The Great Science Share 2018 – A Satellite Experience

The Great Science Share for Schools is an annual and growing event with the aim to engage and inspire young children by sharing their own scientific investigations and experiments.  The event organised by Manchester University has been growing from strength to strength, with help backing from local government, charities such as the Comino Foundation and representatives industry most notably BASF.

Moti-Lab first became involved in 2017 when we attended the main event at the Etihad training facility in Manchester where over 200 children attended, sharing experiments and explaining science to their peers. For us there were many stand out features that meant we had to get involved. 

Firstly the scale of the event was astonishing, lots of schools attending and big names in industry such as Siemens using their staff and budgets to help create inspirational exhibitions of child made roller coasters – worthy work from industry and truly exciting and engaging for the children attending.  Moreover there was a great sense of being part of something huge. Nationally over 10,000 children shared science on that day and we, and all the children felt a significant part of this celebratory event.

The diversity of investigations was also astounding.  Children shared everything from investigations into fluid dynamics and forces to digestive systems and electricity in a variety of exciting ways.  This diversity showed how science permeates all aspects of life – a notion that is not lost on children and serves as a great source of fascination.

For us the third, and probably most important feature of The Great Science share, was that it was the focus on the children doing science and communicating science themselves.  It is this I think that has the deepest impact. All children are naturally investigative and scientifically minded and it was little surprise that they were easily capable of communicating technical and abstract scientific concepts to others.  They may not have the scientific vocabulary as yet, but listening to children communicating science in their own way was inspirational and more effective for other children – hearing and understanding things in a language they can understand. As far as we are concerned the way science for primary children should be.  Too often science is communicated with a top down approach, investigations are demonstrated rather than performed, “scientists” are pedastooled as something special – inspirational for the children yes, but this separates science from the fully involved everyday experience that it should be. Children already understand science to be exciting and fun the more involved they are, the deeper they learn and the more enthused they become.

Preparations for The Great Science Share 2018

Preparations for The Great Science Share 2018 – Sheffield Satellite

The Great Science Share 2018 was always going to build on the success of 2017 especially with fantastic new collaborators partnering with BBC Terrific Scientific campaign, Explorify – a wealth of primary science resources provided by The Wellcome Trust and further involvement from The Primary Science Teaching Trust to name but a few.

Knowing this, coupled with our experience of 2017 we knew we had to get involved, so we decided to create a satellite event for Sheffield.  As we work closely with our local school, Woodseats Primary, and their dedicated staff, we knew we could partner up and make the event a success.  With backing from the headteacher and science coordinator we had a venue and a plan, with help from BASF we had prizes, and as we were a bit late to the party, we had a little time but a lot of enthusiasm.

Through the dedication of the school – particularly Miss Swinney – we managed to get another 5 schools involved and knew we would have around about 80 children involved on the day.  The materials provided by The Great Science Share – standard, letters, introductory videos etc were great help and made the process, although not without hard work, smoother and definitely helped increase uptake.

Particularly striking about the process was the ability for people to donate their time and effort freely for something they believe will benefit the children.  The whole success of The Great Science Share is underpinned by collaboration. Whether this is schools, teachers, pupils or businesses the event can’t be successful without people willing to give up their time and turn up their voluntary effort to make the day one to remember.

The day itself began with a load of running around, preparing a space and organising logistics – it certainly wasn’t without hard work, but all the effort was soon forgotten with the arrival of the schools and their investigations.  From the start you could tell by the chatter and the demeanor of the children this was going to be a fun and exciting day.

We kicked off our satellite with the kind help from Ibrar Ali, a local STEM ambassador – his interactive talk on “what is science?” – gleaning from the children what science means to them – set the tone well for the children showing their investigations.

STEM Ambassador sharing science

STEM Ambassador addresses the Sheffield Satellite for The Great Science Share 2018

Each school had a table top experiment to share and again we were totally blown away by the variety of the science the children wanted to share.  As with lots of science for children, the gloopier and muckier the better, we had some of the favourites – representations of the digestive system, squeezing mashed bananas through tights, Oobleck made from cornflour for non newtonian fluids and the MotiLab favourite – Slime Time – to investigate viscosity.  We had the “wow” excitement from investigations whirling round cups of water to investigate forces, materials investigations, floating and sinking experiments, microscope investigations and more.

The innovation on show was also was amazing – one school had decided on a dramatic presentation of insulators versus conductors based on a World Cup 2018 football match theme – which they performed magnificently to a great reception from all the other children.

A shared Science Exoeriment

A shared experiment to investigate the electrical properties of insulators and conductors.

This variety and innovation proved not only that children are fascinated by everything around them but they are comfortable in communicating this information in new and exciting ways, not ways we as adults might communicate them, but in their own way.

The event was constantly accompanied by an excited buzz and laughter from the children.   Many times I overheard children with lines such as “can we do this in our school?” or “I’m going to try this at home” and fantastic questions constantly arose all answered with confidence from the children sharing their science.

A group of young childre proudly displaying their investigation

Proud young scientists sharing their investigation.

Just listening to the children for a few minutes you could tell it was a success in inspiring awe and wonder – a testament to the event and it’s ethos.  Children communicating and understanding science in their own way has to be key in getting them involved and enthused for the future. The format of peer review – something that is used in cutting edge science – has a great impact in both those presenting – questioning their own work, and those being presented to – encouraging and deepening their scientific thinking.

All in all the event was a huge success.  You could tell the positive impact of the event – each child going home proudly smiling, holding on to their certificate or prize to remember the day and the myriad of questions the day precipitated from the children was phenomenal.  Partaking in such a large event was also inspirational, the huge intake of breath when the children were informed they were part of 40,000 children nationally and internationally sharing science on that day put that beyond doubt.

Overall our experience of the event was one of a great return on effort and I’d recommend anyone thinking of it to get involved. Did it require effort? Yes, Did it run perfectly? No, but did it inspire awe and wonder for science? 100 children and teachers definitely thought so.

Among many others, thanks must go out to The Great Science Share team, BASF for the prizes and Woodseats Primary School for hosting and hard work.  We are already looking forward to making The Great Science Share 2019, Sheffield Satellite bigger and better.