Updated: Mar 13
What if school was completely reimagined to put curiosity and fun first? Matt’s journey to reshape the education system and inspire environmental action.
What made you interested in the environment?
I was really lucky in that I grew up in an old farm house (a lot of my family are farmers).
It was great growing up in the countryside because it helped me to understand the importance of nature. At the same time, it really gave me the illusion that things were much more okay in the world than they are because my mum and my dad were both really obsessed with creating wilderness on the bit of land we had around the house. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I looked out beyond the few trees my parents had planted and thought ‘hang on a minute, this is all monoculture fields, with just grass and cows, and this isn't really how it should be.’ And actually, this little wilderness they've created… is just a little island.
I wanted to plant a lot of trees from a young age. I think there are many kids who think this because it's intuitive to children that trees are important. The reason there are so many kids marching in the street representing the climate movement is because many climate problems and solutions are really simple, intuitive and easy to understand... which is why it's so baffling that they're being sorted out so slowly.
As I grew up, I spent a lot of time worrying about the destruction of nature, hoping I could one day be a part of the solution.
So how did you think you might be able to make a positive difference?
For me, the big thing I thought I would be able to offer was really good science communication.
I’m very interested in many different areas of science, from relativity to microbiology. But I’ve been particularly focused on climate and nature because we're in the midst of such a big emergency.
I think it's hard to communicate about these things... people don't like being preached at, and people don't like to feel like they're being told what to do, especially if they already kind of understand everything, or think they do. This is why our climate and nature course is a story, and is very human. It delivers all of the science, but most of all, it's empowering.
What were your early projects like?
First I was in the music industry. I was in a band called Twin Hidden, which is now called Ash Lad. I did that mostly because I love music and because I wanted to meet a lot of interesting people. But at the same time, I had this really naïve idea in my head that I’d be able to build myself a big platform that I could then use to make a positive difference later on through science communication.
It took a while for me to ask myself, why am I building a platform to do science communication later when I can just start doing it now? So then I started Science In The Bath.
So was there a particular reason why you set up AimHi? You've talked about how you wanted to be a science communicator and make a difference, but why an online school? It’s been the natural progression from all the experiences that I've had and all the things that I've learnt. I tried to be a thinking person who had a public profile, to try and represent good ideas, to inspire people and to engage people. It was really hard. There must be so many people out there who, as I do, really want to empower and educate, and build a platform for the right reasons. Imagine if we could bring all of these people together into an organisation that’s full of really inspiring people, who want to get people engaged in learning and understanding the world.
Another thing is that I really think the education system is failing us. And it's not to blame the schools, nor the teachers. There's a huge amount of talent that exists in teachers and there’s also a huge amount of talent being eroded away as teachers get jaded because of an outdated system. We raise children to answer questions from memory, do automatic processes, learn a load of lists. Look at the technology we have now: why would anyone ever need to remember a sequence of historical dates or a table of flame tests? You can look up anything instantly on your phone, and calculate all manner of things too, so why are we learning skills that technology and AI are obsoleting? It doesn’t make any sense.
It makes sense to teach people how to think, to problem solve and innovate.
I've taught students for many years, and one of the things I find myself going through with almost all of them is getting them to realise that I don’t care much about them being right. If I ask a question and they instantly get the answer, it's of little interest to me. What I am really interested in is that they can think.
Part two of this interview will be available soon on the AimHi blog. You can find out more about the AimHi teachers, here.