Author Archives: andrew

How to Punk your Science and Summer courses

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Talk Science team with lots of exciting stuff happening. We have been on a mini UK tour working with the Museums Libraries and Archives council delivering our training course with Science ITT students and museum educators.

New resources coming soon….

We have been filming with the Science Museum in house comedy team Punk Science to create short films for you to use in the classroom. The Punk Science team bring a hilarious twist to difficult to understand science concepts and ideas while making the science crystal clear for your students. So if you have ever wondered how two men, some bungee chord and a balaclava can demonstrate the end of the universe these films will be just your cup of tea. You can get a little taster of what they’re about on our YouTube Channel.

Punk Science team

Punk Science team

Punk Science are the minds behind the best selling children’s science book Do Try This at Home.

Do try this at Home

Do try this at Home

In addition to the films, Punk Science will also be sharing their top tips for teachers who want to ‘Punk’ their lessons. The films will start appearing on our site from July onwards.

Join us for a course

It’s very nearly summer and there has never been a better time to come and join us on our training course about running great classroom discussions. Summer term dates are as follows:

10th June - Belfast

15th June – London

17th June – Manchester

24th June – Cardiff

1st July – Norwich

6th July – London

The course is packed with practical tried and tested ideas and fits with all UK KS3 and 4 curricula. For more information or to book a place click here

Happy Birthday Hubble

The Hubble telescope is celebrating 20 years of stargazing this year. Launched in 1990, Hubble orbits the Earth sending back images of the universe. Scientists have been able to use Hubble to help more accurately determine the age of the universe (somewhere between 13-14 billions years old, just in case you were wondering) and the telescope also played a key role in the discovery of dark matter. 

Any ground-based telescope has to contend with Earth’s atmosphere blocking and distorting the light that reaches our planet, but by placing Hubble in space we have been able to see the universe far more clearly than ever before. Some of the images that it has captured have been breathtaking.

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302 (NASA)

Find out more about Hubble from it’s very own NASA website here, or why not follow it on twitter. Hubble is a great way to start a classroom discussion on a wide range of issues concerning the Universe, from the origins and ends of the universe to the question of whether there is life on other planets. 

Why not use the ever popular Marketplace technique to cover all the possible sides of the discussion. Also just launched around the UK is the brand new Hubble 3D IMAX film currently showing at the Science Museum, click here for more information.

LHC back in business

The world’s biggest atom smasher is back on track.


iny particles zoom around the Large Hadron Collider's 27 km underground tunnel

The Large Hadron Collider was switched on this week and the last time we checked on their Twitter account it was all going well. The scientists will continue in their work to unravel our understanding of how the universe came into exisitence. The project has been beset by problems and delays since opening in 2008 but has been back up and running since mid March this year. This week should see the LHC running at half its potential power capacity.

The LHC has great discussion potential for the classroom, with many teachers having had plenty of questions from pupils who want to know if we are all going to be swallowed by a black hole created by it. (The answer is no,  in case you were worried!) The Science Museum’s Antenna team first reported on the LHC back in 2007 and put together this handy mini site with all the back ground information you need for a discussion.

Looking for ideas to kick of the discussion? Try our handy powerful question generator activity to link the topic to what your students love talking about.

Swab test to predict future illness?

Could a single drop of your saliva tell you if you are prone to genetically inherited diseases?

Model of DNA

Model of DNA (SSPL)

Well this could soon be a reality according to scientists at Edinburgh University. They are developing a quick and cheap swab test to analyse your DNA. the Results could tell you if you were healthly, likely to develop a disease or diagonse conditions like cystic fibrosis. You can read more about this research here

Would you take the test? Would you like to know what your future health might be?

This story is a great starter for a dicussion around DNA, gentetics and gentic inheritance. The human barometer technique would be the perfect way to measure your student’s opinion and see how they would feel about having this test done.

Holidays in Space?

A trip on a Virgin Galactic sub orbital space flight next year will set you back at least $200,000 …..we can all dream! But will these trips ever be affordable and should public money be used to fund them?

Zero gravity

Zero gravity

A report published this week recommends that Britain invests more money in the space industry in order to take advantage of key market opportunities including space tourism.

Take advantage of the current media coverage to run a discussion lesson on space tourism.

Some ideas to get your students thinking…

  • How far could a space tourism trip take you?
  • How long will it be before we can book a hotel on the moon or holiday on Mars?
  • How much risk are the public willing to take? What if there was an accident?
  • Do you need to be as fit as an astronaut to go?
  • What is the carbon footprint of a trip into space?

The increasing public interest in space travel may well be of a benefit to scientists doing research by making extra funding available. However, it could also be a hindrance if there was an increase in health and safety scares linked to space exploration or  if funding gets diverted away from research and invested in space tourism instead.

To get your class discussing this topic you could get groups to each research a different area and follow this with mixed group discussions using the marketplace format. Run a search on space tourism on the web to find multiple news articles and websites with both sides to the story.

As part of the Exploring the Universe Theme Day at the Science Museum on 17th May the Talk Science team will be running a discussion activity on Space tourism for secondary school groups. To book or for more information give our friendly bookings team a call on 020 7942 4777.

On the road again

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the road for the Talk Science team with teacher courses in Bristol and Edinburgh. Our trip to Scotland saw the Talk Science attendance record shattered with 26 teachers making their way to Our Dynamic Earth for the course.

Talk Science course

Talk Science course

A big thank you to everyone who came along to the courses we had a great time working with you. Don’t forget if you try out any of the ideas from the day we love to hear how it went so drop us a line at

Feel like you have missed out? Well for anyone who couldn’t make it on the day we have courses happening all around the UK in the next couple of months click here for dates.  Due to extra demand we have added a course in Glasgow on 18th March but you will have to be quick as there are only a few places remaining. Click here to book a place.

We will be back later this week to bring you some more great ideas for classroom discussion.

Top Techniques : Powerful Questions

‘Would you wear second hand pants to save the Earth?’

How do you get your students interested in discussing a topic? Well one simple technique to hook them is to ask a powerful question. The Talk Science team have devised an easy way to come up with great questions that link what your students are interested in outside of the classroom with what you want them to discuss in lessons. Click here to find out how we do it and you too will find yourself asking your students great questions like :

‘Do boys pollute more than girls?’

and many more…….

New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year!

Is your New year’s resolution to brush up your classroom discussion running skills? If so help is at hand!

The Talk Science team will be running their teacher training course at venues across the UK in 2010. We will be sharing our  top tips on getting your students talking about hot science topics in our one day teachers course packed with ideas and resources to hook your students into a great science discussion (and we guarentee its more fun and less difficult than all those other resolutions to loose weight, give up chocolate, run a marathon etc.) Here’s what one teacher in York thought about the course:

‘The course gave me lots of ideas, and was delivered in a fun and interesting way. It has inspired me to run more discussion lessons in the future.’

The course takes place on the following dates:

21st January – Bristol

28th January – Edinburgh

24th February – Nottingham

18th March – Glasgow

25th March – London

27th May – Birmingham

10th June – Belfast

15th June – London

17th June – Manchester

24th June – Cardiff

1st July – Norwich

6th July – London

13th July – London

The course is free and is supported by BP as part of the Enterprising Science project. Click here to register for a course.

We look forward to meeting  you  throughout 2010.

Come and see us at the ASE conference

The Science Museum learning team will be at the ASE conference in Nottingham on the 7th, 8th and 9th january 2010.

We are delivering a number of sessions including a taster session of the Talk Science training course, and our classroom activity News+Views which lets students create Museum style displays on a contemporary science topic.

Rocket Mice

Rocket Mice

The full line up includes:

Thurs 7th Jan

1400-1600 News and Views: Create a Mini Contemporary Science Exhibition BC16 Biology B39

Fri 8th Jan

 09.30-10.30 Feel The Force T066 Biology B1

11.30-12.30 Talk Science: Effective Contemporary Science Discussions T102 Biology B1

14.00-15.00 Supporting Inspirational Primary Classroom Science BC40 Biology B1

Sat 9th Jan

09.30-10.30 Supporting Inspirational Secondary Classroom Science BC48 Biology B1

Don’t forget to stop by our stand F14 in the marketplace where you try out some of our free online resources, chat with our friendly staff and even get your very own CO2 bubble to carry round with you. See you there!

Santa’s Den – how green is your sleigh?

Top tip: Engage your students by making your discussions topical

It could be the Copenhagen conference or the Large Hadron Colider – take advantage of whatever’s happening in the news to get your students talking. On a Christmassy theme here’s a great idea generated by teachers in Newcastle on a recent Talk Science course.

Santa’s Den

Using the format of popular TV show Dragons’ Den, students work in small groups to pitch ideas on how to make Santa’s sleigh more eco-friendly – even Santa is looking for ways to reduce his carbon footprint these days!

Santa, his sleigh and a polar bear

Santa, his sleigh and a polar bear

This is a fun and easy way to look at alternative fuels and energy sources. What do you need?

  • Some dragons (technicians do this very well as do fellow science teachers! alternatively get your students to play the part)
  • Five or six small groups of students
  • Information on alternative energy sources

Plenty of info on energy sources is available on the Science Museum’s Energy Gallery website and also from our ‘Does Flying cost the Earth?’ mini site.

Give the groups time to come up with a new way of powering Santa’s sleigh to maximise his green credentials. The add in whatever extra constraints you like – a budget limit, must generate enough power to travel round the world, does it work in the dark etc.

Each group pitches to the Dragons who can cross examine the ideas. The Dragons then decide if they want to invest or not.

For more information about role play activites click here.

Merry Christmas from the Talk Science Team!