Bringing Science out of the Classroom

In November, on a brisk but sunny Saturday afternoon, families meandering through Deptford market couldn’t resist dropping in on a very special event. Physics teacher and science communicator Alom Shaha, presented a free interactive workshop aiming to take science out of the classroom, and to make it fun and engaging for kids and parents alike.

Alom’s mission is to help parents and careers become their child’s first science teacher, and the event How to be your child’s first science teacher did not disappoint.

Oohs and aahs escaped from adults and children alike as Alom set fire to tea bags and demonstrated how to make film canisters explode. After his initial demonstrations, which had even the scientists in the room impressed, participants then took part in hands- on activities.

Bringing Using a collection of milk bottle tops, cardboard, straws, sticks and balloons, Alom showed everyone how to make a wind-powered car. He then took a step back, and it wasn’t long before the creative minds of the youngsters kicked in and wind-powered cars were zooming about the library floor.

“This isn’t science,” exclaimed one child, “it’s too fun.”

alom-shaha-1

Having built their sustainable automobiles, the children (and adults) then took great pleasure in racing them against one another to see who had the most puff in their lungs and the best-engineered vehicle.

The workshop had a great turnout, filling the library space and families continued to drop in when they walked past and wondered what all the commotion was.

After the event we caught up with Alom to find out what inspired him to host workshops like these and write his book, Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder.

He said: “Many parents read to their children, playing an active role in their first steps towards literacy, they teach them how to count, do sums, complete art projects, sing and dance. But what about science?”

“I wrote my latest book to equip parents with the skills they need to be their child’s first science teacher, even if they feel they know little or no science themselves. To help them deliver their child’s first genuine engagement with science.”

“Through my talks and workshops, I want the ideas in my book to reach families who may not otherwise engage with science. Working with Science London has been one way to do that – they have helped me reach diverse members of the public and I am pleased with how well attended the event was.”

Mr. Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder

Alom Shaha starts his most recent publication with advice to children on how they too can be scientists. This is followed with instructions for parents and guardians on how they can become “wondersmiths” (creators of wonder). The instant call-to-arms for both adults and children is indicative of Mr Shaha’s drive to inspire from start to finish of this delightful book. It serves as a reminder of how child-like wonder feels and as a guide through the maze of young scientific curiosity.

Using accessible language and charming illustrations (by Emily Robertson) Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder provides children with a smorgasbord of fun projects to complete home. Alom Shaha cleverly designed experiments using common household provide children with tools to learn more about how their immediate environment is shaped by the laws of nature. Throughout the book Mr Shaha provides extra ideas on how children can take their experiment one step further. By encouraging children to go further and including clear explanations on what is happening when they edit their experiments, this book will set off sparks of imagination in countless children.

One particularly important part of the introduction is when the author introduces “the power of ‘I don’t know’”. Children should be actively encouraged to seek education and to say “I don’t know” with pride instead of shame, and this book does just that. It is strikingly apparent that Alom Shaha believes in education as an act of inspiration and not just memorisation by rote.

This book is not just a powerful tool of education but also a bright and whimsical collection of activities for rainy and sunny days alike. By appealing to both children and their adult wondersmiths it gives any family a chance to delve into the wonderful world of homebrew science.

 

STEM tutoring at the Deptford Lounge – a new outreach programme

BSA London is starting a tutoring initiative at the Deptford Lounge. We will be offering free tutoring and homework help in maths, chemistry, physics and biology, from GCSE to A-level.

When mitochondria leave you tired, those maths equations seem unsolvable and chemistry makes you think negatively, we might be there to help. We believe that a little help can go a long way when it comes to the success of science education in school. Our goal is to reach out to underserved communities and specifically those who might not have the resources for private tutoring. This is a pilot project for the British Science Association London, to maintain and increase the interest of schoolkids in STEM subjects, which have so much to offer but can seem unapproachable.

Volunteers, educated in a variety of STEM disciplines, will be at the Deptford Lounge on the 27th of September 2018 from 6-8 pm, the tutoring session will be free to attend. As part of our ongoing relationship with the Deptford Lounge, we will be back on the 3rd of November 2018 with a talk by Alom Shaha, a physics teacher film-maker and science communicator, on “How to be your child’s first science teacher”.

Written by Maria Rapoport

Top Science News

Awards for voodoo doll and rollercoaster studies at the annual Ig Nobels

Can torturing a voodoo doll help improve supervisor-employee relationships? According to research led by Lindie Liang of Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, the act of retaliation against a bad supervisor can help disgruntled employees feel like justice is being done, and the work recently won an Ig Nobel prize.

voodooThe Ig Nobel awards “honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” A parody of the prestigious Nobel prize, the name is a pun on ‘ignoble’, and awards scientific work that may be characterised as such. The awards were created in 1991, and previous awards include the 1993 literature prize for a medical research paper with one hundred times as many authors as pages; the 2004 biology prize for work which showed that herrings communicate by farting, and the 2015 chemistry prize for the invention of a chemical recipe which could partially un-boil an egg.

The awards have gained notoriety for celebrating unusual work, and some researchers hold both a Nobel and an Ig Nobel prize. Nature have called the awards “arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar”.

The 28th awards were held on Thursday 13th September 2018, and included a biology prize for scientists who determined that wine experts can determine the presence of a single fly, by smell, in a glass of wine; a medicine prize for urologists whose work used rollercoasters to hasten the passage of kidney stones; a reproductive medicine prize for researchers who used postage stamps to monitor the function of the male sexual organ; and a nutrition prize for determining the calorific intake of a human-cannibalism diet.

The awards show that science doesn’t have to be boring or hard to understand. Let’s continue to celebrate unusual work that makes us think.

 

Gender bias leading to lack of autism diagnosis for thousands of girls and women

There is growing evidence that women and girls with autism are going without diagnosis due to it being viewed as a ‘male condition’.

autismUntil recently, it was thought that Asperger’s syndrome, part of the autism spectrum but without intellectual impairments, mainly affected boys and men. A 2009 survey of adults living in England found that 1.8% of men and boys surveyed had a diagnosis of autism, compared to 0.2% of women and girls. However, recent studies have found a ratio of 3:1. What is the cause of this large discrepancy?

Currently, diagnostic procedures are tailored towards identifying traits typically seen in males. Recent studies have highlighted the differences in how autism presents in girls and women compared to boys and men, and could help to improve diagnoses rates. It has also been suggested that women and girls may have improved abilities to mask the condition. Media representation of the condition, such as the 1998 movie Rain Man and the 2017 Netflix show Atypical, has focused mainly on men, limiting awareness of how the condition affects females and reducing the likelihood of parents or teachers identifying it.

The National Autistic Society state on their website that ‘at least one in three autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack of support’, and that ‘63% of children on the autism spectrum are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them’. Without an official diagnosis, it may be harder for women to get the help they need to function, and for young girls to get support with their education. Hopefully, new research on gender differences in the autistic spectrum will allow awareness of the prominence of this condition in women and girls to continue to rise.

 

Lost narwhal joins pod of beluga whales

Researchers in Canada have reported an unusual discovery: a narwhal that appears to have been adopted by a pod of beluga whales.

beluga_whales

Narwhals typically live in the Arctic, more than 1000 km from where this juvenile was spotted. The animals were filmed by drone, technology which has allowed scientists and wildlife photographers unprecedented access into the secret lives of animals. The belugas were seen rubbing against the narwhal as they swam together, despite the spotted grey narwhal standing out from the white belugas.

Beluga whales and narwhals are closely related, but it is rare for them to interact. Unlike most belugas which live further north, another branch remained in the St. Lawrence River after the last ice age. The narwhal has been recorded in the St. Lawrence Estuary since 2016, but interactions between the narwhal and belugas had not been observed until recently. The question now is what the future holds for this unusual family: cross-breeding between the species is rare, although it has been documented previously.

Earlier this year, beluga whales were the focus of a study which demonstrated that they appear to value culture, their ancestral roots and family ties. Who knows what we will discover next about these sophisticated creatures.

Check out this video to see the narwhal and belugas together! 

 

By Isobel Tibbetts

Volunteer position open: Apply now!

We are looking for a SciBar officer. Please find the duties of the role below or visit our page.

If you are interested in this role, please email secretary@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.

The roles and responsibilities of the SciBar Officer are:
– to curate a series of SciBar events (public engagement science-related talks)
– to work with other volunteers to promote and run SciBars
– to keep a note of possible future speakers (for SciBar and other potential events)
– to report to the committee on SciBar events and other administrations

The role requires good organisational skills, communication and enthusiasm!

Volunteer position open: Apply now!

We are looking for a Volunteer Coordinator. Please find the duties of the role below or visit our page.

If you are interested in this role, please email secretary@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.

The Volunteer Coordinator will be responsible for:

  1. Adding prospective volunteers to the mailing list
  2. Removing volunteers who no longer want to be on the mailing list
  3. Organise and host induction meetings (monthly or bimonthly depending on volunteer demand).
  4. Aim to keep track of the mailing list at least once a year, that means sending out a yearly email to ask volunteers if they still want to be a member or not
  5. Do “Call-out” emails if we require more volunteers for a particular project / event
  6. Ask prospective volunteers to fill out our Google Form. Once you have read through them, you can get back in touch to give them an induction pack and project list. It is then up to the volunteers what project they want to be part of.
  7. Answer emails that are sent to the volunteer@science-london.com account
  8. Possible things you could introduce to the role: Make an evaluation form for volunteers asking what else they want a volunteer coordinator to do

But don’t worry! You will be working alongside with Angharad so you won’t be doing it all alone! 

The role requires good organisational skills, communication and enthusiasm! We’d definitely recommend this position if you are seeking experience in Science Communication and experience in coordinating volunteers. It would help if the candidate is proficient at writing and checking emails and good at navigating around the Google Drive.

Volunteer position open: Apply now!

We are looking for a Lates Officer. Please find the duties of the role below or visit our page.

If you are interested in this role, please email secretary@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.

Lates Officer

The Lates Officer is responsible for organising and coordinating various events throughout the year, most notably the Science Museum Lates (SMLs).

The role would require you to organise meetings with volunteers to come up with ideas for Lates (based on the themes), write a proposal and manage volunteers on the day. Currently the main focus is on Science Museum Lates but we are aiming to expand to other events, such as the upcoming Lambeth County Show.

The role requires good organisational skills, communication and enthusiasm! You will be working alongside with Hannah so you won’t be doing it all alone! It’s a great opportunity to get creative and really engage with public events.

This is a great opportunity to be involved in Science London as it expands as well as gain some experience in science communication. 

Volunteer positions open: Apply now!

There are currently two roles open at the BSA London Branch. We are looking for a Diversity Officer and a Partnership Operator.

Please find the duties of these roles below or visit our page.


Diversity Officer:

The BSA London Branch values a lot diversity and inclusivity. We would like to expand our horizons and develop on a regular basis Diversity Events. These events will be aimed to support, inspire and encourage minorities to get involved with Science as well as educating the general public about Scientific, Technological and Medical innovations.

The Diversity Officer will sit on our General Committee with the following duties:

  • Organise every 2 months a diversity event, aimed to promote (but not restricted to) Women, LGBTQ+, Ethnic Minorities, Differently Abled people.
  • Ensure that the groups above are regularly promoted on our online platforms (social medias and website)
  • Publish a monthly diversity article on our website.

If you are interested in this role, please email secretary@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.


Partnership Operator:

We are looking to further expand our partnership team, hence for highly motivated and enthusiastic communicators. Partnership operators will be under the responsibility of our partnership officers. The role entails the following:

  • Contact potential partners and follow up with them.
  • Reviewing our sponsorship packages.
  • Liaise with the Partnership Officers.

This is an excellent entry level position to get you involved in volunteering with the London Branch. If you are interested in this role, please email secretary@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.

BSA London Continues to Expand

The London branch of the British Science Association is proud to welcome two new committee members to its ranks, Viktoria Hristova and Hannah Burke. Viktoria will be filling the role of Partnership Officer, leading new collaborations with influential people and organisations. Hannah will be taking up the responsibilities of the Science Museum Lates Officer, bringing exciting ideas and demonstrations to the evenings hosted at the Science Museum.

Their impressive experience with scientific voluntary organisations will give them the tools to improve upon the already rapid growth of BSA London. Viktoria has co-founded an educational non-profit organisation in Bulgaria for students of all ages, and spoken at a TEDx talk at the University of Sofia. Hannah has previously volunteered with the Science Museum and has professional experience in educational programme and event management. We hope you’re as excited as we are to see the fresh insight they bring.

The British Science Association’s estimated impact on social media has increased by over a third in the past few months, and the dedicated committee and volunteers will continue to forge new connections between the public and scientific research. We look forward to the future and sharing the exciting new developments at the BSA with everyone.

Written by Dave Ayland

Volunteer positions open: Apply now!

There are currently three roles open at the BSA London Branch.

We are looking for a Secretary, a Lates Officer and a Partnership Officer. Please find the duties of these roles below or visit our page.

SECRETARY:

The main duties of the Science London Secretary are:

– Taking minutes at meetings

– Writing Agendas

– Filling quarterly Branch reports

– Supporting the Committee

PARTNERSHIP OFFICER:
The Partnership Officer is responsible for maintaining and growing our network of partnerships and helping coordinate various events throughout the year such as the Lambeth County Show. The role would require you to seek potential organisations, generate leads and open conversations that would enable us to grow our presence online, gather more volunteers and help us organise public events.
The role requires good negotiation skills, communication and strategic thinking. You will also need to be proactive and think outside the box to reach as many relevant contacts. There is a lot of flexibility in this role, with the opportunity to help other members of the committee so it would be a great opportunity to develop your skills.

LATES OFFICER:
The Lates Officer is responsible for organising and coordinating various events throughout the year, most notably the Science Museum Lates (SMLs). The role would require you to organise meetings with volunteers to come up with ideas for Lates (based on the themes), write a proposal and manage volunteers on the day. Currently the main focus is on Science Museum Lates but we are aiming to expand to other events, such as the upcoming Lambeth County Show.

The role requires good organisational skills, communication and enthusiasm! You will be working alongside with Suzanne and Liam so you won’t be doing it all alone! It’s a great opportunity to get creative and really engage with public events.

 

This is a great opportunity to be involved in Science London as it expands as well as gain some experience in science communication.

If you are interested in either of these roles, please email secretary@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.

Committee and volunteer positions open: apply now!

There are currently several roles open at BSA London Branch.

We are looking for one treasurer  to sit on our committee and three volunteer creative content creators. Please find the duties of these roles below.

Treasurer 

Duties will include monitoring funds and financial admin. This admin will include receiving and processing expenses forms from event coordinators, volunteers and committee members.

You will also be required to attend once monthly committee meetings which ensure the smooth runing of Science London.

Creative Content Creators

The main duties would include:
– Research science-related content to publish on our socials.
– Write articles and general content to publish on our website.
– Liaising with the webmaster and publicity officer.
– Create promotional material (logos, posters, events material).
– Ensure that our media are updated with original material on a regular basis.

No extensive prior experience is required. However, design software knowledge would be greatly appreciated.

This is a great opportunity to be involved in Science London as it expands as well as gain some experience in science communication.

If you are interested in either of these roles, please email volunteer@science-london.com with a short (200-300 word) description of why you would like to get involved as well as any experience that you have.