How do you inspire the next generation of scientists?
This was just one of the many questions that Google set out to answer this summer with help from the Science Museum’s Outreach and Resources Team.
The Outreach team usually works outside the Museum, but for four days in June we were based inside and put on a ‘Day at the Museum’ event which was sponsored by Google. 600 children aged 10-11 from 12 schools across the capital came to visit us, and were treated to a jam-packed day of science activities.
The children started their day all together, watching the ‘It Takes Guts’ show; an interactive science show all about the Digestive system. Here they got to experience the journey our food takes once it enters our mouths, and answer some of those burning questions, like “why is our poo brown?”. Having been thoroughly entertained and a little ‘grossed out’ they headed off to their other activities.
In the News and Views workshop, the children got the chance to become science reporters, working in teams to create an article based around an open question on a science topic. To start the workshop we asked the children what came to mind when they thought of scientists, and as you can imagine, many of the answers centred around lab coats, goggles and ‘crazy hair’.
We then challenged these perceptions by introducing real scientists (none of whom were wearing labcoats, and all with perfectly nice hair), who came to present the research they are working on.
Neuroscientist Anita spoke about her research into links between attention in children and video games. Ask any room of year 6 pupils about video games and I guarantee the majority will be instantly in favour. After listening to Anita however, they began to think more critically, and started to identify pro’s and con’s to put into their articles. The sessions also gave the children a chance to learn some interesting science that wouldn’t have been covered in the classroom, such as seeing first hand the effects capsaicin (the active ingredient in chillis) had on their teachers!
A trip to the Museum however would not be complete without visiting some of our galleries. The students got the chance to try out some science experiments for themselves using the interactive exhibits in Launchpad.
At the end of the day we bid farewell to the children, who left with smiles on their faces and also a goody bag of science museum trinkets, including a ‘Golden Ticket’ for themselves and their families to come back again and see a film in our IMAX cinema.
When asking the children in the News and Views workshop what a scientist is, one child answered “it’s just someone who really likes science and finding out about the world”. Hopefully the children who visited us went home having not only had a brilliant experience at the museum, but also all sharing the view that science is a vast and interesting field, where there really is something for everyone.