Schools' Day - igniting a passion for science
Schools' Day is a fantastic part of our Public Engagement programme. The event has been running for 24 years and I'm very proud to have been involved every time - either running a project for GCSE or A level students while part of a research group or coordinating the event since I've been in the Public Engagement team. For me, the event is enjoyable on a number of levels. It's clear that students enjoy the hands-on activities and the chance to discuss careers in science and life in the lab with researchers at all career stages. The teachers also benefit from attending - we used to provide speakers from research groups, science facilities and campus companies to share their knowledge whilst their students were in the labs, but now we give them the chance to get hands-on too. And there's always an incredible buzz around the labs and science facilities on Schools' Day - with over 100 scientists supporting projects each year it's no surprise there's such a feeling of community and achievement.
We always ask our visitors and researchers for feedback so we can improve in subsequent years, and have collected a selection of comments that show how much the event is enjoyed and appreciated by everyone involved. This year, a student who took part in Schools' Day in 2015 has returned to the labs for a summer placement - you can read her story here.
Megan, a sixth-form student from Colchester County High School for Girls, said "Babraham opened my eyes to the myriad of potential careers in science. The PhD students were very approachable and eagerly spoke to me about the various projects they were undertaking. It was amazing to think that these people were paving their way into the unknown, testing unexplored hypothesis and discovering fascinating conclusions. I was inspired by their passion to look into a career in biological sciences myself. I was lucky enough to participate in a gel electrophoresis demonstration, and it was this experience that made me realise my passion for the practical element of biology and consider a career beyond medicine. I am now applying for a biological science degree"
Michael Hyde, Assistant Head of Science at Chelmer Valley High School in Essex said "Without exception, our students thought the activities were amazing and inspirational. Our staff were equally impressed at the level of organisation and the quality of the activities, including those directed at them. We really appreciate all the efforts the Babraham scientists went to to make Schools Day in 2016 so interesting and engaging for the students. Please pass on our thanks to your colleagues and keep up the good work."
Martin Baker, a PhD student in Dr Heidi Welch’s group who hosted a project in 2015 said: “The students are really keen to try their hands at research. For each lab hosting a project, the students become our newest recruits; joining us as researchers to try out the techniques and equipment we use on a daily basis. Hopefully at the end of the day the students have a better understanding of what it means to be a scientist, as well as the techniques we use to probe the workings of life at the microscopic level. But our main priority is to ignite a passion for science in them.”
Babraham Institute Director, Professor Michael Wakelam, commented in 2014, “Since we started Schools’ Day in 1995, we have welcomed over 2000 students onto site; welcoming students and teachers is one thing but sharing our enthusiasm for science is another. Our Annual Schools’ Day allows us to engage with local schools and inspire many students into a scientific career. This event is only a small part of our Public Engagement programme but it is a very significant part. This is a day when all our scientists, from PhD students to group leaders, have a chance to step away from their day-to-day research and demonstrate their science through schools projects. Their involvement in Schools’ Day offers them a chance to inspire young audiences, and at the same time it provides our researchers with additional skills and opportunities to communicate to the public”
The next Schools' Day will be on Wednesday 6th March 2019. Please email PE@babraham.ac.uk to express your school's interest in future events.