The Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) develops opportunities for secondary students and post-16s from all backgrounds to participate in authentic research in school and make valuable, recognised contributions to the scientific community.
Each year, IRIS works with over 1,000 students at almost 100 UK schools, including some of those also working with Villiers Park. The project-based nature of our Leadership Challenge lends itself to the IRIS framework and timescale, and Future Leaders have been undertaking IRIS projects since 2018.
With climate change and the nature crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there has naturally been an interest from Future Leaders in using the IRIS research methodology to make a meaningful contribution to the debate.
In 2018-19, students from Abbey Park School and Lydiard Park Academy in Swindon took part in MELT, a partnership project between IRIS and the UK Space Agency, charting the impacts of the polar ice cap melting. A total of six groups of students undertook a range of projects, from mapping the school’s carbon footprint to discovering how much carbon a single tree on site could capture.
Having understood the importance of trees to a healthy climate and biodiversity, both schools decided to plant new ones - donated by Carbon Footprint, a sustainability consultancy - in their school grounds.
At the end of the project, the schools got together and held a mini-conference at Abbey Park to learn more about the research each had undertaken, and share the results with the school communities. Each Future Leader received Leadership Challenge and IRIS certificates.
More recently, students at Lydiard Park Academy in Swindon participated in ‘Treezilla’, an ambitious project to map all of Britain’s trees and record vital data about tree disease and the environmental benefits that trees provide. Future Leaders Beau, Mia and Meckenzie all collected certificates to acknowledge their contribution to this important scheme at the 2022 Swindon Celebration Event, where Cameron’s poster presentation was also on display.
IRIS prides itself on the accessibility of its resources, all of which are available on its website in written and video form.
Mike Grocott, Regional Schools Engagement Lead at IRIS, said:
“We aim to provide a supplementary and supportive programme which helps young people to understand and develop research skills. Young people are naturally curious; we help them to know how to ‘find out’. Projects don’t have to be cutting-edge science, it’s about embedding the research process which can then be used across many disciplines and throughout life. Research is about outcomes, not attainment - which is quite different to other aspects of school.”
This year, Future Leaders from across our hubs are interested in participating in IRIS projects including Cosmic Mining, Treezilla and Carbon Researchers. We can’t wait to share their findings!