21 November, 2017
Last year I noticed in the local Newmarket paper that the town secondary school, Newmarket Academy, had set up a Science Club (established initially by the students themselves). This led Michael Hinton and me to approach the Head of Science at the school to offer to run a session for them, resulting in an invitation to visit the school.
But what to do with a group of mixed-age (13-16) and mixed ability students? Fortunately, my experience with students coming to work in the labs during the Babraham Institute School's Day suggested that a practical session using micropipettes might be popular. So Mike and I packed the car and went over there at the end of the normal school day. I was somewhat daunted by the prospect as this was our first visit to Newmarket Academy. It was certainly strange being back in a science classroom, and I realised how much I had forgotten (there was a figure on the whiteboard describing afferent and efferent nerves – something I've not studied for a long time).
Anyway with our bags of micropipettes, tips, tubes and coloured liquids we soon had the group of about 30 students happily pipetting away, but I wanted to give them a bigger challenge. Using a pH indicator dye dispersed in oil and an aqueous solution, we had the students performing phase separations to extract the dye into the aqueous phase (accompanied by a change of colour of the dye). That certainly introduced a competitive element as the students attempted to recover the most colour from their tubes!
We had time for plenty of questions about life in the lab and careers in science. I hope the students discovered that whilst science is a serious topic it is possible to have fun at the same time – I certainly did!
21 November 2017