A good day out: quality #scicomm with the 6th form in Salford

Science communication has never been more available and yet despite this it can be difficult to help 6th formers find their interests. There is a lot of bad science communication marketed at schools in particular and even if you invite a STEM ambassador in you risk half of the kids invited not really being interested.  A varied day of science communication is what is needed and this is provided by ‘Chemistry in Action’ days which pitch directly at the A level market.

The speakers are varied, from science communication specialists and authors to research active academics and even me (in my capacity as a bit of an exams know it all!).  This year’s line up was –

  • Gods, devils and alcohol, Peter Wothers, University of Cambridge
  • A is for Arsenic, Kathryn Harkup, Chemist and author
  • Indestructible energy! Jamie Gallagher, University of Glasgow
  • Nature’s robots, Mark Lorch, University of Hull
  • The magic of oxygen, Mike Batham and Rob Janes, Open University
  • Exam skills for chemistry, Kristy Turner, University of Manchester and Bolton School

One of the biggest barriers to taking pupils on trips is transport.  The venue, Maxwell Hall at the University of Salford is very accessible by public transport, negating the need for coach hire or a minibus. Our boys come from a wide geographical area and many can make an easier connection from home so we were fairly flexible with arrangements for joining the trip.  Some met at school and travelled down to the station with a member of staff, others met a member of staff at a suburban train station and some travelled to Salford independently.  At the age of 16+ the risk assessment for independent travel isn’t too troubling and trips like this can provide a useful lead into their later trips to university open days.

The boys enjoyed their day in Salford and all had their own personal favourite speakers.  Overall Kathryn Harkup was their favourite, her topic was particularly engaging to a bunch of teenage boys.  I followed the trip up with an email pointing the boys to the various books and YouTube sites of the presenters and suggesting that they might like to ask Santa for some science books (and that I am sure Santa would be very happy to receive such a request).  Hopefully this  will help them to focus on their attention on areas of science they are particularly interested in and provide a stimulus for further reading and hence material for UCAS forms etc.

If not, we had a very nice and productive day out.

More on this from Kit Chapman, Chemistry World

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