by Rhian Jones

Malvern Science in the Park 2018

On Saturday 30th June 2018 I attended Malvern Science in the Park, an event that brings together various scientific societies and bodies, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of budding, young scientists. The event was filled with creative science exhibitions suitable for the hundreds of families that attended.

There were some excellent demonstrations on the day, one of which was held by local palaeontologist, Dr Mark O’Dell. I have never been particularly interested in this branch of science myself, yet I, amongst numerous others, found myself surprisingly captivated by his talk. His display of fossils found within the local Malvern Hills area made the talk relatable, and his dramatic finish of cracking open a nodule to expose a fresh fossil made us the audience feel like we were part of a new discovery. I particularly enjoyed his theatrical declarations including, “this hasn’t seen sunlight in 150 million years…” which added to the excitement!

The Cancer Research stand was another highlight of the afternoon. Their imaginative activities to explain how personalised medicine and radiotherapy work included using NERF guns to try to shoot cancerous tissue without hitting healthy tissue, and trying to remove “cancerous cells” from a ball pit whilst blindfolded. What was great about these demonstrations was the volunteers’ ability to spark discussions with visitors; for example, asking children whether they thought the activity would be more difficult when variables were added, was a great way to create a two-way interaction and help them understand the concept behind the game.

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However, it became clear throughout the day that the most creative and hands-on activity is futile if the science behind it is not explained properly. One or two activities didn’t incorporate much science in comparison to others, including a mini trebuchet that allowed visitors to catapult various projectiles at a “castle”. Despite the novelty of this activity, there was no explanation of the physics behind the game, which ultimately led to a slightly chaotic scenario of children firing bouncy balls and stones everywhere!

Another talk had the opposite problem where the science was explained in too much detail without much relatable context, whilst trying to explain surface tension. Although interesting, a lot of scientific jargon was used, unfortunately making the talk less exciting in comparison to others, and although a big finish was attempted by making ‘elephant toothpaste’, the context behind doing this was not really explained.

The event overall however was lots of fun, and both children and their parents appeared engaged and enthusiastic. Each child was given a small booklet in which they could collect stickers from each stand, which were collected at the end of the day to allow organisers to see which stands had been popular. A number of people were also walking around asking visitors whether they were enjoying the day, whilst individual stands seemingly evaluated their own activities based on discussions they were having with visitors.

I would definitely recommend it to any families looking for a fun day out next summer!

 

Logo: courtesy of Malvern Science in the Park