The most fun I have ever had

Last week I had my first trip to a primary school since I was eleven years old. As I still consider myself child like the vast majority of the time, the realisation that it was nearly twenty years since I had been in a building that is governed by a bell, and has a climbing frame in the hall, was a bit of a shock. No matter though, it only took me ten seconds to feel completely at home – communicating with people on my level, screaming at loud bangs, and laughing at embarrassing adults – perfect.

The reason for my trip was to observe a “Solids, Liquids and Gases” show put on by the University of Manchester. The show visits primary schools, and behind the transparent veil of learning, we blow things up (amongst other things)! I had such a good time. Cutting edge research has nothing on hydrogen fueled rockets, jet engines, CO2 powered bangers, and shattering Jelly Babies into a million pieces.

The pictures do not do it justice but here are a few anyway:

























On Wednesday I have my first attempt at presenting and doing the experiments myself. I think I will be in my element – bu dum ching.

On a mildly more serious note, these shows are an amazing way of getting kids interested in science beyond an often tedious curriculum. I am sure universities nationally will run such events, so if you are a primary school teacher (and if not, please pass this on to any you know), take a punt and give them a call. You will not regret it.

For an idea of some of the experiments here are videos via, though without howling children the excitement isn’t quite as intense. [Note: These videos will make you want to put a grape in a microwave – DO NOT TRY THIS.]

Finally a plug for a great resource I have just found out about. The RSC NW Trust has collaborated with Catalyst and with  to create a DVD of simple science experiments for primary school teachers. You can get a copy of this for FREE from, just scroll to the bottom right for details. I have not seen this yet myself, so I will let you know what I think when I get my hands on a copy.

Please pass this on to anybody for whom you might think it is appropriate. Teaching science to young children well is critical to maintaining and developing an interest for the future. Think about it, was primary science education much fun?


2 thoughts on “The most fun I have ever had

  1. Right on! This is a lovely story. Doing science in Primary schools is, in my view, one of the most important things we can do because most scientists I’ve ever met have said that they got the bug around 9, 10 or 11 years of age. Very few science graduates go into primary school teaching and this means that science is taught by people who do what they do very well, but often don’t have that deeply embedded fascination or breadth of ideas to open minds as wide as they should. I have a project running, funded by a Royal Society Partnership Grant, to take undergraduates into whole classes to do stuff that is only tenuously connected with the curriculum. We should be doing lots more of that and trying to help children answer their myriad questions not by saying “read Wikipedia” but instead by saying “what if we try an experiment”. You might want to look into the Lab_13 network and check out what the Lotto Lab are doing. Very inspirational. And HUGE laughs to be had. We’re building (slowly) a camera obscura in classroom that overlooks the adjacent street, and expecting Galileo Galilei to start dropping water and flour balloons from the Leaning Tower of Arsenal any day now.

  2. Pingback: Resources for School Teachers « A Retrosynthetic Life

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