Working with STEM Ambassadors

Asking for a STEM Ambassador to come to your school and work with your pupils is easy – all you need to do is ask!

But what do you do with a STEM Ambassador once you’ve got one?

STEM Ambassadors are scientists and engineers who volunteer their time to inspire, enthuse and help develop young people’s understanding of STEM “in the real world”. They are volunteers who offer to give their time to go into schools to share their knowledge and expertise with teachers and their pupils. They are not trained teachers, nor are they professional science presenters, but when your expectations match well with a STEM Ambassador’s enthusiasm for STEM, wonderful things can happen!

To make the most of having STEM Ambassadors in school, you should think carefully about the following things:

  1. What is it about your Ambassador request that is going to make someone want to come to your school? What’s special about the school, the pupils, the area or the activity? There are hundreds of requests for STEM Ambassadors – makes yours stand out!
  2. Do you have any specific requirements, e.g. would you prefer it if the volunteer was from a particular background, had particular expertise, or was able to offer a long term commitment? Make sure this is clear when requesting your Ambassador. And don’t leave it too late, give yourself at least 6 weeks to find the right Ambassador.
  3. A STEM Ambassador cannot be a substitute for a trained member of school staff –  they are someone with years, possibly decades, of experience in a particular STEM area. So think carefully about how you would like to make the most of their particular skills, experience and enthusiasm. Discuss your hopes with the Ambassador prior to the visit. Adapt your ideas if necessary, or be prepared to decline the offer of support if you think a volunteer would not be suitable.
  4. Could your activity run without an Ambassador, e.g. if they were called away on important business (remember that many of our Ambassadors work on projects of vital national and global importance!) and couldn’t attend on the day specified would the session still be able to run? Would you be able to provide a substitute an activity until the Ambassador became available, or reschedule the session for a different day?
  5. What can you offer a volunteer that would make their time at the school as rewarding for them as it is for you? Could you take some photos that they could share with people to demonstrate the importance of them having time to volunteer? Can the pupils send thank you letters? Can you offer them lunch, help with transport, the chance of a follow-up visit? And never forget to offer them a drink – this is thirsty work!
  6. Collect evidence of the impact the Ambassador has made to your class and be prepared to give honest feedback – the Ambassador programme is funded by UK tax payers and we all want value for money. Your feedback is absolutely vital to ensuring that the programme delivers what we want it to deliver and that our efforts go in to the things that have the most benefit for you, your pupils, your school and UK STEM as a whole.
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