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5 questions with: Nick Barker

Nick Barker posed photo in a labNick Barker is our Schools Outreach Fellow in Residence here at Warwick. With a focus on Chemistry, Nick conducts outreach work in different schools and is currently based in a primary school serving an area of severe social deprivation. We invited Nick to talk a bit more about the National Scientific Thinking Challenge which he helped to create, back in 2021.
Hi Nick! Could you tell us a bit more about the National Scientific Thinking Challenge and what motivated you to create it in the first place?

Hi everyone. The National Scientific Challenge was created by a group of people from universities across the UK who have an interest in schools outreach work, including myself here at Warwick. Students from schools anywhere in the UK can take part in the challenge and it provides a great opportunity for students to demonstrate and encourage their scientific and deep thinking skills in STEM related contexts. In 2021, we had over 1600 pupils take part in the challenge and we hope this number will be even bigger this year!

In terms of why we created it, we recognised that during the pandemic, so many students were facing huge disruption in terms of their learning. At a time when it felt like the world had been turned upside down, we felt it was important that students had something fun and enjoyable to take part in and focus their attention on.

What do you feel students take away with them after completing the challenge?

A big part of my work is about enabling children, no matter what background they are from, to grow up knowing that going to university is perfectly attainable. I feel that the challenge is a great way to instil this belief in children by allowing them to realise their capabilities and discover skills they often didn't know they had.

Many of the students that take part in the challenge come away from it feeling more confident in their abilities and more motivated to continue developing their skillset so they can reach their full potential.

What is the key thing you want people to know about the challenge?

One of the main things to know about the challenge is that it’s designed to be as inclusive as possible, meaning the challenge is completely free to take part in. Any school from across the UK can take part, and teachers are welcome to enter as many students as they wish.

Students have one week to complete the challenge during one science lesson and the challenge takes 50 minutes to complete.

How can people help spread the word?

With your help, we’d like to get the challenge shared as far and wide as possible so that we can reach as many students as we can. You can support by letting people know about the challenge, whether it's via School WhatsApp groups, Facebook, Twitter, or simply contacting those who teach. Registrations are currently open for the challenge, which will be taking place in the last week of April.

Where can we direct people to register or find out more?

You can take a look at our National Scientific Thinking Challenge webpage to find details of the challenge and register, as well as read our Frequently Asked Questions. You can also take a look at some demonstration questions from previous challenges past papers and have a go at an example test.