Inspiring the next generation

The new public engagement officer at St Andrews, Dr Mhairi Stewart, has been inspiring us all to share Science in the local community.  In the last 3 months we have taken time away from the mass specs to talk to school children

Oct2016 – Sally visited Dundee Science Centre to talk to local 15 year olds about her career in science.  In a speed dating type scenario groups of teenagers spent 5 minutes with each scientist asking questions about their jobs, their likes and dislikes, how they got there, would they choose it again with hindsight, even their salary!  A good time was had by all, and hopefully the pupils were enthused about a career in science, Sally certainly came back reinspired about choosing a career in science.

Nov2016 – Sally and Catherine visited class 4A at Castlehill Primary School to help do a science experiment linked to their Autumn project.  Autumn leaves of different colours were gathered, mashed up in a mortar and pestle with sand and IPA, and the extract painted in a line on a TLC plate.  The plates were run in jam jars with water as the eluent.  Lovely colours from the leaves were separated.  Further TLC plates were carried out using water based felt tip pens, separating a range of colours into their constituents.  The colour theme was extended to looking at white light separated in a prism, the kids loved making rainbows.

Dec2016 – Sally was invited back to Castlehill for a curriculum based talk on science jobs.  P7A and P7B’s project was living things and they were keen to talk to a real scientist.  Sally described her job briefly, however to make it more wide ranging and easy for 11year olds to grasp a game was set up where the pupils would name a job and Sally would link it back to science.  A lively 30 minute discussion ensued with Sally completely improvising.  A lot of quick thinking was required.  Examples of a few of many jobs that the pupils suggested were:

  • Footballer – requires knowledge of physiology and nutrition to be in peak physical condition along with technology advances in kit design utilising chemistry and the physics of resistance
  • Jeweller – understanding of precious metals and gemstones, how colour of stones can be effected by elements, and why gold and silver tarnish when in close proximity
  • Postman – this was a tricky one, but lasers are used in scanning the parcels during tracking, the postman himself needs a good waterproof which has been designed to keep the water out, but let his body breath
  • Nurse – needs knowledge of how the body and dispensing correct dosage of medicine.
  • Shop keeper – uses a lot of psychology into buying habits and product placement in store.  Also store design requires an understanding of heat and air movement so it is not cold and draft.
  • Hairdresser – uses all the beauty products and dyes developed by chemists, and also needs to understand the products themselves and which ones not to mix otherwise the clients hair might go green or fall out.

These were just a few of the jobs suggested, and it turns out all jobs can be linked back to science.  The kids had a great time.  Sally got a massive adrenaline rush from so much quick thinking, but a great time was had by all and a lovely thank you card was received.