A NATIONAL schools programme that uses theatre in the classroom to inspire a love of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects has engaged more than 600 students in North and Mid Wales.

Bright Sparks, created by Bangor University’s Reaching Wider team in partnership with Theatr Clwyd, was trialled in 12 KS2 schools including some in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey,

Funded by the ScottishPower Foundation, the project is said to have benefitted around 631 students this year.

Over the course of three sessions, pupils attend a workshop, led by actors from Theatr Clwyd, about wind turbines and how they generate electricity. Featuring characters ‘Professor Sparky’ and his nephew ‘Eric’, who is trying to pass his exams, the students are tasked with problem-solving, experimenting and designing in teams.

Following sessions at each school, data gathered from participating pupils revealed a 53% increase in ‘technology enjoyment’ and a 37% increase in ‘science enjoyment’. There was also a 24% increase in the number of school pupils interested in going to university in the future.

Paula Griffiths from Bangor University’s Reaching Wider Partnership was crucial to the research and development of the Bright Sparks programme.

She researched new, innovative ways to deliver STEM education and discovered programmes in America that use performing arts to engage and raise aspirations with young people.

"Bright Sparks has seen a huge increase in the number of children enjoying learning about the world of STEM," she said.

"The industry is fast becoming one of the most important in the UK and abroad so it is incredibly important that we find interesting ways to engage young people.

Many students were surprised by how much they enjoyed the sessions and felt more positive about learning about STEM, particularly engineering.

In January, the ScottishPower Foundation, established in 2013, announced it would donate more than £1 million to projects across the country, supporting local initiatives in education, the arts, environment and health.

Bangor University’s Reaching Wider partnership received a funding boost of £30,000 to facilitate the growth of the Bright Sparks programme.