Girls do Physics is a new partnership between St Helen’s and our closest neighbour, Larkmead School. Against the backdrop that only one in five students studying physics A-level in British Schools is female, Girls do Physics aims to build confidence and inspire girls to continue studying physics beyond GCSE.
A group of 30 Year 9 students from Larkmead have come to St Helen’s for five Girls do Physics sessions over the course of this academic year, making use of the fantastic facilities in the Science Centre. The students have had a chance to delve deeper, in an active and hands-on way, into a fascinating range of physics topics, with a different teacher in the Physics department facilitating each session.
The inaugural session focused on raising aspirations by presenting career opportunities available to those with a physics A-level. We were delighted to welcome back to School six Old Girls who gave short talks on the skills that A-level physics had provided and how it had informed their course and career choice. Next, an astrophysics session included the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence as the students followed in the footsteps of significant women in astronomy and space exploration. The biophysics session in Lent term explored the links between biology and physics focusing on extremophile organisms: as they can live in extreme conditions on Earth, could they exist in similarly hostile environments on Mars? Later on, the hands-on Float your Boat nautical engineering challenge encouraged students to use mathematical modelling to investigate how the force of up thrust is affected by the shape and size of a vessel’s hull. Students then built their own boats out of tin foil, accurately predicting the load that their boats could hold. The final, practical session gave the students the chance to make the most of St Helen's new science laboratories as they investigated the practical applications of their current GCSE topic, energy resources and transfers.
Signs so far are very positive that these focused sessions are inspiring Year 9 students from Larkmead to choose triple science and to participate with greater confidence in their physics lessons at school. We are very much looking forward to continuing the partnership into the next academic year.
Head of Physics, Mrs Edwards' article has been published in the Institute of Physics blog, a fantastic achievement and way of bringing our partnership to the wider spotlight: www.iopblog.org/girls-do-physics/