Category Archives: Uncategorized

KS3 genetics and brain science

Hot off the press! We have just launched a brand-new series ‘Genetics and Brain Science’ on the Science Museum’s Educators website, where you can find a range of free KS3 and KS4 classroom activities. The resources support you in teaching contemporary science and How Science Works, and relate to our very popular Who am I? gallery.

To start off, we would like to present two activities that allow your students to explore the science of genetics:

Identical twins exploring the Who am I? gallery

1. In ‘Do you want to know a secret?’ your students work in research groups and discuss the issues surrounding genetic testing. Depending on the choices the groups make at the end of the session, they may find out the secret that their box holds…

2. By adopting a Thing in our fun game Thingdom, your students will learn about genetic inheritance and selective breeding. Can they breed new Things that have all the characteristics they want? Use the teaching film and student sheet to bring the Things alive in your classroom!

Watch this space…we will add more ‘Genetics and Brain Science’ resources shortly. And, as always, if you try these out, we’d love to hear about it!

Anna P

Anyone for Mars?

The planet Mars is the closest we have in our solar system to being called hospitable (well, after our own beloved Earth)- it has surface gravity, an atmosphere, carbon dioxide, minerals and most importantly, water. But would you want to take a one-way trip over there?

The desert-like landscape of Mars


Some scientists, like Dirk Schulze-Makuch, speculate that to safeguard the human species against catastrophe on Earth, within 2 decades we could start sending over small groups of colonists to start living on Mars. Others, like Apollo 14 astronaut Ed Mitchell, say we are not ready to be discussing living on the red planet. NASA is not going anywhere near the idea, but Schulze-Makuch claims that the private sector may be more interested in investing in the missions.

After all, humans are dreamers-of-what-could-be, and pushing the boundaries is what drives scientific exploration. After exploring the surface of planets, the next step would be visiting in person- think of the incredible technology we would develop to deal with travel to and life in such a harsh environment.

But we haven’t even sent a human to Mars to walk on the surface, let alone try to make a life there. Which of us will be ready to literally leave their world behind and survive on an alien planet? And why should we colonize other planets anyway? If it won’t benefit the individual -and most of us remain on Earth to perish when an asteroid hits us- why should we care if the species propagates itself through the universe?

If you do decide to hold a classroom discussion around this topic, look into our Mars Mission Box as an extension activity for your students to practically explore some of the challenges to life on Mars, for example protecting ourselves against radiation. 

Good luck!

A sticky solution to pollution.

Air pollution levels in London are dangerously high and currently exceed EU recommended maximum levels. So what are we doing about it?

Car exhaust

Car exhaust is one of the causes of air pollution

Scientists have come up with a sticky solution. A layer of a special substance is being spread on roads which will literally stick polluting particles to the ground and stop them recirculation in the air.

High levels of particulate matter in the air are mainly caused by vehicle emissions and can lead to increased respiratory problems such as asthma. It is hoped this new method will reduce air pollution by 10-20%.
Is this just a quick fix solution? What about the alternatives:
changing to alternative fuels (electric, hydrogen, biofuels)
congestion charging and car free town centres;
switching to alternative forms of transport

You could get groups of students to each research one solution and then pitch them to a panel, Dragon’s Den style.

Good luck!


The Little Bang

So, in the news, you may have heard that scientists working on that massively epic underground experiment at CERN aka the Large Hadron Collider, have successfully created a mini-Big Bang (so should it be called a Little Bang?) by smashing lead ions together to recreate the kind of conditions that are believed to have given rise to the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

 Incredibly, the experiment generated temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of the sun, so outrageously hot that the protons and neutrons actually MELTED, ending up in a “hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma” to quote Dr David Evans, one of the researchers on the experiment. Sounds yummy. Quarks and gluons are subatomic particles that are the building blocks of protons and neutrons, and therefore, of matter in general. By studying the plasma, scientists hope to learn more about the ‘Strong Force’ which gives atoms most of their mass.

Image of data from lead ion collision at LHC, courtesy of BBC

Data from lead ion collision experiment at LHC

It is extremely expensive to run experiments within the LHC, so it’s great to hear about such fascinating research coming out of it. In terms of benefiting humanity directly though, it’s not a cure for cancer or a solution to world hunger- so are we justified in putting this much money into it? How will working out the intricacies of the universe’s formation help us as a species? And who is to say what research is worth our pennies, and what isn’t?

Newcastle and Buxton, new dates – oh my!

It’s been a little while since our last post, but the summer has come and gone and we are back on the road!

A couple weeks ago we delivered our first course of the new academic year in Newcastle (where we got to meet some really great people, AND see the awe-inspiring Angel of the North) and then popped across to beautiful Buxton to run some short workshops on Mystery Boxes and Powerful Questions, hands-on activities that we use on our course.

Did you know the Romans actually established the first spa in Buxton, and named the town ‘Aquae Arnemetiae’? I didn’t… but drinking from the permanent flow at St Anne’s Well revealed that water is still leaving the spring at a temperature of about 28C- gulping a mouthful of warm water straight from a well on a chilly day is delightfully weird!

Buxton Poster, 1950. (NRM / Pictorial Collection / Science & Society)

 So, where can you find us next?

2010 course venues are (drum roll)

London – 11th November

Glasgow – 25th November

Exeter – 8th December

Portsmouth – 10th December

 and 2011 course venues are…

Belfast –  10th February

Cardiff – 3rd March

Edinburgh – 30th & 31st March

London – 6th April

Leeds – 16th June

London – 23rd June

Birmingham – 30th June

London – 7th July

 We’d love to see you, so drop us a line at to book a place, or to find out more. The Talk Science course is full of practical ideas on how to run discussions in your classroom- and we like a bit of cake too!

Take care,


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.

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!

Copenhagen conference in your classroom

This month 192 countries are gathering in Copenhagen to negotiate a new agreement on climate change. The Copenhagen conference provides the perfect backdrop to engage your students with this incredibly important issue, and as the world’s leaders sit down to hammer out a new deal, why not get your students to do the same?Are penguins skating on thin ice?

Get your students to do some independent research into climate change and then try our fab Marketplace discussion technique. Students can be assigned to one of 6 perspectives and can adopt the persona of an economist, a climate scientist, a climate modeller, a human rights activist, a UN politician or a UK politician, and asked to present their perspective to the rest of their group. It’s a great way to capture the many different sides to this complex topic.
Desert landscape
Desert landscape

The marketplace technique is a great way of using small group discussion to disseminate a large amount of information to the whole class. Making students ‘experts’ on one particular area of a topic means that they all have relevant information to contribute to the discussion.

Students get creative with Rat-brained robot

Students Talk Science @ The Science Museum

Last Friday over 40 KS3 and 4 students took part in our ever popular News+Views Activity. Scientist Mark Hammond from Reading University joined us along with Gordon the Rat-brained robot. Gordon is a very special robot. Controlled by a dish full of rats’ brain cells, he’s helping scientists to understand how our brains work. 

Gordons brain and body

Gordon's brain and body

Working as science journalists, students created news displays based on the Museum’s own Antenna gallery. They got to grill Mark about his research and asked probing questions ranging from ‘will we be able to download ourselves into robots?’ to ‘is it ethical to use rat brain cells to control a robot?’

Students then wrote text, chose images and presented their opinions on the topic to the rest of the group.  You can find out more about Gordon and what scientists are hoping to learn form this research here.

Students presenting their stories

Students presenting their stories

Like the sound of the event? We have more planned next year as part of an exciting new Exploring the Universe themed day at the Museum on 17 May 2010. To keep up to date with the latest goings on from the Science Museum Learning team subscribe to the educators e-newsletter.