Midlands Science brings Science Home with Gas Networks Ireland

The not for profit organisation, Midlands Science, is delighted to now be in a position to continue to offer a range of remote, fun science workshops via their social media channels with thanks to the support and sponsorship of partner, Gas Networks Ireland. The team at Midlands Science has been working with science communication experts to create new science shows and other online learning resources and running them online over the past few weeks to help ensure that young people can continue to sustain their engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) from their own home during these very different times.

‘Science at Home’ is an entertaining show that explores the science of everyday things at home. The show will be broadcast online on the Midlands Science Facebook page every Tuesday at 12:00 pm and has been running since March 17th following the school closures. The shows will hopefully continue until June of this year and will be run with support from Gas Networks Ireland for the next two weeks. These two episodes will focus on the primary school science topics of living things and biodiversity. All episodes are available on the Youtube channel of Midlands Science and will be available there as full archive.

This is one of a number of impactful initiatives across Ireland promoting science, technology, engineering, maths, literacy, employability and the development of life skills that Gas Networks Ireland supports. Gas Networks Ireland’s sustainability strategy has three pillars of sustainability – environmental impact, social impact and economic impact. As part of its social impact programme, in 2018,Gas Networks Ireland launched the STEM education programme, Energize, in partnership with Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI) in primary schools across the country. The programme is available to 5,000 sixth class students nationwide, with the objective to foster students’ interest in STEM subjects.

Christina van der Kamp, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Gas Networks Ireland, said,

‘Covid-19 is affecting every part of our lives at the moment. We are  getting used to a new way of living so that we can all play our part to stop the spread of the virus.

‘Gas Networks Ireland is delighted to be partnering with Midlands Science to deliver a range of online ‘science at home’ activities. We believe it is particularly important to keep in mind the effect this crisis may be having on young people  who are unable to attend school and see their peers. Providing these children with some engaging online activities is a proactive and useful way to nurture a positive attitude to science while staying at home.

‘We are passionate about introducing young people to the exciting world of science and engineering from an early age, and actively encourage young people to really think about the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and how it impacts our lives on an everyday basis.’

Science at Home presenter, Dr. Dan Nickstrom of Maynooth University said,

‘I’m having a lot of fun trying to communicate science in this way. It’s new and challenging territory for me but I’m enjoying the opportunity and am delighted it’s getting such a good reception among people in the Midlands, young and old especially those trying to keep up with school work.’

Midlands Science CEO, Jackie Gorman said,

‘We know that many parents are now dealing with the dual challenges of working from home while also keeping children safe and hopefully continuing to learn in some way. We are most grateful to Gas Networks Ireland for their support and commitment to helping students during these unsettling days of social distancing and quarantine.

‘Trying to navigate all of this is testing for everyone and we wanted to help in some small way by creating our own virtual science classroom. We hope these science learning workshops will benefit people in the coming weeks and we have had plenty of engagement and positive feedback so far.’

ENDS

Midlands Science

Midlands Science is a not for profit company which promotes STEM education [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] in the midlands of Ireland. It is funded by a mixture of public and private funding and it has a voluntary board of directors. We deliver STEM outreach projects on time, on budget and with significant impact in terms of target audience engagement, media engagement and long-term development outcomes. ‘Science at Home’ is an entertaining show that explores the science of everyday things at home. The show will be broadcast online on the Midlands Science Facebook page every Tuesday at 12:00 pm.

About Gas Networks Ireland

Gas Networks Ireland is the business division of Ervia that owns, builds and maintains the natural gas network in Ireland and connects all customers to the gas network. Gas Networks Ireland operates one of the most modern and safe gas networks in the world and ensures that over 700,000 homes and businesses receive a safe, efficient and secure supply of natural gas, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Ervia is a commercial semi-state multi-utility company with responsibility for the delivery of gas and water infrastructure and services in Ireland.

Gas Networks Ireland published its first sustainability report last year. “Sustainability in Action” highlights Gas Networks Ireland’s progress in implementing the principles of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals across the business.

 

The full report, “Sustainability in Action”, can be found at:

https://www.gasnetworks.ie/corporate/company/our-commitment/sustainability-report/

 

 

Dr. Dan Nickstrom of Maynooth University

Midlands Science Provides Science Fun At Home

We are continuing to provide a range of engaging activities online via their social media channels while the schools remain closed due to the Covid19 pandemic.  Ever wondered about the science of floating, coins, fridges or sound ? Then this online content is for you, it’s about the science of all the things you can find at home.

Midlands Science CEO, Jackie Gorman said, ‘This is a very challenging time for pupils and parents as they work to navigate remote learning and being away from their peers and teachers. Several of our upcoming events have been postponed but we wanted to help those at home to continue to engage with science and learning by providing some activities online. Since we started doing this last week we have seen a really big appetite for it, especially from parents who are seeking out online resources, apps and games to keep their childrens’ minds engaged at home. People are also looking for activities to take their minds off any worries that children might have during this highly unsettling time.’

As part of the initiative to keep pupils learning in a fun and innovative way, Midlands Science provides a live science workshop with Christine Campbell from Anyone4Science on Thursdays at 11:00am on Facebook. Everything that children need to take part at home is listed on social media a few days in advance and there are no strange items or ingredients, the workshops include a variety of things to be found in the average kitchen. “Science at Home” with Dr. Dan Nickström of Maynooth University is an entertaining show that explores the science of everyday things at home and it’s put online every Tuesday at 12:00 pm. A recent episode explored the science of the fridge and let’s face it, all of those who are working from home are probably commuting a little bit more to the fridge!

Jackie Gorman continued, ‘Midlands Science is working to ensure we continue to provide resources for people to enjoy until we are at a point where we can return to bringing science to your classrooms once more.  We are also working on the circulation of regular newsletters which will list a number of carefully curated resources reflecting the curriculum and won’t create extra work for parents, who are already trying to work from home and keep children engaged with education. Huge thanks to Christine Campbell and Dr Dan Nickström for responding to the changed situation so quickly and providing such great resources. We’d like to thank our various funders for their support for this online transitioning of activities in the current situation and we wish everyone well at this time.’

Whatever the Weather!

Recently many of us found ourselves reading a lot about the many storms that we have experienced here in Ireland! In fact, it’s hard to remember back to a time when we didn’t know what the weather was potentially going to be like day by day and hour by hour!

That’s why, on March 23, we celebrate World Meteorological Day and the World Meteorological Organization, an international organisation that collects data from all over the world to help us better understand the weather and its impact on our lives. This organisation also celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2020.

Talking about the different types of weather can provide exciting starting points for learning. Exploring the concepts of weather offers many fantastic opportunities for maths and science alike. Weather is a great learning tool because it can lead to many opportunities for exploration and supports children’s understanding of the world around them.

Pictured here is the storm glass which was popular in the 1800’s as a way to predict the weather. It consisted of a liquid in a sealed tube of glass and the crystals within the tube in the liquid were believed to be linked to the weather. It was made popular by Admiral Robert Fitzroy, captain of the HMS Beagle, the ship made famous by the famous voyage made by Charles Darwin as part of his exploration of the new science of evolution. But they don’t actually work – sorry !! They remain however a curiosity and are a popular ornament and desk item that give us an insight into how people in the past tried to understand the weather.

Why not take a photograph which is related to weather or climate or draw or paint a picture that illustrate what you think of when you hear the word weather! Send us a photo of your work of art and we will feature them on the page.

#WorldMetDay

#meteorology

#climateaction

#climatechange

 

The science of soap !!

The current situation with the Corona virus/COVID 19 has brought the importance of good hand washing into the news, so here’s the science bit.

Soap is a mixture of oil or fat with water and an alkali or basic salt, the process of making soap is called saponification [there’s a great Scrabble word for you !]. We think that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make soap as archaeologists found their soap recipes carved into clay containers dating back to 2800 BC. Their soap recipes included animal fats, wood ash and water and their soap was probably for washing wool and cotton for weaving.  The Egyptians used a similar recipe and used soap for washing and treating skin diseases, as did the Romans.

The recipe for soap hasn’t changed much in thousands of years and soap can be made in a cold or hot process. In a cold process, room temperature lye [sodium hydroxide in water] is mixed with a vegetable or animal fat. As these ingredients react, the mixture heats up and thickens and then it’s poured into a mould and becomes solid. It’s allowed to sit for a few weeks to cure, so the excess water evaporates. The hot process is the ancient way to make soap and the ingredients are heated up so the mixture becomes liquid. This means when it’s poured into the moulds, it’s ready as soon as it’s solid.

People have known about how important hand washing is for a long time, even if they didn’t understand why it worked with preventing diseases. We didn’t always know about germs but many of the world’s religions promoted hand washing as part of their rituals. It was only in the 19th century that germs were discovered and hand washing became really important in medical procedures and it took longer to communicate this information to the public.

The importance of soap and hand washing has become big news with the Corona virus. Soap wipes out the Corona virus as soap dissolves the fat membrane surrounding it, causing the virus to fall apart like a house of cards. We need soap as well as water when we wash because the Corona virus is sticky to our skin through hydrogen bonds.  Soap contains amphiles which are similar to the lipids in the virus membrane and the soap molecules compete with the virus membrane lipids and break it up. As our hands are sometimes tough or have wrinkles, we need to really rub and work on washing our hands to make sure that every part of our skin is washed as much as possible.  Work up a good lather when washing hands as the friction helps to have a really good wash and it’s recommended to wash for at least 20 seconds, for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Don’t forget your fingernails!! Make sure to dry your hands well afterwards as well.

The Corona virus may change hand washing habits for a long period of time for the better and help reduce other things like flu. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping  jalapeños and you need to change your contacts,” Dr Bonnie Henry, a Canadian health official said recently. Wash early, wash often, and wash well. We are all in this together and can protect each other and those we love by being more aware of how and when we wash our hands.  Here’s our great friend immunologist Prof Luke O’Neill of TCD demonstrating the correct way to wash your hands with RTE’s Claire Byrne. https://www.facebook.com/RTEOne/videos/646465465924683/?v=646465465924683

You can find up to date information on the situation in Ireland on  https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html

 

 

Thoughts on World Book Day!

World Book Day in Ireland takes place today in Ireland, Thursday 5th March. Over the last 23 years, World Book Day has become firmly established as Ireland’s biggest annual event promoting the enjoyment of books and reading. I caught up with Midlands Science CEO, Jackie Gorman who is a published poet and avid reader (as can be seen from one of her many shelves in the image) to hear her views on the importance of reading and what we can do to encourage it from an early age…

Creating a love of reading for pleasure in children is so important. It encourages a love of learning, provides fuel for their imaginations and provides escapism. What are some of the other scientifically proven benefits to reading and starting at an early age? 

Many studies show that toddlers and young children who are read to every day have a larger vocabulary than those who aren’t read to. Reading enhances a child’s vocabulary and it can help them understand how to read and write, but reading aloud to children also helps them to understand different topics about the world and everyday life. As we grow up, reading can become part of our toolkit to deal with stress. In 2009, scientists at the University of Sussex studied how different activities lowered stress by measuring heart rate and muscle tension. Reading a book for just six minutes lowered people’s stress levels by 68 percent—a stronger effect than going for a walk, drinking a cup of tea or coffee or listening to music. Reading can also help you live longer. A team at Yale University followed more than 3600 adults over the age of 50 for 12 years. They found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day lived nearly two years longer than those who read magazines or newspapers. The benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read more !!

Today’s reality includes a lot more technology than when this important day was first launched. Some children now often prefer to play on an iPad than get lost in a good book. What can we do to encourage a love of reading?

Encouraging reading is important and there are lots of things to consider. Ensure that your children see you reading is the first thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the newspaper, a cookery book, a computer manual, magazine – anything is good. Lead by example. Encourage children to join in – ask a child to read out a recipe for you as you cook, or the TV listings when you are turning on the  TV. Give books or book tokens as presents and visit the local library together on a regular basis, and enjoy spending time choosing new books. Keep reading together. There are lots of books that both adults and young people can enjoy – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, the Harry Potter series, or The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Read books you can all talk about. There are also great Irish language books now for children such as Harry Potter – Harry Potter agus an Órchloch ! I’m resding  An Leon, An Bandraoi agus An Prios Éadaigh myself at the moment, an Irish translation of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Aside from escaping the pressures of the modern day are there other proven benefits to reading for adults?

Reading can change us a person. A University of Toronto research team asked 166 people to fill out questionnaires regarding their emotions and key personality traits, based on the widely used inventory which measures extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability/neuroticism, and openness. Half of the group read Anton Chekhov’s short story The Lady with the Toy Dog, about a man who travels to a resort and has an affair with a married woman. The other half of the group read a similar nonfiction version presented as a report from divorce proceedings. After, everyone answered the same personality questions they’d answered before—and many of the fiction readers’ responses had significantly changed. They saw themselves differently after reading about others’ fictional experience. The nonfiction readers didn’t undergo this change in self-reflection.

The aim of World Book Day is to celebrate authors, books, illustrators and of course reading! What are some of the books on your current ‘to-be-read’ list?

I have a pile in my living room which are to be tackled over the next few months ! Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, Last Witnesses by Svetlana Alexievich, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting, Mama’s Last Hug by Frans De Waal and Elmet by Fiona Mozley are my immediate priorities. I also use Audible a lot when I walk every day and I’m listening to The Secret History read by the author Donna Tartt at the moment.

 Can you tell us about your favourite science book(s)?

The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks, The Emperor Of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

What is your favourite science fact, if you can narrow it down to one?!

Answering the question why the sky is blue is my favourite thing because it’s a question we’ve all asked since childhood. I also like that it was research by an Irishman John Tyndall  which explored and solved this question. He used a simple glass tube to simulate the sky, with a white light at one end to represent the sun. He discovered that when he gradually filled the tube with smoke the beam of light appeared to be blue from the side but red from the far end. Tyndall realised that the colour of the sky is a result of light from the sun scattering around particles in the upper atmosphere, in what is now known as the “Tyndall effect”. He thought that the light scattered off particles of dust or water vapour in the atmosphere, like the smoke particles in the tube, but it’s now known that the light scatters off the molecules of the air itself. Tyndall knew that white light was made up of a whole rainbow of coloured light and thought that the blue light appeared because it was more likely to scatter off the particles. We now know that this is because it has a much shorter wavelength than red light and is much more easily scattered, so to our eyes the sky looks blue.

 

 

Careers Advice for Kilbeggan Students with PM Group

Midlands Science is proud to deliver career talks to as many schools as possible in the Midlands to demonstrate in a hands on way why a career in science, technology, engineering or maths is a good choice. We were pleased to welcome Mick Lynam from PM Group to speak to students in Kilbeggan during Science Week. PM Group manage the design, construction and commissioning of high-tech facilities for the world’s leading pharma, food, data centre and med tech companies.

Mick Lynam, Director of Project Delivery at PM Group said,

‘PM Group was delighted to recently team up with local development company, Midlands Science to help inspire Midlands students and hopefully build enthusiasm in them to consider science and engineering as possible future subject choices. Engineers in particular are in high demand currently and we are seeing plenty of new job opportunities for graduates within the engineering sector but the skills shortages continue. Therefore, we must all work together to build awareness and promote the industry and increase the understanding about the important need for engineers in Ireland today and into the future.’

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘We are really grateful to PM Group and all of our partners and mentors from life sciences organisations and technology companies, as well as from research centres and academia for their time and guidance on careers in these areas. Our career talks are aimed at Transition Year students, with a view to encouraging them to keep on STEM subjects, but are also available for Senior Cycle students who are still unsure about third level options and preferences.’

Wildlife science with Dublin Zoo!

Watching excited young faces meeting some of the fantastic presenters and seeing them learn so many new things…these are some of our happiest memories from this year’s Midlands Science Festival. Science helps children to answer some really tough questions but Science Week itself enables us to make this happen in much more entertaining ways.

One of our key goals is to help primary school children understand that science is all around them, every day and in all kinds of ways. Science is a part of daily life from cooking and playing sports to watching the rain or enjoying the sunshine. This year we were delighted to welcome our friends from the outreach team from Dublin Zoo. Children learned about biofacts such as skulls, skins and other interesting specimens and explored the science of wildlife and conservation.

We want to encourage young pupils to collect information, ask more questions, observe and draw their own conclusions because science can really teach children to form their own opinions. It allows them to experiment and realize that not everything has to work out perfectly all the time. It makes them query how the world works, sparks ideas and helps them to find solutions to everyday problems in the most simplified of ways.

 

#believeinscience

The Reptiles arrive in Longford!

Longford pupils were treated to a visit from the Reptile Zoo Village today in Ballymahon library as part of this years Midlands Sceince Festival and national Science Week. Scorpions, snakes, stick insects and their minders having been coming to the Midlands for the past few years to educate young pupils about science and it is always a huge hit!

Science performer Declan Holmes of Science Ireland also visited Longford this week for a unique show exploring everything from the science of rockets to vuvuzelas to Darth Vader’s voice. This took place in Longford County Library and was full of enthusiastic young students from surrounding areas.

We also had an inter-active workshop with artists Tina Claffey and Caroline Conway exploring the life and legacy of Mary Ward, one of Ireland’s first female scientists, earlier this week in Granard, Longford.

Climate Change Film Launch

We were so excited and proud today to attend the launch of the co-created film which students in Tullamore College on having been working so hard on since September.

Midlands Science Chairperson, Dr Craig Slattery of UCD congratulated the students involved on their work and introduced the film which explores climate change and the action that is needed. The focus for Science Week 2019 is on climate action – providing accurate, scientific context to the current state of the world’s changing climate and the actions needed to mitigate this change.

This film features a number of corporate and academic interviews and the final piece is so impressive.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

 

Foodoppi Fun-Filled Day!

It really was science fun madness in Offaly County Library, Tullamore today for Foodoppi’s Molecular Gastronomy Live Event!

TV Chefs and food educators Louise Lennox and Aisling Larkin of Foodoppi  expertly presented shows exploring food and it was exciting, fun and  fast-paced and gave the young audiences an opportunity to see food become experiments you can eat! The show directly links to the primary science curriculum integrating learning objectives from sections such as Living Things, Energy and Force and Materials and Change. Louise Lennox is one of Ireland’s leading chefs, broadcasters and food writers. Having featured in a number of popular television and radio shows for over 15 years, she is best known as the chef who is “full of personality” from the hit television series, The Restaurant. Aisling Larkin is tv chef, a busy mum of 3, food media broadcaster, feeding and mindful eating coach. Aisling appears each week on Virgin Media One’s Six O Clock Show teaching the nation her creative and functional & umami filled family-friendly recipes.