At the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff, I had the opportunity of listening to several interesting discussions about how to inspire children and young people to be scientists and also discussions about how to encourage more women to venture into the field. Awen Haf Ashworth is a mother from North Wales and she has recently started a new business to spur children’s interest in science. I arranged a chat to learn more.
First of all, Awen, introduce yourself to the Mam Cymru readers…
Well, I am a mother of twins – Llew Wyn and Twm Nathanial who are 3 ½ (4 in the summer). I’m married to Karl and I am a former science teacher having taught Chemistry for nearly 10 years at Ysgol David Hughes and Ysgol Brynrefail. Prior to that I worked as a scientist in industry.
How did you manage to juggle work with raising the twins?!
When the boys were 2 years old, I decided to take a step back from teaching and had the honour of working as a contractor for Horizon Nuclear Power as an education officer, in order to raise children’s awareness about their carbon footprint.
I am also a STEM ambassador and I’m doing the Family STEM Challenge on behalf of Bangor University’s Reaching Wider.
In doing this job I get the best of both worlds – industry and teaching, and it works well around my busy family.
So, what inspired you to start this new business – SBARDUNO?
My post with Horizon came to an end but after seeing 3000 pupils as part of the job and meeting many teachers, I saw that there was a lack of scientific experiments in primary schools. This is mainly due to a lack of resources and also no subject expertise as primary teachers have to teach every subject.
My name – Awen – can mean inspire and that’s why the business is called Sbarduno!
What exactly do you offer schools?
At the moment, I offer a workshop on colours for schools. This is aimed at inspiring Yr5/6 children mainly before they move to the secondary school. The pupils have the opportunity to try many experiments ‘hands on’ during the day while wearing laboratory coats and safety glasses – which is always fun but also very important.
I’ve tried to plan the experiments so that there is a link with our everyday lives so that the children realise how important/interesting and relevant Science is – and the hope is that the children are inspired in order to show an interest in the field from a young age.
In moving the business forward now, I hope to create more workshops with the aim of enabling the schools to choose which theme they would like me to work on with the children.
You also offer science-based birthday parties, which sound great!
Yes! It is a new way of reaching out to children and to make them excited about science, and the parties have gone down very well.
How important is it to ignite an interest in science at primary school?
It is essential in order to inspire children before they go to secondary school because secondary school can be challenging for them. If they already have an interest and foundations in the subject that’s great and it makes the experiments a fun way of introducing the subject to them.
Other important skills will be developed by doing the experiments with me; problem-solving, team-working, individual working etc.
Why is there a shortage of women in science and what inspired your interest in the field?
Stereotyping more than anything. The experiments tend to be associated with things boys are seen to like more than girls, but that’s an old-fashioned way of thinking. It is an exciting field!
I have been fortunate to be able to collaborate with excellent women in the industry and excellent women who teach the subject at schools, and these have all inspired me along my journey, including the teachers who taught me. The role of teachers is very important. Obviously there have been men who have inspired me as well!
So, how can our readers contact you for more information?
By e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mam Cymru would like to thank Awen for the interview and we wish her well in her new and exciting venture – hopefully we will see more enthusiastic, young, Welsh scientists and more women entering the field in the future.
By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru.