As part of UK Science Week, eleven eager scientists from the Gloyn & McCarthy Groups based at OCDEM & WTCHG descended upon Headington Preparatory School in Oxford for a packed morning of science engagement and fun! The team was joined by the WTCHG’s Brian Mackenwells, a Public Engagement Officer.
The day began with girls from the Nursery and Reception classes (aged 3-5 years), who were showed where the pancreas is in the body. They were then introduced to the concept that the pancreas is made of different types of cells with different roles. The children were shown a simplified diagram of a cell created using foam shapes and were asked if they would like to make their own cells, to which the resounding response was “YES!”
The children could either follow the examples presented or create their own version. A variety of foam cell creations were made and the children were especially pleased that they were able to take their handiwork home.
The next session, with “Team DNA” and girls from year 2 (aged 6-7), introduced the concepts of genetic inheritance and DNA. The children got the chance to make their own DNA double helix in bracelet form, with each nucleotide represented by a different coloured bead. The children quickly grasped that each nucleotide paired with another in a particular way, and soon each child had their own colourful bracelet to wear and take home.
Many of them were keen to make more! The children also had the chance to answer some simple yes/no questions about themselves and certain genetically determined traits (e.g. “Can you roll your tongue?”) and place their name, using a sticky note, on a tree of inheritance. At the end the children could look at the tree and see the different patterns of inheritance within the class.
The final session, with girls from year 4 (aged 8-9), was an activity workshop, which started with quizzing the children on how much sugar was present in certain foods. The role of glucose was discussed, alongside an explanation of diabetes and how it affects the body. It was demonstrated how glucose levels in the blood vary throughout the day in response to food intake, and can be monitored using a glucose monitoring device. The class was next divided into separate teams, each represented by a different food. Each group took part in a different physical activity, such as skipping or hula-hooping, and wore fitness trackers to estimate the number of calories used during that particular exercise. This could then be compared to how many calories were used during a rest period. They learnt that the amount of expended energy varied depending on the degree of physical activity, and that you need to do a lot of skipping to burn off a brownie!
Overall the day was a big success with plenty of positive feedback from both the children and teachers and genuine enthusiasm and energy from all during the activities. It was also a first for the Gloyn & McCarthy groups in terms of running such an event – we learned a great deal from this experience and also thoroughly enjoyed the day and the chance to inspire the next generation of potential scientists.