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Investigating microorganisms

I used these lovely resources from E-bug with my regular science club (aged 7-11) this week. We discussed different types of microorganisms (fungi, bacteria and viruses) and then everyone designed their own microorganism and modelled it with plasticine. They gave it a name and described what kind of microorganism it was and whether it was harmful or beneficial. Some described in great detail how their microorganism functioned.


For example the Pinchater carali can “Spray a spray that can slightly corrupt body functions. Hairs can sense passing objects and send signals to shut it’s pincers/suction cup”.

Pinchater carali

Another one, the Nemesius “creates itchiness, headaches and brain aches. If the bulb organs are removed it cannot multiply. It has to eat about 7 individual viruses to multiply. It has to eat at least 3 a day or it cannot multiply for a week. It dies by overeating viruses but it will eat a virus it sees no matter how many viruses it has already eaten (max virus intake a day = 13). It squeezes and rotates its tail to move.”

What fantastic creativity!


Light festival

My after-school science club made some beautiful lanterns for their installation at the school’s light festival.

3D shapes made into lit up presents and ink chromatography folded into lanterns.

Science Ambassadors

I’ve been working with a group of year 5 & 6 girls from 5 primary schools in County Durham to train them as science ambassadors for their schools. We held a second training day for them at NETPark last week. Here’s a selection of things they want to find out about – I think we have a group of bright, inquisitive future scientists on our hands 🙂20160925_140427

Squishy circuits


20160127_144008I recently worked with two Y4 classes to introduce their new topic Electricity. We made some basic circuits and then used squishy circuits to investigate different ways of making circuits, different components and different ways to connect them up. They also had the opportunity to get creative with their squishy creations! I returned to the school a few weeks later and they’d made a fantastic display on what they’d learned so far


For more information about squishy circuits and how to make your own see the University of St Thomas website.20150318_112706


Painting with plants

Year 1 painting

Autumn is well and truly underway here in Durham and the leaves are turning beautiful shades of red, yellow and brown. Our painting with plants workshop covers a range of topics including: chemical reactions, identifying leaves and also getting creative with paints made from different plants.

Year 3 painting

More able or older children can go into more detail with labelling their drawings, and painting extra details on their leaves. Most of all it’s great fun and quite messy so the children love it!

The colours also match quite well with the changes in leaves during the Autumn so these leaves could form the basis of a Autumnal classroom display.

Why science?

I love this poster from Tomorrow’s Engineers that gives you ten great reasons to become a scientist or engineer. If you are interested in finding out more (or you know someone else who does) they have loads of interesting information about the different types of jobs that engineers do – some might surprise you.

click to open pdf version

A scorching summer fair

Last weekend I ran a science stall at my daughter’s school summer fair. I would love for kids to think it normal to take part in fun science activities as well as win sweets and eat cakes!

The beads inside (no UV light)

This year, I had UV-sensitive beads for visitors to make into wrist-bands or bag charms. The beads change colour under UV light. It was a scorcher of a day so ideal for demonstrating the beads.

Light is made up of colours we can see (the colours of the rainbow) and some which we can’t (e.g. ultra-violet or UV light). These beads change colour in UV light. Inside they are clear as seen in the picture to the right.

Take them outside (or shine a UV light on them) and they change colour. Even on a cloudy day they change faintly. On a really sunny day the colours are bright as can be seen in the second picture below.

…and outside in bright sunlight

Too much UV light from the sun can give us sunburn and damage our skin. We used factor 30 sun cream to block the UV rays and prevent the beads from changing colour.

Have a Brainwave

In July 2012 I had a marquee and was asked to provide some family science activities.

I had been at the fair in 2011 alongside some fabulous year 6 pupils from a local school so had an idea of what to expect. I decided to make the main activity a competition called “float your boat” which has proved popular at family fairs I have done previously. I decided to have two leader boards, one for kids and one for grown ups.

This was a great idea and meant almost everyone who came into the marquee had a go from teeny tots to grandparents. Everyone got the same amount of plasticine to make a boat shape which they tested in the paddling pool, then they brought it to the competition tank where we counted how many marbles it could hold before sinking. Some people spent a very long time trying to get to the top of the leader board!

I had other activities where people could challenge their senses, use static electricity to go fishing and build things with K’NEX. The event was the busiest yet with about 3500 visitors to the event overall. A big thank you goes out to Lorraine from Durham University, with her help we managed to keep on top of demand. Other attractions during the event were live science shows from Dr Bunhead, Dr Kilcoyne and Fran Scott,  robot wars, science in your shopping basket and astronomy.