School activity day inspires tomorrow’s bridge builders

Civil engineers of the future have been inspired to take an interest in science and maths thanks to a day of hands-on learning activities.

Pupils at Farnley Tyas First School were visited by Education Officers from the Rochester Bridge Trust, a local landowner, for a day of challenges, games and stories aimed at engaging the children’s interest in STEM subjects.

Education Officer Claire Saunders explained: “Science, technology, engineering and maths – STEM subjects – suffer from stereotyping that they are difficult or gender-specific, which has a negative effect on the number of young people studying these subjects.

“By engaging with primary-aged children we are able to show them how fascinating these subjects can be before the stereotyping sets in, encouraging the youngsters to be curious about the topics because they are naturally interesting.”

The day began with an assembly about the history of bridges and the origins of the Rochester Bridge Trust before the pupils were split into groups for Key Stages 1 and 2 (ages 4-7 and 8-9). Activities were tailored to the age groups and included exploring the way different types of bridges work and are built; learning about and trying on health and safety equipment; a challenge to build the strongest paper bridges and towers; story-telling; creative-writing and artistic engineering tasks.

The teachers commented: “We are grateful to the Rochester Bridge Trust for travelling to our school and running these activities.

“The children got so much out of the day and are talking about it enthusiastically. The Education Team were super not only with their knowledge but also at being in a school setting and dealing with children! We would wholeheartedly recommend this experience.”

The history of the Rochester Bridge Trust includes kings, queens, knights and even Dick Whittington, who was a real-life founder of the Trust. According to legend he was also responsible for bringing education mascot Langdon the Lion to Rochester Bridge.

Claire added: “The activities were created to tell the story of Rochester’s bridges, adding an element of history and encouraging the children to think about the long-term impact of civil engineering.

“In addition to the colourful stories, hands-on activities are particularly useful for inspiring children because they require physical and mental engagement as they bring the learning to life.

“This is good for helping children to understand how maths and science work in the real world and it’s good for engaging with a diverse range of pupils, and being inclusive to all.”

Fifty children took part in the activities, which were run free of charge by the Rochester Bridge Trust. The Trust is a 600-year-old charity that owns and maintains a series of bridges in Rochester, by the River Medway. As part of this remit it has created a suite of free engineering education materials aimed at inspiring the next generation of bridge builders.

For more information about the Trust’s engineering education activities visit www.rocheterbridgetrust.org.uk.