Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Cheshire Tour

WOW! We have had an amazing couple of weeks touring Cheshire and Merseyside delivering Christmas Science shows.

A frosty Tuesday morning bright and early we headed over to Sefton for a Chemistry at Work evet sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry and organised by MerseySTEM.

Numerous companies - STEM ambassadors - shared their work, science and for us gadgets and gizmos with groups of 14 and 15 year olds. We explained the role of science presenters and how we design our shows and share science concepts. But probably the favourite bit of our session - no freebies here - you make your own BATHBOMBS to take home!

The next day - a very foggy and extremely cold morning - at about 6.00 - we were off to Macclesfield  As the sun rose over the countryside we had an incredible view of frost covered trees and fields. When we arrived at the school it was so cold the gate locks were frozen! The hall hadn't really warmed up and the poor students were so cold from their journey to school that the volunteers couldn't change the colour of the thermochromic plastic straws! Still, we soon warmed them up and even the reluctant year 10 students soon joined in and began to volunteer. I think it was the dry ice bubbles and Helen's persuasiveness that did it.

Next stop - Crewe - Ruskin school with it's amazing Victorian school hall decorated for Christmas and looking like something from a Dickens tale. Unfortunately we were in the sport hall - we needed the fire alarms off - but we had a great audience all ready to join in, including the teachers!

Next day - is it Thursday? Up early again - we are off to Sandbach girls school - and what a welcome we received there. This time we were in the main hall up on the stage with over 200 girls all eager to enjoy themselves so certainly no reluctance to volunteer this time. The girls were great - they knew their science and we wowed them with our demonstrations especially the WHOOSH bottle which really did whoosh in the warm hall - almost destroying the Christmas decorations!! OOOPS!

After a quick coffee and mince pie - thank you very much - we were off again this time to Warrington Lysander school and a drama theatre with silver glitter backdrop and spotlights - we've always been a bit dramatic! The audience was younger this time - year 7 - so lots of the science was new to them and for some almost like magic.

All too quickly we were at the end of the day and making our way home.
Tomorrow would be totally different - a full day in a primary school... watch this space.........

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas Rush

Well what a surprise! There we were gearing down for the holidays so to speak - with 2 more bookings to do - when suddenly out of the blue we have 5 schools in the next week!

We are off on a grand tour of Cheshire next week - Macclesfield,  Crewe, Warrington and Sandbach. Topped and tailed by a day in Sefton and one in Maghull.

So I have just put the finishing touches to a seasonal secondary show based around chemical reactions. This is funded by the RSC so I have used our usual secondary show - I Wasn't Expecting That - dropped most of the biology and physics and boosted the chemistry plus added a few seasonal demonstrations and changed around colours to add a more Christmas feel - plus lots of instant snow!

The day in Maghull is at a primary school and will be more hands on in the classrooms so we will need to create some practicals for the really young ones - the older ones can make slime and bath bombs but I need to have a good think about what we do with reception - all good work towards our new session at the NW ASE conference next March!

We will also be going to MMU at Didsbury just after the Christmas holidays to work with student teachers on being creative with the science curriculum.

It's all go!!

So hopefully there will be pictures galore and a write up of our adventures -  watch this space.....

Monday, 19 November 2012

goody bags and freebies!!

It's been a while since my last posting - so sorry but when you are busy.......
Helen and I have been putting together new ideas and exciting projects for Science2U plus we have been working on our newsletter which we would like to go out monthly but at the moment timing is a moveable feast!!

So what have we been up to?

Readers of the blog and frequenters of our website will be aware that our CPD training sessions are extremely popular with teachers and student teachers. Based on our "have a go" hands on practicals we show how to incorporate simple science into lessons as starters, plenary or even the main event.

We know that many primary schools have not got access to beakers, measuring cylinders and other science equipment so we use everyday containers and easy to get hold of materials. Often our sessions in school come under a "supermarket science" heading because most materials can be bought easily. We collect unusual containers; we think slightly off the wall when watching others doing science or when we go to events such as the Education Show always having in the back of our mind - could we use that idea but adapt it for primary schools on a budget and with little equipment.
Our mantra..... we can do anything with Two balloons and a goldfish.
Our days at Catalyst science discovery centre have made us very inventive.
Actually I think most science presenters are a bit like this. You only have to watch my friend and fellow presenter the amazing Ian Russell ( exploding custard) to see how creative we all are.

So we have come up with an idea to get more teachers having a go and getting to know us in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere  Based around the "party" concept we are inviting schools to host a twilight staff event and invite nearby schools to join in. As a thank you the host will get a free day of shows and every school will take home a goody bag of science stuff to play with.

So we have been on the hunt for interesting but not too expensive bits and bobs for the goody bag - colour changing paper - pastel coloured paper that changes colour with the heat of your hand and then changes back as it cools. I am experimenting at the moment to see if it works after laminating because I think it would make great bookmarks.

Everyone loves our thermo plastic straws so they will have to be in the stash plus a little bit of polymorph I think. In the session we will probably be making bath bombs and perhaps pourable soap - we've not totally decided and will probably ring the changes a bit with the makes. I fancy making bracelets of UV reactive beads too.

It is a great excuse to browse all those wacky websites for gadgets and gizmos at stocking filler prices. All teachers love freebies - you should see us at the Education show! So hopefully this will be a winner and get our name known more widely.... in the meantime I am surfing to find more things for the stash!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Keeping in the Loop

I promised last time that I would report from the meeting of the NWSA all about National Science and Engineering week next March. Unfortunately the speaker couldn't come - so I still haven't got much beyond the theme. However as soon as I find out more I will let you all know what Science2U intends to do. Probably we will use our session on smart materials and tweak it to fit rather than create a brand new session.

Have you heard of the Association for Science Education - ASE?
It is a great group for anyone who teaches science at whatever level. They have regional groups that meet and organise events plus an amazing Annual conference.
But I think one of the best things they do is run a Twitter chat session on Monday evenings at 8.00
Simply by using #asechat you can join in, follow the chat and make good contacts with like minded folk.
I am posting this because last Monday we had a super session aimed at primary teachers and it was so fast and furious that we all had trouble keeping up.
Indeed there was so much to say on "excellence in primary science" that we decided we needed to narrow down the focus next time - and there will be a next time - the demand was very high.
You can help choose the topic for the week by visiting the ASE website and voting for one of usually 4 choices.
We chat about a really wide range of subjects again at all levels.
The chat is a great source of information and ideas, queries and advice. You make contact with people from all over the world - although due to time difference mostly UK.
Many of the chatters have their own blog so you can follow up chat with in depth reading plus often there are links to a teacher's class blog. So many schools encourage the pupils to blog and I must say the primary blogs are very inspiring.
You don't have to be an ASE member to join in and you don't really have to be a teacher - some of us are science consultants/presenters/advisors etc and we are made very welcome.
I do encourage you to drop in even if you only lurk for a while - you would be most welcome.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A New School Year

Ah well - the school holidays are over and I have just been into my first school this term. I must say I have really enjoyed actually having a summer break - that didn't happen at Catalyst. I have loved watching all the sport - especially the paralympics - and been busy around the house decorating. But now it  is back to the real work.
Today Science2U is launching an e-newsletter full of tips, resource ideas and links to sites we like. I expect this will be a monthly affair, it will certainly cater for all and hopefully be of interest to anyone keen on science.
Any home educators out there may enjoy the try at home ideas, which would also be useful for science clubs, school projects and science fairs.

The first issue features making rock candy crystals - a slow but rewarding experiment which you can eat -always good.
We have also discovered liquid polymorph - at room temperature it is liquid but solidifies at about 2C. Not really sure yet how we could use this but it makes an interesting addition to the now quite popular granular polymorph which transforms at about 65C in a transparent toffee like consistency. We use it in our All Change show to demonstrate a changing material and because it is good fun to play with of course!

Bookings for National Science and Engineering Week next March are beginning to come in - some people are well organised. The theme this year is inventions and discoveries and I will be finding out more at a meeting of the North West Science Alliance this week. I will post what I find out.
So for anyone wanting to receive our newsletter - visit the website and join our mailing list but don't stop following the blog!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

It's All About You!

Our latest show explores the Healthy Humans theme with a starring role for the third member of our team Timmy.
This is Timmy

As regular readers will know we don't have totally different shows for different ages across the primary school - that would mean us needing so many more resources and overload my lab/garage.
We take a main theme - usually from the National Curriculum or something we know most schools teach and then we tweak it for all ages. Our presentation and delivery reflect the age, plus of course some of the content has to be differentiated for age and ability.
So this theme looks at what we need to be a fit and healthy human - exercise, diet, keeping clean, colds and germs and lots more.
With the youngest groups we bring in Timmy to help us choose what to pack in our school lunch box - many schools follow a healthy eating menu and discourage sweets, crisps and chocolate from the lunchbox. One of my daughters spent most of her primary school time eating cream cheese triangles and raisins - not sure how schools would manage that one!
We have collected a range of play foods, empty cartons plus some very convincing fruit props. The children help Timmy to pack a lunch that they will eat and that is healthy.
We have managed to get hold of a giant mouth
this lets us look at teeth, the different types and what they are used for plus how we should clean them. 
Of course we couldn't let that one go without seeing just how good commercial toothpaste really is so we make up our own using bicarbonate of soda and a few other ingredients and we test it against shop bought toothpaste. Actually the home made is very good at the job - even if the children like to make purple and bright yellow toothpaste!
We explore exercise and how it affects heart rate using a huge heart which acts as a stethoscope - it is quite weird hearing your own heartbeat and then a disembodied voice telling your heart rate.
Probably one of the most popular demonstrations shows how germs spread. This is often done in secondary schools but there is no reason why primary can't have a go. Usually you use a special gel which will glow under UV light but in a show situation this slows down the pace and limits how many can see the results so we use glitter gel and it is very surprising just how far a speck of glitter will travel.
We also have a rather cute rhinovirus - we will have to give him a name - any suggestions?
he is over 15 inches tall and apparently lives in your nose!

Of course it wouldn't be Science2U is we didn't use our expertise in personal hygiene products so we make bath bombs and pouring soap with volunteers.

This show works well with all ages and fits with some of our best hands on sessions in the classroom. We have also created some great follow up material. So all in all we are pretty pleased with this one.
We even have some monsters - if the school has a screen we can reveal.....
just what a sweat gland looks like......
and just how much mucous you produce when you have a cold
I love my job!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Chemistry at Work event

Helen and I had a busy day at Manchester University's Chemistry at Work event sponsored by the RSC.
Approx 120 year 8 and 9 pupils attended from quite a wide geographical area.
This type of event is designed to introduce school pupils to scientists from industry, especially chemists, to give the young people a feel for what careers there are using chemistry.

This isn't the first event of this kind we have done and originally we wondered just what we could contribute - after all we still work in schools. We decided to create a presentation about a day in the life of a science presenter and show how we use our science knowledge to make science accessible to others.
The presentation is a behind the scenes look at how we research materials, test resources and create shows. We share how we approach explaining difficult concepts to different ages and of course we have lots of gadgets, gizmos and props to have a go with.

We have discovered that our giant hyrogel balls are an enormous success with pupils and teachers, especially this time when one of the staff had a great camera and was taking some wonderful close up shots!

Colour changing straws, our now famous thermochromic mug and some of Helen's great demos such as the Freaky hand went down well.
And then a make and take muffin bath bomb with bubble gum fragrance.

It was really great to meet up with Trinity School Manchester - we know them from our Catalyst days - a great group of youngsters!
At the start of the day Emma Lewis our host from the University side asked the schools about their views of science - we had quite a mixed bunch - not everyone was thrilled to be there! I asked some of them what they had got out of the day and was very pleasantly surprised when lots of them said how much they had enjoyed our session and were genuinely interested in how we got into our line of work.
Many thanks to Emma Lewis from the university and Kat Presland from the RSC for asking us to be part of a great day.

We have a similar event in July at Jaguar in Speke organised by MerseySTEM - so I will be keeping my eyes open for some cool resources! What a great job!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Nannerch Posters

Those super pupils at Nannerch VCP school have sent us some mini posters that they made after our visit.
We know they had a great day but it really brings it all home when you see their work.
They have remembered so well!

 Obviously the freaky hand was 
a huge hit!

It seems they liked the flames too 

and of course the dry ice
and elephants toothpaste - we did the very safe version with yeast

the gooey balls which disappeared were a great hit

everyone made lava lamps including the teachers

Thank you for all your lovely artwork guys and check out the boasting book page on our website to see your work online

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A day out in North Wales

Helen and I had a wonderful day with a tiny village school in rural Flintshire North Wales.
At just over 70 pupils Nannerch primary school is in the most beautiful village between Mold and Denbigh - a lovely part of Wales.

It was an early start with a very packed car full of exciting science so that we arrived in time to set up for our first session - one of our favourites - Super Science Magic for the very youngest.
So we had  nursery and reception tinies along with the very grown up year 1 and year 2s - all very excited to see what the scientists were going to do.
We took Timmy - our puppet - with us, who helped Helen explore the amazing objects in the basket and see what they were made from. One brave young man put his hand into a container of liquid only to find it full of jelly balls which had been quite invisible! We had huge fun!

Then we did two shows all about changing materials with the Juniors. The dry ice was a huge hit - of course -   ooohs and ahhhhs came from the flame tests and the iron filings sparklers. In such a small school everyone was able to come up and volunteer for something so the shows were very interactive.
After a well earned lunch we did two hands on sessions - getting up close and personal with some of the show demonstrations, making lava lamps and having a go at things to try at home with a take home make - bath bombs with year 3/4 and slime for yr5/6. The tip of the day for the slime session - the more you stir it the thicker it gets..... and it doesn't drip off your elbow!
After a quick slurp of coffee it was the turn of the teachers - we had a great time exploring the experiments from the shows - the teachers had been itching to get their hands on some of the things we had been showing - the jelly balls, the colour changing straws but most of all the dry ice! It is not something you get to play with every day and the staff certainly enjoyed making vast amounts of spooky smoke and Boo Bubbles.

Finally we all had a go at the ever popular Art on a Plate - there were so many ideas of using this in all areas of the curriculum and I think nursery planned to do it the very next day - how's that for an impact!
Thank you to everyone at Nannerch for being such lovely hosts and making us so welcome!

Thursday, 29 March 2012


Now that the school Easter holiday is here I have time to catch up on what we have been up to over the past few weeks.
We had an amazing day at Ellesmere Port Boat museum as part of  BOOST's STEM event.
Amazingly we didn't drop anything into the water as we made our way across the cobbles and over the lock bridges to the rooms we were using - thank goodness for the trolley but note to self - must buy bungees to stop things slipping!!

Throughout the day we worked with groups of about 30 primary aged pupils, looking at Supermarket Science - our take on "do try this at home" type of science - 5 sessions in all.
We used our latest gizmos to inspire ideas, showing lots of mini experiments to have a go at - and everything can be bought from the supermarket!
The highlight was making their own bath bomb mini muffin to take home although I quite liked my heart shaped versions!

Then it was a very busy day at DaresburySIC with MerseySTEM and secondary school pupils.
Again 5 sessions back to back as Helen and I explained what a Day in the Life of a Science presenter is really like!
Stars of this event were without doubt our amazing jelly marbles which swell to about 30 times their original size and seem to disappear in water.

Colour changing straws which are great but we had to keep in the fridge because the room was so warm!

Bath bombs featured here too and a mass slime making fest!

So now we have two weeks of school holiday to make sure we are ready for the summer term, having done a mini mail drop and following up on possible bookings we should have a good few weeks.
watch this space!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Get A Move On!

A big shout out for everyone at Parochial primary school Ashton under Lyne!!

Helen and I had a super day with pupils and staff starting off their celebrations for National Science and Engineering week. They have loads of great activities lined up with different classes exploring an experiment and then sharing it with the rest of the school in assembly.
Great conversations about the best way to do bicarbonate volcanoes, making lava lamps and much more!

It was a very early start for us and as ever the traffic on the M56/60 was heavy but we found the school very easily and were soon sorted, settled in and a coffee in hand!
First was a mini session with reception so we took our lovely wicker basket into one of the classrooms and explored moving toys. They gave our cuddly teddy a name - Lulu - she doesn't move but she is very soft and  after all "teddies don't need to do anything they are just there for hugging" - what a lovely quote!

After reception we did a turn in assembly and then it was onto the main shows.
Year 1 and 2 - huge fun with lots of giggles especially with the poppers and the space hopper - forces in action - good luck with your CD hovercrafts year 1!

After lunch it was the turn of year 3 and 4 who were amazed with Helen's air pressure demonstrations - I think there will be a few trying out the leaky bottle on friends and family!
Year 5 and 6 - the super scientists - and also extremely good at hoola hooping and the Tudor cup and ball game. I think their favourite was probably the air powered rocket which flew the whole length of the school hall. 
Year 6 were also impressed with the solar toys - I think there might be a project in the making there - perhaps an entry for the Global Adventure competition?

Finally we gave the staff a hands on session exploring Materials and hopefully some inspiration for future science lessons. Hope the lava lamp goes well!
Have a great science week guys and hopefully we will see you all again!