance light would travel they would need a powerful torch or focussed beam of light, commenting that, if more powerful lights could not be sourced, the experiment could be carried out in a dark room to minimise destructive interference. Showing ingenuity and creative problem-solving, this team exemplified how STEM in a Box is beneficial to both the creator and end user.

One thing that stood out was how the students presentation skills developed over the project. Initially shy, by the final presentation, they were bold and engaging; and presenting clearly to their audience. Some groups elected to crack jokes while others held their boxes high demonstrating how they worked while they spoke: It was clear that the students put a lot of thought and passion into their boxes.

Through their actions it was obvious that the students had taken onboard, and applied, the knowledge they were supplied with each week from their workshops. This was presented in a myriad of ways – from boasting about how their box was under budget (£20) to highlighting how they had considered sustainability and reusability in their designs.

The YGN would like to thank everyone involved in the STEM in a Box project. The professionals sharing their advice; the teachers facilitating the students; the Centre for Leadership Performance for driving the project and providing the platform for the students to develop. And of course, the wonderfully enthusiastic pupils and teachers of Beacon Hill Community School and Richmond Hill Primary School.

The ambition is that these boxes, once tested by the primary school, will be scaled up for use by the other branches across the country for their respective outreach programmes. It is also hoped that the strong relationships formed with the schools can continue with the hopes of producing more outreach material to help inspire students into STEM.

If you would like to get involved with outreach and help to inspire young people to pursue a career in science, please contact either your local branch chair via the email addresses on the branches page or email