Sunday, 18 December 2011

end of an era

So there it was... Dec last day at Catalyst. Six years ago a perfect stranger bumped into my husband at his work place.
Being the gentleman that he is, he opened the door for this heavily laden lady and also being the polite guy he is, he spoke a few words....and that was it.
The woman was Sue Andrews, a teacher and a trustee at Catalyst and she contacted me to do some freelance work with her over the summer. Early September I got a phone call inviting me to meet the then Director of Catalyst, Julie Burgess Wilson and within days I was the education manager at Catalyst discovery centre in Widnes. I had never done anything like it before and really was not sure if it was something I could do so I offered to give it 6 months trial which became 6 years!

I discovered that I am a terrible show off and unrepentant player to the gallery but I have had the most amazing time both doing workshops and classes but most exciting of all shows.
I have taught over 60,000 children over the years and shared science with probably the same number of families. Now I am about to take all that experience and energy out on the road to schools.

One of the most annoying things for me has been the cost of transport for schools going on a trip. It didn't matter how we kept the cost down of our entry and activities - a limited budget meant that a school had to limit the number of children they brought. If our team went out to a school we could do the whole school for the same price as a class visit.
So I have decided to get out there and take the science to the schools. I have done quite a bit of this over the years and absolutely love the excitement as little children arrive in the hall to see the "scientists".  
"Are you going to blow us all up?"

I also love the expectation in a hall full of 350 teenage boys as we start to show demonstrations that fizz and bubble and change colour.

I even love making litres and litres of slime with families at college open days

So at the risk of jumping off yet another cliff ( I really should stop doing this!) I have left the safety of the science centre for the open road.
Over the next few weeks as the web site, bank account, transport issues not to mention insurance and everything else involved in setting up a small business is sorted, I will be creating a whole set of shows ready to take out and SCIENCE2U will be born.
Crazy? Probably! Exciting? Definitely!

Last night I was at a reunion of teachers I used to work with.  I wondered what their reaction would be...everyone of them got it! They so understood my motivation and caught the enthusiasm. Hopefully I will soon be able to offer some of them a show!

It was strange leaving Catalyst but I know I am doing the right thing.
So watch this space because this is where you will see me thrashing out my ideas, sharing the highs and hopefully not too many lows, leave some comments and let me know what you think!

Today is the start of the rest of my adventure.......

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Strange day- possibly the last science club I will do at Catalyst.
Some of you know that I am leaving the science centre at Christmas to start up my own business.

When I  left teaching to come to Catalyst the one thing I thought I would really miss was that special relationship a teacher has with the class - whether it is a primary teacher who has 30 or so kids for a whole year or the secondary teacher who might teach 100s but also gets to see them every week for months on end. You build up a special bond - sometimes you are relieved to see them go...let's be honest but mostly you get a special joy watching them mature and grasp whatever you have been trying to pass on.
My Mike 
As education manager at Catalyst I teach about 11,000 kids every year and usually see them only once so no chance of getting to know them at all. 

Science club has given me the chance to really get to know a whole group of great kids - some I have known for 6 years! I have watched them grow up - written references for some, written college and university letters for some, chatted over the nerves about going to secondary school with the young ones, chatted over the nerves about going to uni with the older ones!
It has been a joy to watch as youngsters choose to study science, to help out with tricky homework and for just a few to watch as they succeed in science at A level and go to university.

When I arrived there were 6 in the club and it was a bit intense - which for those of you who know me just is not my style. We now have over 60 on the books who come pretty regularly - there were 35 there today either in SSC for the younger ones or in OATs the older group. New ones arrive almost every month.
Mike Pitts one of our helpers in a show
The idea is to make science exciting and accessible by doing so lots of hands on experiments. They love being lab rats for new shows the education team is developing and they certainly know how to give feedback!! We invite local scientists to come in a share their work or their favourite experiments - it is a great place for potential STEM ambassadors to cut their teeth.
And so to Scientific Santa - a tradition we stared 5 years ago where we make presents with a science feel. It actually gets quite hard to think up new ideas but as the members move on we can bring back old favourites.
Of course it wouldn't be us if we didn't make soap and this year we made bath bombs too.

soap fruits

thermoplastic keyrings and Christmas decorations
We made keyrings coloured with glitter from our fantastic thermoplastic and I managed to get hold of some candle kits that only need the heat of your hand to melt and mold the wax. But I think the runaway success this year was the BOING BOING balls - little crystals poured into moulds that are submerged in water for a minute and then set into amazing bouncy balls. Huge fun

So thanks to all the volunteers and helpers over the last 6 years that have made science club possible - special thanks to my husband Mike, who only came to carry the heavy stuff but ended up as one of the main leaders - you know I couldn't have done all this without you x
blowing up icing sugar testing it for the Big Bang show

testing candyfloss for the suagr and spice show


blowing up Charlie

sugar glass - science of the movies

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Advent Calendars at the ready

The web is full of ideas for Christmas and I  love some of the scientific advent calendars around but thought I would just share some ideas for pressies. Sadly many are from the States - why do they always have the best gifts!!
for the girl who either needs to cheat in her exams or just loves her elements nearby 
a periodic table bangle!
clean up your chemistry with  a periodic table bar of soap
keep science close to your heart
or maybe create a lurve potion!!
I will share more if I come across them