Congratulations to Stuart Naismith on being named winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Excellence in Primary Education Prize in recognition of contributions to chemistry education.
A huge well done also goes to Cumbernauld Academy Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Club, who have won the Team Prize for Excellence in Secondary and Further Education also from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Based at Gartcosh Primary School, Mr Naismith won the prize for developing an entrepreneurial approach to STEM subjects, using a variety of media, to encourage students to engage with learning.
Last year a clip of a science experiment went viral after he stood up in front of the entire school to demonstrate how a glass of water could be held in place and sealed by a piece of card.
However, the experiment went wrong, and he ended up covered in red-coloured water much to the amusement of pupils and teachers.
Mr Naismith has had the last laugh, however, by winning this prestigious accolade.
Cumbernauld Academy STEM Club, which is run by school technicians Jim Cairney and Joanne Watson, won the prize for the development of creative STEM activities for learners of all ages and abilities, and the development of staff to support learners in a variety of settings.
This year’s winners join a prestigious list of past winners in the RSC’s prize portfolio, 60 of whom have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their work, including 2022 Nobel Laureate Carolyn Bertozzi and 2019 Nobel laureate John B Goodenough.
Mr Naismith, who receives £3000, a medal, and a certificate, said: “It is an incredible achievement being recognised for this award by colleagues and education professionals, especially within such a competitive award. As someone without a STEM background before becoming a teacher, it is also a bit surreal that I have come this far. It is wonderful that these awards exist to recognise and reward the passion, dedication and hard work of educators, and I am honoured to be receiving this accolade.”
As a primary school teacher, Stuart leads STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) activities within his class while supporting colleagues throughout the school. This involves engaging children in performing experiments or tackling design challenges with different materials. Stuart also leads science assemblies, which involves performing science experiments in front of the whole school to engage all students and help them develop their understanding of scientific concepts.
Stuart also creates videos for YouTube, demonstrating low-cost science experiments or STEM activities where he explains not only how to do the activity but also why things are happening. Most of the materials are easily accessible in local shops, and this is to reduce the barriers to accessing STEM education outside of school. The videos are free to access and are there to support teachers, parents and pupils.
After receiving the Team Prize for Excellence, Mark Cairns, Headteacher of Cumbernauld Academy said: “The recognition the prize gives to the young people involved and to the wider school is humbling. The fact the RSC recognises the importance of inclusion in science with this award is significant.”
The Cumbernauld Academy STEM Club supports staff working in early years establishments to engage the youngest children with exciting opportunities in STEM. The team also supports those with complex educational needs and those with significant anxieties. Through their planning and support, the Club has made science accessible in a meaningful and enjoyable way.
Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “The chemical sciences are at the forefront of tackling a range of challenges facing our world. From fundamental chemistry to cutting-edge innovations, the work that chemical scientists do has an important role to play in building our future.
“The inspiration, innovation and dedication of those who work in education is fundamental to the progress of the chemical sciences – shaping the future and setting our young people up to tackle the challenges and the opportunities facing our society and our planet.
The Excellence in Education Prizes celebrate inspirational, innovative, and dedicated people working in primary, secondary, further education and higher education – including teachers, technicians and more. These prizes recognise a wide range of skills – from curriculum design to effective teaching, and from personal development to working culture. This category includes specific prizes for teams and those in the early stages of their career.