Lucy Hawking helps to nurture ‘Thriving Minds’ at symposium
Lucy Hawking, daughter of the late Prof Stephen Hawking, hosted the Thriving Minds Symposium at a Cambridge school, which unpacked a host of big ideas.
Sancton Wood Senior School’s all-day event, on Wednesday, November 1, gave students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and explore subjects with higher-level thinking.
The day featured talks from leading experts in their fields and carefully-curated workshops designed to explore the impact of these fields and how they will develop and affect the future.
Open to students from Years 6 to Year 10, the day featured talks and presentations from ex-England rugby player Professor Mark Bailey, titled ‘Sport: Creating a Winning Mindset’; ‘Art and Design: From Blank Canvas to a Signature Style’ by children’s illustrator Kate Winter; ‘STEM, Radioactivity – the Overlooked Cancer Remedy?’ by Dr Tim Witney from the Wellcome Trust; ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice and Making it Heard’ by novelists Jim Keeble and Wenyan Lu; ‘STEM: The Future of Finance’ from Chris Munson of Lloyds Bank, looking at the impact of AI; and ‘STEM: Creating the World You Want to Live in’ by Lucy Hawking, who also delivered a keynote speech.
Richard Settle, principal at the school, told the Cambridge Independent that the day enabled students across Cambridge and London “to get the opportunity to dive deeper into subject areas that they have a growing interest in”.
He continued: “We have brought in leading people in their fields from across the arts and STEM. The children get to choose two talks, or two sessions, that they can be part of, and we have some other things going on, such as thinking about careers, next stages and how to get there, etc.
“A common thread running through these sessions is maximising your talents, and sometimes there are ‘softer skills’ that need to sit alongside natural talent.
“So it’s quite a broad range. We hope that the children will gain from a different perspective. My experience in education is that it’s these sorts of days that make a difference.
“No-one’s life is changed by a magnificent worksheet, is it? The memories that are formed, and the life-changing moments happen, I think, where something is a bit different.
“We’re always keen to do that – school trips, visiting speakers... Those sorts of things I think impact children hugely, so we hope that that’s what we’re doing.”
Lucy Hawking, a successful children’s author, science educator and philanthropist, spoke to the Cambridge Independent after the morning session.
She described the day as “an opportunity for school-age students to interact with really big ideas, and big concepts, and to investigate them more fully”.
Lucy noted that she often talks to pupils “about some of the books I’ve written, some of the bigger questions that underpin the science which I write about, whether it’s climate science or exploring the universe”, adding: “I do a lot of work in schools and in festivals, in all sorts of different contexts actually.”
In the morning session, Lucy talked about how we imagine a better future – “which obviously with this age group is really important”.
She observed that there are “some really big challenges around us in the world” and in her talk asked: “How do we come up with creative, scientific solutions to some of these big problems?”
“Also how do we deal with the conflict of ideas? For every great idea that somebody has, there’ll be someone who doesn’t like that idea, and how do you resolve that?
“How do you take on board what people’s objections are, think about them and maybe incorporate them into reimagining your plan for the future?
“We’ve been talking about climate change, artificial intelligence, extra-terrestrial civilisations, inequality of wealth and overpopulation – those are the big ideas that we’ve been unpacking today in the classroom.”
Lucy was impressed by the responses from the pupils. “They were very clear, very eloquent,” she said, “I think they’re very empathetic, especially around some of the social issues and how they impact other people, what needs to be done to create not just a better world, but a fairer world.”
Lucy revealed that the idea for her presentation came from her father’s quote: “We need to make the future a place we want to visit”.
Later that day, Lucy attended the Hawking Fellowship lecture at the Cambridge Union.
This year’s fellowship has been awarded to the team behind OpenAI, and giving the lecture was Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI, which created ChatGPT.