Last weekend, we welcomed 24 students from five Welsh universities to the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University. These students are the Physics Mentoring project’s first cohort of mentors and they were here to start a long weekend of training. The team were excited but nervous – what if we hadn’t bought enough custard creams to last the weekend?!
The weekend started with an overview of Physics in Wales and the aims of the project – delivered by the National Coordinator, Rosie Mellors, and Academic Lead, Chris North. Then, the mentors were separated in to two groups and sent off to the first of many interactive sessions on mentoring.
The mentoring gurus: Pete and Dave
Mentoring specialists, Peter Thomas and David Harris, delivered the mentoring training sessions. As an ex-head of physics, Peter has been truly passionate about the Physics Mentoring project, which shone through and left an impact on the trainee mentors. David’s industry experience as a British gas engineer brought an insight in to Physics careers. Sessions were centred around fostering productive and nuturing relationships between mentors and mentees.
The kit (and well deserved pizza!)
Science Made Simple conducted the training session on the “aspirational handbag”, the huge box of kit the mentors would have available to them for use in their sessions. The box includes interactive kit for demonstrations to do with fluid dynamics, the electromagnetic spectrum and radioactive decay. The session was also an opportunity for the mentors to give the team feedback on the sessions, and what they thought would work well and what needed improvement.
After a long day of learning, the only suitable reward was pizza! I think the mentors agreed…
Gender balance and careers
Day two of the training started with an eye-opening session from Sarah Cosgriff, gender balance officer from the IOP. The session gave context on topics such as careers, unconscious bias, A level and GCSE uptake vs. attainment and practical tips for their sessions.
The assessed activity
Finally, the weekend finished with the mentors practising their new skills on each other in a small observed exercise. All of the mentors impressed the assessors with their new skills and they all seemed to have learnt a huge amount from the weekend.
Feedback from the newly trained mentors showed that their favourite aspect of the weekend ranged from the free pizza to the opportunity to meet new people! They spoke highly of the gender balance session and mentoring experts and enjoyed the opportunity to practice their skills on one another.
The project team are undeniably grateful to those who contributed to the training but also, to the mentors themselves for giving up their weekend. We’re ready to take this excellent project in to schools!