STEM-ers are born as well as made, we’re interested, we’re curious, we spend a lot of time asking “why?” Sometimes to the exasperation of friends and family.

My message – Brilliant! Keep it up. 
We all need to work to understand the theoretical foundations of our fields, we study; in school, in college, in work, in Uni or at home, to see what the founding principles are. 

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However, there is nothing quite like taking that attitude and mindset out into the world and testing it yourself. I have Biology & Chemistry A-Levels, a Biology degree and worked in IT, but what came first was the practical testing of the environment around me, in urban Manchester.  

There are some don’ts.

  • I don’t recommend age 12, crossing three lanes of traffic to get to a reservoir wood area which was visibly dropping little black insects off a tree, which were then walking across the road like Christmas Island red crabs (Ladybird larvae on the move if you are curious – and as an aside they are quite the most evil-looking things)  
  • Don’t think in your 30’s you can teach yourself to code Excel VBA in an afternoon “because it can’t be that different” 

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However, within these frankly daft stories are some Do’s. 

  • Pay attention to the environment as you are out and about, you will find real-world evidence of your theoretical studies, and once you’ve seen a couple of these things in your world, it brings the books to life, and makes the bigger picture so much clearer. 
  • Do ask – What trophic pyramids are operating in your community? What Symbiotic relationships exist on the tree by your front door? What oxidisation events are being accelerated by environmental conditions?
  • Have a bash you will learn whilst you are making mistakes and vastly increase your practical understanding. So for example – do try and create a controlled input form for your class’s survey on an excel front end. The internet helps with looking up the basics, and it will save someone a job in the future making sure the data in each field is valid.  

The good bit – this doesn’t ever stop. 

When training as a safari ranger in Africa we came across the march of lots of little black insects across the sand. What were they? Beetle larvae, from Africa’s less colourful equivalent of Ladybirds. Cue bemusement from my classmates, me knowing due to investigating a roundabout as a child, and lots of points from my teacher.

Now, off to the next practical lesson!


This article was written by Katherine Fletcher MP.

Now take a look at:
From Orangutans To Gorillas, The Wonderful, Wild World Of Primatology
How Did You End Up In Evolutionary Biology?

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