Setting up a successful STEM club

Written by: Jo Mitchell | Published:
Broadening horizons: STEM clubs often organise national or international trips, such as this club’s visit to CERN in Switzerland

STEM Club Week takes place in early February. Jo Mitchell looks at the ins and outs of setting up a club and the secrets to making a club popular and successful

“The kids love it. They have won national competitions, been to science fairs, uploaded news to STEM websites, been in the local press. Seeing their success adds to my personal job satisfaction immeasurably. My headteacher loves us for the work we have done in STEM club as it raises the profile of the school.”

Dr Meryl Batchelder, subject leader of science, Corbridge Middle School, Northumberland

STEM clubs can be an influential and enjoyable way of engaging students with STEM subjects. They can deliver a vast range of benefits to club leaders as well as students – from enhancing CPD to raising student attainment.

STEM clubs can give a deeper understanding of STEM subjects, combining science with real-world experiences and knowledge, especially when linked with local industry or the STEM Ambassadors programme (see further information).

STEM clubs actively encourage students to learn new skills and to engage with these important and necessary subjects in novel and interesting ways. Most importantly, they are fun and exciting and allow all involved to explore STEM subjects in imaginative and inventive ways.

Setting up your STEM club

There is no wrong or right way to set up a club – the key is to make sure it is successful and ensure you can maintain it. First thing’s first, ask yourself if you have the time and the energy, if you have support from your colleagues, and if there is interest from students. Three simple questions and hopefully your answer is yes to all three.

Talk over your plans with senior management, explain what you want to do and why, and how this will benefit the students and the school.

You could sign up for one of the CPD STEM club courses run at STEM Learning (and don’t forget that state schools are eligible for bursaries). Taking part in one of the courses can help you to focus on what you want to achieve with the club and how to go about it. Local industry is also a great way to bring in support for your club, either with STEM Ambassadors to support you or companies could provide you with resources and possible funding.

STEM clubs like any club need resources and funding and there are lots of bursaries and options available from related organisations who can help. Check out STEM Learning’s STEM Club Best Practice Handbook, it is full of vital information to help you start-up and maintain your club.

Once you have the support of colleagues and know what activities you want to do with your club, you need to focus on recruiting students. Advertise around the school, talk to the students who you know have a passion for the subjects and invite them to join.

Perhaps run a drop in-session at lunchtime as a marketing campaign. Here you can run some fun and quick activities to engage the students. Let the students know what the first set of activities will be and what your plans are for the future – whether it is to compete in competitions, work towards a CREST Award (see further information) or how you will use the club to enhance their term-time learning. Find ways to reward their participation and incentivise them.

There are lots of great ideas out there for your club sessions. STEM Learning has just released some free sets of activities. Each is designed to cover six club sessions and have been written for clubs to use.

STEM clubs can also share their experiences with other club leaders – giving advice, suggesting ideas, best practice hints and tips, or by encouraging each other to try out new ideas or to enter challenges and competitions. Experienced club leaders are always willing to share their knowledge with other club leaders, providing an opportunity to learn from their example.

As such, the STEM Club Community Group has been set-up by STEM Learning for this very purpose, to help club leaders help each other. It’s free to join, available through the STEM Club website and is a great way for club leaders to interact with each other and with our own in-house subject specialists. This means that there is always someone around to help with questions, ideas and techniques.

What makes a good STEM club?

First, and more importantly than anything else, it is the club leader. Whoever takes on the responsibility of a STEM club needs to enjoy it and believe in it – through their enthusiasm for their subject they will instil heightened enjoyment in the students, offering greater opportunities to enhance learning.

A well-informed club leader who is open to new techniques and embraces new ideas will pass on their zeal for learning to their club members which will advance their learning.

STEM clubs that offer a wide and various set of activities that support curricular learning while encouraging students to explore knowledge and find new ways to solve problems will find themselves inundated with keen and eager members. A STEM club with a waiting list will always show how important and interesting it is to other students.

Good clubs seek out opportunities to test themselves in local and national challenges and competitions, which provide the added benefit of rewarding participation. Good clubs give their students the chance to visit Science Fairs like the Big Bang event and to get involved in local projects that help the community.

Great clubs give students the opportunity to be part of a team and encourages them take on responsibility which will boost confidence and their employability skills.

Remember to ask students what they are interested in, help them find the right project for them, and don’t underestimate their abilities – they are keen and eager, so are looking to stretch their capabilities. The very best clubs get students involved in the running of the club, or encourage older students to mentor younger ones.

Club leaders need to seek out ways to involve their school in what they are doing and should take every occasion to show other students what the club members are involved in.

Other signs of a healthy and vibrant club include linking with local industry and local press, bringing in STEM Ambassadors, and taking the club members on regular STEM-related trips.

STEM clubs that have the support of senior management and from colleagues in the STEM or other departments will always succeed, as well.

So, there are many factors that feed into what makes a club succeed: good leadership, interesting projects and activities, recognition within the school, the creating of opportunities to promote students’ work, and working with local industry or the local community.

One surefire way to tell if you have a good club is to look at the enthusiasm of the students. First they want to join, and then they want to keep coming back to the club, week-in, week-out. A club that enables their students and encourages them to grow is not just a good club, it’s a brilliant one.

  • Jo Mitchell is project coordinator for STEM Clubs at STEM Learning

Further information

  • For more information on the national STEM Clubs programme, resources mentioned in this article and other support, visit
  • STEM Clubs Week takes place from February 5 to 10. You can find out more on social media by following the hashtag #STEMClubsWeek2018
  • The CREST Awards scheme is the British Science Association’s flagship programme for young people. It is an accreditation scheme for STEM project work, providing science enrichment activities for five to 19-year-olds. Visit
  • STEM Ambassadors are volunteers from STEM-related jobs and disciplines across the UK. They offer their time to help bring STEM subjects to life and demonstrate the value of them in life and careers. The programme is run by STEM Learning:


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