Earlier this month, the Education Team at the Geological Society attended the launch of Terrific Scientific – a new science initiative from BBC Learning in partnership with the Wellcome Trust. As a partner organisation, the Geological Society has provided supporting resources for one of the project’s themes – water.
With research showing that less than 15% of children aged 10-14 have aspirations of becoming scientists, and the UK currently experiencing a huge STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills deficit, vital for driving future productivity, growth and higher living, it is becoming increasingly important to engage younger generations with science.
The Terrific Scientific campaign, which kicks off in schools in January 2017, aims to do this by exciting and enthusing 9-11 year olds (plus their teachers and families!) through fun but simple mass-participation experiments paired with energetic live lessons and supporting online educational resources. This will expose children to science in a fun and interesting way at an early age, and hopefully encourage them and their families to consider science as a worthwhile academic and career choice in the future.
The launch event began with a stimulating talk by wildlife presenter and Terrific Scientific ambassador Liz Bonnin. She discussed how she and her sister had both become interested in science and nature from an early age, persistently asking questions to try and learn more. This curiosity is what led her to study science at university and to pursue her career in wildlife presenting. She highlighted the point that all children are born with an innate curiosity about the world and are naturally good scientific thinkers, but somewhere along the way become disengaged with science. If children can be supported in developing this scientific thinking and embracing STEM subjects, we may be able to encourage a greater number of students to embark on science related career paths.
After the talk groups of very informed 9-11 year olds set up and carried out some simple (and somewhat messy!) experiments. The students showed us the weird behaviours of non-Newtonian fluids by making a plastic dinosaur ‘walk or sink’ in a mixture of cornflour and water, demonstrated how acids and bases react in a lemon volcano (a favourite amongst the education team), and investigated people’s different sensitivities to taste, by using food-dye to count tongue taste buds.
We were then given the opportunity to watch the first ‘Live Lesson’, broadcast across the UK to all participating schools. The lesson focused on developing scientific enquiry through some simple electricity investigations and interactive activities, culminating in science presenter Steve Mould passing mains electricity through a pickled gherkin which glowed yellow due to the sodium ions present in the salty pickling liquid.
The launch was a very enjoyable event and it was clear how involved and excited the students were in their experiments. If you know any primary school teachers or children of primary age, do encourage them to ask their schools to take part in this exciting new initiative, and hopefully we will soon be able to bridge our STEM skills gap and disengagement with science.