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Two Wrexham organisations band together to empower schools through STEM

A leading North Wales tourist attraction has connected a global biopharmaceutical company in Wrexham with local primary schools to help break down barriers when engaging in STEM activities.

To spark the next generation’s interest and safeguard careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and maths, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre has worked with Ipsen to increase access to these subjects for learners at a younger age.

Ipsen partnered with the charity as part of an adjustment to its outreach programme to include key stage two students and is now encouraging more companies to consider the collaboration.

Xplore!, which is based on Henblas Street in the city centre, hosted four activities during British Science Week, where 52 year 5 and 6 pupils from two schools replicated the scientific processes carried out at its Wrexham lab.

The biopharmaceutical company also funded the sessions as well as the travel for the youngsters to attend.

Ipsen scientist and STEM coordinator Siân Richardson said: “As part of our mission of inspiring the next generation in the sciences, it made sense to focus on increasing access right on our doorstep.

“Across the border in Cheshire, more than 100 STEM-based engagements are taking place every year, whereas in Wrexham we are seeing significantly lower numbers, and it is said that from the age of six, pupils already start to lose interest.”

As part of the visit to Xplore!, nine Ipsen STEM volunteers led activities including using a spectrophotometer to test the concentration of squash, experimenting with electronic kits, and using microscopes, as well as trying on lab clothing.

Siân added: “We can’t thank Xplore! enough for supporting us in working with the children to help build interest, and hearing positive feedback from teachers and pupils throughout the day was absolutely fantastic.”

Formally known as Techniquest Glyndŵr, Xplore! is celebrating its 20th anniversary of bringing science to the community and is calling on more local organisations to help make a difference.

Xplore!’s business development officer Katie Williams said: “We are seeing an increase in companies keen to give back to their communities, but it can be hard for them to know how to engage with a younger audience.

“With two decades of experience, we provide a framework to close the gap between businesses and schools, creating mutual benefits by listening to both sides to make STEM more accessible.

“Having such a versatile team means we can provide companies with what works best for them, whether it be a pro-active approach like Ipsen took, or leaving it in the capable hands of our science communicators.”

As part of the centre’s partner engagements for 2022-23, it has continued working with the Principality Building Society to boost financial skills in youngsters, and has additionally provided businesses with opportunities to support in-reach activities.

For example, Wrexham’s Lyan Packaging sponsored a primary school’s travel and visit, where Xplore! led a session on LEGO-coding, which was chosen by its staff to help students develop early skills in a growing industry through play.

While Llangollen-based auto repair specialists A N Richards provided funding for a trip, where the children were able to use Xplore!’s truck driving simulator during a taster session to experience operating a vehicle.

Katie added: “With costs rising across the board, having companies sponsor coach travel and visits to the centre is invaluable.

“It gives children in North Wales access to experiences which bring their learning alive, with the added benefit of safeguarding future passions in these industries.

“Lyan Packaging has already said it will provide similar support next year, and these types of ongoing partnerships will play a critical role in STEM education across the region.”

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