Volunteers forecast STEM success

By Lizzie Duthie

21 May 2020

3 minute read

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has the potential to unlock a better future for all Australians. The more people who spend their time, energy, and enthusiasm exploring STEM together, the better. This National Volunteer Week, we’re celebrating the wonderful work of our network of teachers and STEM professional volunteers, and the schools and organisations who support their involvement in our STEM Professionals in Schools program.

STEM Professionals in Schools is a volunteer program. The program facilitates flexible, ongoing partnerships between STEM professionals and teachers in schools across Australia. One organisation is the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). The BOM has a wide range of STEM professionals who volunteer their time to share their knowledge.

STEM Professionals in Schools brings real world STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into the classroom.

STEM-bassador

Clare Mullen is one of the BOM STEM Ambassadors. Clare has worked for the BOM for the past 30 years, first as a meteorologist and now as a Communication Adviser. Her passion for the weather and sharing the importance of STEM learning is clear.

“There are so many applications for the STEM subjects. Maths and physics can be a bit dry when you’re studying the basics. But then you learn those equations can result in a change in the weather,” Clare said.

“Through the program, it is rewarding to work with a teacher and inspire young minds. Helping them understand how STEM is critical to understanding our impact on climate and the environment. It’s very challenging to try and figure out what’s going to happen next in the weather.”

As part of her work as a meteorologist, Clare would occasionally give TV interviews about the weather. One day her year nine geography teacher saw her on TV and wrote her a letter recalling the weather assignments she gave in high school.

“Those weather assignments are part of what got me to the Bureau of Meteorology, creating my love of the weather and a rewarding career of more than 30 years. Through my involvement in this program I’m hoping to pay it forward and inspire the next generation to have a love of STEM… and the weather,” she said.

Clare Mullen has worked for BOM for 30 years. She is a BOM STEM Ambassadors.

Clare Mullen has worked for BOM for 30 years. She is a BOM STEM Ambassador.

A perfect match

Elizabeth McDonald, General Manager of Diversity, Inclusion and STEM at the BOM, explains the importance of being involved in the program.

“At the Bureau, 80 percent of staff have a STEM background. So, it’s critical to us as an employer that we have a pipeline of STEM talent,” Elizabeth said.

“People who are highly qualified in maths, physics and environmental sciences. Those qualifications lead to a whole range of careers which are becoming increasingly important for the future of Australia and the knowledge economy.

“We’ve got a workforce who are really passionate about their work, are incredibly talented, but who also want to engage with their local communities. We were looking for outreach and engagement activities for our BOM STEM ambassadors.

The STEM Professionals in Schools program was the perfect match between CSIRO and the Bureau. Teachers really enjoy having STEM professionals bring real-world experience to the classroom to enhance curriculum,” she said.

STEM Professionals in Schools is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment and delivered by CSIRO.