STEM NOW at Winchester Science Centre announced as Regional CREST Support Organisation


STEM NOW at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, responsible for coordinating STEM Ambassadors in South Central England, has been put in charge of a national awards scheme challenging young people to apply STEM learning in the real-world.

The team already works to recruit and support STEM Ambassadors to inspire young people to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Now the team is working with the British Science Association as a Regional CREST Support Organisation helping schools and young people’s clubs take part in the awards across 12 counties in England.

CREST is a six-level award scheme for students aged 5-19, encouraging them to get hands-on with science through investigations and enquiry-based learning by solving real-life STEM challenges.

Educators are given an easy-to-run framework to inspire projects that are student-led, encouraging young people to take ownership of their own work. STEM NOW will be helping to promote the awards to educators and industry, and support those who are taking part.

Emily Thorpe-Smith, Director of STEM Engagement at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium said: “We’re truly delighted to manage the CREST programme across the region. The CREST Awards are often the students first opportunity to ‘be a scientist’ and explore the world around them. It’s an exciting opportunity and it can lead to many things – I’m looking forward to supporting STEM learners to make full use of the scheme.”

CREST can be run in schools, clubs, youth groups, other organisations or at home. Students start by winning the Star Award for taking part in eight one-hour practical STEM challenges before progressing through the scheme to the ultimate goal – the Gold Award for projects taking 70 hours or more research time.

The CREST Awards scheme is the British Science Association’s flagship programme for young people and is the only nationally recognised accreditation scheme for project work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

STEM NOW already supports STEM Ambassadors in five counties as the coordinating team for the Central South England STEM Ambassador Hub. This extra role broadens its reach and responsibility for the UK STEM agenda to include: Essex, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, in addition to its existing hub of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.

Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium said: “I’m thrilled that our STEM NOW team has been announced as a Regional CREST Support Organisation. It’s testament to how hard the team work to capture the imaginations of young people and open up the many opportunities that are available within STEM industries and careers.

“The STEM NOW team play this vital role, which also contributes to us delivering the vision and mission of the Science Centre. We want to spark curiosity in STEM subjects and build Science Capital for all, science is all around us and we need to understand why some young people don’t see a career in science as being part of their future. 

Find out more about the CREST Awards and how to apply to become a part of the scheme:

The seeds were donated to the Science Centre by the National Trust who own Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, Newton’s birthplace and family home. The young sucklings are being gradually introduced to the outdoors, once established they will form a display to inspire others about Newton’s revolutionary theories of gravity.

Newton’s story of the falling apple that hit him on his head has become one of the greatest eureka moments in the history of science. Allison Arrowsmith, Education Officer at Winchester Science Centre, who has a passion for gardening, took on the responsibility of germinating Newton’s apple seeds.

The Centre was given three seeds and it was unlikely that all, if any, would grow. To mimic their natural environment, Allison wrapped the seeds in a lightly damp tissue, sealed them in a freezer bag and kept them in the bottom of the salad drawer in her fridge to keep them cold, moist and dark. She successfully germinated two of the three seeds and carefully looked after them. The seedlings have grown into young sucklings and they are now back at Winchester Science Centre being cared for by Allison and the team.

“Under normal circumstances the plants would have been put outside to harden them up, but as the weather has been so hot I thought they stood the best chance being kept indoors,” said Allison. “This has proven to be the right approach. We will gradually harden them up by putting them outside during the daytime, particularly now that the weather has cooled down a bit. We just need to be careful during any really hot August days and then as autumn sets in, the plants will be more established and able to better withstand the climate.”

“They still have a long journey ahead, it will take up to 15 years for these young plants to mature into fruit-bearing trees,” added Allison.

Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium said: “Sir Isaac Newton is one of our most famous scientists. By discovering the laws of gravity and motion and inventing calculus, he changed the way we understand the universe. We plan to provide a permanent home for the trees in front of the Science Centre as part of our welcome to our 170,000 visitors, and we hope it will engage young people with science and the fascinating story of Newton.”

The apple pips were given to Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, among others, as part of the world’s first UNESCO-backed International Science Centre and Science Museum Day, which was held in November last year. Seeds from Newton’s apple tree also joined Tim Peake’s epic journey to space as part of his Principia mission, which was named after Sir Isaac Newton’s book about forces and gravity.

This project has been made possible through a partnership with The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), the national charity that brings together the UK's major science engagement organisations.

Images (left to right): Ben Ward, CEO, presenting seeds to Allison Arrowsmith, germinated seeds, Jenny Shipway, Director of Learning and Participation and Allison Arrowsmith carrying the sucklings.