Solutions for the Planet’s ‘Big Ideas’ is a STEM programme with a focus on sustainability and entrepreneurship.
Big Ideas is a science, technology engineering and maths programme delivered in partnership with companies based locally, who support teams of students (in KS3 or S1-3) to generate solutions or ‘Big Ideas’ to sustainability issues.
Our work with schools
The Big Ideas programme builds young peoples’ motivation to learn about science, technology, engineering, maths and environmental issues supported by companies that are leading in these fields internationally.
The Big Ideas are submitted to our competition with regional finals held at a universities and the national final at the Houses of Parliament in London. Entrepreneurship, teamwork, business planning and public presentation skills are central to the whole process. Schools are left to select which year group and how many students they would like to participate in the programme each year. We encourage schools to involve a whole year group at the Big Ideas Day(s).
We currently deliver the programme with Key Stage 3 and S1-3 students in schools across North England & Scotland (Leeds, Bradford, Newcastle and Glasgow), the West Midlands (Wolverhampton and Solihull) and the South East (London Borough of Newham, Kent and Portsmouth).
A region usually involves ten schools.
Some of the benefits that students see from the programme are:
- High quality learning opportunities through challenging tasks that extend previous knowledge, skills and understanding of students, particularly around STEM
- Opportunities for practical and technical skills to be developed
- Development of students’ creativity, imagination, problem solving and presentation skills
- Increased self-confidence and ability to be independent learners, creative thinkers and team workers
- Mentoring from industry professionals
- High levels of motivation to get to the finals in London and possibility for their idea to be recognized and adopted by industry
- Inspiration to take action and lead change on issues that matter to them
- Increased access of vocational opportunities, including apprenticeships
- Increased awareness and aspirations often in previously unconsidered areas
Some of the additional benefits that schools see from the programme are:
- Enhances the curriculum (particularly in Science, Maths, Geography, Citizenship, Design & Technology and ICT)
- Staff development opportunities
- New learning opportunities through sustained interaction with local industry and community partners
- Careers information, raising awareness of the opportunities available in this industry through partnership with local companies
Meet the teams
Our teams of young people work together, with their business mentors and teachers, to create amazing Big Ideas to solve local, national and global sustainability problems. Over the course of six to eight months our teams share ideas, develop new skills and learn how to work effectively as a team. Over the last three years we’ve had over 1000 Big Ideas, from across our School Partners, take part in the programme. We asked some of last years’ teams to tell us a little bit more about themselves and what they got out of participating in Solutions for the Planet.
Biggar High School, Biggar
A product which will capture and dilute the carbon dioxide and will be in the form of a removable exhaust filter.
Plashet School, Newham
An all-ages app which tracks CO2 emissions you are emitting including games and educational materials about the impacts of CO2 on the planet.
The Halifax Academy, Halifax
A bracelet that tracks heart rate/blood pressure etc.
Arden Academy, Solihull
A waterproof product (a device called Focus Flow) that simply attaches onto a stand or goes in a bathroom to help you save water.
Fast ‘n’ Fashion
Heath Park School, Wolverhampton
A Campaign and workshops to raise awareness of clothing waste and upcycle your old clothes.
Priory School, Edgebaston
A gym service where users workouts on machines connected to a generator and are rewarded for taking their health seriously.
Perton Middle School, Wolverhampton
An app that will limit daily use on mobile phones providing incentives for younger people to turn off their phones and focus on the real world.
Oaks Park High School, Ilford
A campaign using badges made from bottle caps to encourage people to reuse reduce and recycle.
Hodge Hill College, Birmingham
A campaign to get old people and children from inner cities out to beaches for beach cleans.
Hall Cross Academy, Doncaster
A campaign providing drawstring bags containing bee-friendly essentials, which should be used to effectively transform our local environment into a bee-friendly place.
Mayfield School, Birmingham
A bus 100%-powered by a combination renewable energy sources.
Alderbrook School, Solihull
A filter that retrofits to the waste pipe of a washing machine to collect microfibres.
Our school partners
Find out more about schools who are currently signed up to the programme here.
Biggar High School
Colton Hills Community School
Hodge Hill College
Moseley Park School
Meet the teachers
Our fantastic teachers from participating schools lead on the programme in their schools, running development sessions which mentors are invited to attend. They work with the teams from their schools, creatively and collaboratively, to develop they Big Ideas. We asked some of our current teachers to tell us a little bit more about themselves and what they get out of delivering the Big Ideas programme in their schools.
Heath Park School, Wolverhampton
Position: Science Teacher
“Solutions for the Planet is a programme to help pupils think about the planet and its future, as well as their own. It develops a lot of interpersonal skills in doing so… Do it!”
Read more from Gareth
Heath Park chose to work with Solutions for the Planet to extend our beyond curriculum learning within the STEM subjects and Entrepreneurship.
I have always had a passion for the importance of young people’s education beyond the classroom and experiencing things which are not usually accessible in the classroom or lab.
Our students have learnt the importance of
- ownership of their own work
- taking opportunities that take them beyond the curriculum
They have developed
- STEM knowledge
- Business/entrepreneurship knowledge
- Confidence in presenting and talking to others
As a teacher I have really appreciated the importance of STEM and entrepreneurship for future generations.
My teaching has improved through teaching pupils something outside of my specialism and opened my eyes to opportunities that are out there for our young people.
Seeing the students representing the school in such a professional environment and manner has been one of the best parts to the programme.
Committing time outside of school to see all pupils is definitely one of the few challenges. There are so many good ideas. It is difficult to give as much time as you really want to all teams because you get so involved with them all. Work with other staff as well as the business mentors really helps.
Solutions for the Planet is a programme to help pupils think about the planet and its future, as well as their own. It develops a lot of interpersonal skills in doing so.
I would say to others considering participation in the programme “Do it!”
Participating in the programme has very much met my expectations. It does a lot of young people a lot of good, so it must be a winner!
Alderbrook School, Solihull
Position: Science Teacher and STEM Coordinator
“Solutions for the Planet is a great programme to inspire and develop students into independent confident individuals. It has made me more aware of the issues surrounding our planet and how amazing our students are! “
Read more from Mandy
Alderbrook School got involved with Solutions for the Planet as it was a STEM activity that fitted into my job role and it sounded like an all-round activity that students would be interested in. I personally feel it is important to make students aware of different STEM careers and also because am interested in making the planet a better place for future generations.
All of the students have gained a lot of confidence and learnt how to work well as a part of a team. They understand how to develop ideas and market them. They are also now very aware of the issues surrounding the environment. Being involved has made me more aware of the issues surrounding our planet.
The best part of the programme has been seeing the students develop from shy into confident individuals and getting to the finals.
Solutions for the Planet has made me more aware of the issues surrounding our planet. How amazing our students are! The most challenging part of the programme was getting the students to attend and complete on time and the amount of time I have had to give myself.
Solutions for the Planet is a great programme to inspire and develop students into independent confident individuals.
Participating in the programme has met my expectations because two of my teams managed to get into the finals!! I would say to other schools go for it, you will be amazed at what the students can achieve, although it is hard work you will be feel proud at what they achieve.
Tong High School, Bradford
Position: Consultant (Retired Primary Head teacher)
“S4TP is an exciting environmental project which gives students the opportunity to develop confidence and skills as they go on a journey to improve something in the world that they feel passionate about.”
Read more from Chris
Tong High School got involved in Solutions for the Planet three years ago because we were looking for an opportunity for Y7 students to develop new skills and have the opportunity to do something positive, working with others, to improve the environment.
Personally, I have always been interested in Environmental Education and as I was supporting the new Y7 students at Tong I jumped at the chance to take the lead and support the students.
I have the students involved grow in confidence in many areas;
They have further developed their research skills
They have a greater understanding of what is needed to develop a Business Plan
They have improved their presentation skills greatly and
They have learnt to cooperate and work collectively in a team.
They loved having the opportunity to further develop their original ideas and many students commented that the work they completed was the best thing they have done all year!
One of the more challenging parts of the programme is that I am not in school every day. This has meant I have had to rely on others a lot of the time, however, the full time staff have given me great support and I can tell they really value the project.S4TP is an exciting environmental project which gives students the opportunity to develop confidence and skills as they go on a journey to improve something in the world that they feel passionate about.
Don’t hesitate, get involved! I have seen the positive impact it can have in school.