Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Break

This time of year the science centre is very quiet - no schools obviously and not too many public visitors so I can have a holiday!
Really enjoying being away from work and although a fairly quiet Christmas it has been really peaceful.
The long run up meant that I was so ready that there was no rushing around or anything!

Today almost all the snow and ice which has been such a nuisance has gone - there is just a patch on the front lawn. My cat Smartie is thrilled - it has been way too cold for him to stay outside for long but he hated being in all the time so has driven us mad coming in and then asking to go out again!
Am getting a bit stir crazy now though so we are thinking about getting out somewhere.
We plan to go and see TRON tomorrow - sad how much of the original I remember extremely well - like lots of the actual dialogue OOPS!
Have probably conned Mike into going - telling him it is all about computers... well it is... honestly!
Have been reading ( and listening ) to some trashy type sci fi over the hols but am now becoming very serious. Mike bought me Bettany Hughes book about Socrates - a little light reading before I drop off. Actually it is fascinating but much heavier than my usual holiday reading - I disappear into sci fi or fantasy to escape reality.
So off into the countryside somewhere before it gets too dark... enjoy the holiday if you are still off.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Scouts Sleep Over

Always looking to improve our "offer" at Catalyst we decided to take the plunge and have a Scout group sleeping the night. We have been asked to do this a few times but now with our new Director behind the idea all the other staff had to get invovled too!
44 scouts and leaders came in the snow to sleep over in our observatory which is a glass floor on the very top of the building. We kept the galleries open for them so it was fun to be able to stay when everyone else went home.
Lynn in our cafe made a great supper Hot Pot and then they watched a 3D movie in our theatre. Early next morning the education team and Lynn served breakfast and then we all made science pressies - we had done that with science club the week before so we were well set up.
Over night we had heavy snow but the scouts were really tucked up warm and said it was amazing being on the 4th floor with the snow falling and the Runcorn bridge all lit up.
Everyone really had a great time and it was certainly a super way to start the Christmas holidays.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Saturday Science Club

Last Saturday was the Christmas science club event - Scientific Santa!
The idea was that everyone could make pressies with a scientific basis.
So we made baths bombs - bicarbonate of soda and citric acid plus a few bits and bobs.
We used a thermo moulding plastic (biodegradable of course!)to create key rings and Christmas decorations - see the picture!
We used a variety of surfactants to make our own body wash with some very nice fragrances thanks to a local company who work with us on schools activities.
We printed T shirts with suitably festive images and we poured our own soap - again see the pics.
The soaps were a huge success - the colours are jewel like and they look a bit like wine gums!
We even helped to wrap everything up. Well I say we....anyone who knows me is very aware that I cannot wrap anything! Those grotty looking pressies under the tree - yes - they are from me!
So the extremely talented Carrie Anne used all of her amazing skills to create the most super looking gift wrapped goodies.
I have to say everyone had a great time - there were about 30 club members so the place was buzzing with activity.
Hope everyone enjoyed themselves - I certainly did. And a huge thank you to all the helpers who made it all possible - Helen, Carrie-Anne, Mike, Nick and Emma

Monday, 6 December 2010

Today's suggestions for Christmas science gifts

Went down to the Catalyst shop today to have a look around for scientific pressies. There are some really great ideas:
my top 5 gifts ....
* a great book Why is Snot green? from the Science Museum ( also explains how we can sneeze and fart at the same time!)
* Boom Splat Kabooey - a super kit for "explosive" science - just the sort I enjoy
* a crystal growing kit - we made some great copper sulphate crystals last month and these kits are a great way to start
* the slime laboratory - another kit but this one has all you ever needed to know about slime - and more!
* 100 chemistry experiments - one of those classic chemistry sets but this one really does have some chemicals in it... yes really!!

My top 5 stocking fillers
* alien oil - a glow in the dark slime
* Visual elements top trumps cards - the images are fascinating
* tornado tube - make your own tornado in a bottle
* a selection of 3D books with glasses
* instant snow - just couldn't resist this one - after all we haven't seen snow in such a long time!!

Now all I need are some big kids to try these out on.
Of course if you live anywhere near Catalyst in Widnes you could come and try them out for yourself

Thursday, 2 December 2010

science on a shoestring

The centre is becoming quieter as the holidays approach. Many schools are busy with nativity preparations and of course we have the snow!
So the Education Team are tackling some of those need to do jobs that we never have time for.
After trying to be very creative for a few days and come up with some new ideas for the holiday programme 2011 I think I have found a suitable balance.
What I didn't want to happen was what I did a few years ago when I advertised an almost totally brand new programme and as each school holiday approached I went into meltdown trying to write new shows and workshops. But as I said, last year I used all the old favourites so I need some new things for the coming year.
How about The Science of Your Summer Holidays - how does suncream work; what are freckles; can you make a great sandcastle; what makes the best sunglasses? And of course we will finish with ice cream - made with liquid nitrogen of course!
I also want to do a molecular trail around the building as part of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 celebrations. I have a little money to buy some great construction kits for making molecules but what I would really like to do is buy lots more and have a room full of people making molecules - it is actually good fun.
I need to come up with about 16 different events - 10 large and 6 smaller which is actually quite a supreme effort!
Of course we will make soap - we were a Victorian soap factory after all; and everyone loves the hands on bubbles workshop. Carrie Anne is going to create an Egyptian medicine show that will complement the Marvellous Medicine show so I think we will do that in February.
I don't think I can face another year of the chocolate show at Easter so I am going to create a slightly different take on sweet things - how about looking at why we like sweet things so much, what is does to our brains, can you taste without smelling too; chemical reaction sweets like honeycomb. I think that will go down well and of course we can always have the chocolate fountains at the end - it is after all easter!