Science for Everyone!

SM science 2There may still be six months to go but as usual, we are already steeped high in ideas and exploration for this year’s Midlands Science Festival and as always, we want to makes sure that this one is even bigger, better and most importantly more fun than ever!

We’ll be serving up a whole range of exciting activities and events for all ages so please keep an eye on our blog features and events page for updates and news which will be coming your way very soon.

As in the past, this year’s festival will provide something for everyone and we are very keen to shout our message from the rooftops; Science is not just for scientists! In particular, we want to ensure that we are really focusing on younger audiences again as our research demonstrates and experts tell us that the earlier we can get into classrooms to start promoting science, the better. In fact, this is a good time to start thinking about whether you have had a science event in your school before and if you would like one this year; if so please get in touch by clicking on our ‘Contact’ page. Of course, you can always run your own school science event or even explore the joys of science at home by doing simple experiments and by remembering that even when you wash your hands to get rid of the germs, that’s science!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported and attended our science festival events over the past few years as together we are spreading the science story across the Midlands and beyond. We are working hand in hand with some of the most amazing speakers and performers to communicate the key message that science is all around us in everyday life and is a fantastic career option for young people to consider. Every year we set out to show people from four years old upwards that science can be fun, inspiring and eye opening as well as educational and necessary.

Director of the Midlands Science Festival, Jackie Gorman said,

“We are so grateful to all of our sponsors, partners, teachers, speakers and the community for their support. Without the enthusiasm of schools and the hard work and creativity of our performers and event providers, our festival would not be possible. Last year, more than 4500 visitors participated in all events and this year we are hoping to see even more people so please mark your diaries – Science Week takes place across the country from November 13th -20th and we look forward to celebrating with you all at this action packed annual event.”

Making Sense of Science Through Fun!

scoil mhuire boat projectDuring the course of last year, we undertook some simple surveys to find out what Midlands students thought about science, the teaching of it and the subject itself. A large number of responses indicated that science could definitely be more fun in the classroom and that this should start from an early age.

One student said, ‘I have loved science from a very young age and think it is so important to start encouraging pupils as early as primary school level about what an adventure it can be to explore science and all its wonders. Events such as the Midlands Science Festival ensure that children as young as five years old have the opportunity to see how certain elements of science work, but in a more fun and often lighthearted way. I dressed up as a scientist for a primary school fashion show years ago; that’s how young I was when I fell in love with science!’

The Midlands Science Festival will be heading into its fourth year in November and we will be doing some work over the next year or so to track back to those pupils who experiences their first science festival event in 2013 to see what they think of these events, to find out if they have had any impact on them and on their understanding of science and to see how they feel about learning science at school.

We know from talking to teachers that students (especially the younger ones) really learn through fun but we also know that it can depend on how much emphasis is place on science as a subject in the early years of schools. In some cases, it can be down to one very enthusiastic science teacher and in other cases the importance of science is not empahsized enough. We try to work with both ends of the scale so we aim to bring science events to the existing science enthusiasts but we are also working to ensure more and more schools avail of science activities even if it isn’t on the top of their agenda …yet!

Fionnuala Doheny, Principal of Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore commented, ‘It is our belief that once an appreciation of maths and a curiosity of science is established, often through fun activities such as maths trails, boat making or attending Midlands Science Festival events, it will stay with them forever and indeed many of our past pupils have taken up careers in the world of science and maths.’
Recently while doing some research into events planning and how we in the Midlands Science Festival team can make sure we are providing ample school based science activities that are fun and exciting we came across this really interested TED talk. It features a teacher in the United States who explains the importance of all of this and how he has worked to make science fun!

Take a look at this link and see how you can ensure young people have the opportunity to learn just how much science is all around them and just how fun it can be –

Celebrating Darwin Day!

darwinDarwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around February 12th annual as this is the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. Darwin’s remarkable impact on biology, cosmology and the scientific process cannot be understated and he had an overwhelming hunger for truth through scientific discovery, an unwavering curiosity to discover that which was hidden and a determination to brave intellectual depths.

The International Darwin Day Foundation is a voluntary movement which, through focusing on the scientific achievements of Charles Darwin and others, serves to improve the public understanding of science and to help improve science literacy. This is very similar to what we, in the Midlands Science festival team strive to do at all times. Like our own objectives, International Darwin Day encourages interested groups and individuals throughout the world to participate in the annual celebration of Charles Darwin’s life and in doing so to become more familiar with his contribution to science. In all fairness, we owe him a lot!

His interests were vast and broad but one of his main strengths was to bring ideas from different subjects such as botany, psychology and zoology together, uniting them under his grand theories of evolution. Darwin Day is a day of celebration and cooperation for the advancement of science, education, and human well-being. How will you celebrate it?

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

That’s it for 2015!

science of choc prof pic 4We would like to thank each and everyone who attended one of our many Midlands Science Festival events either as a speaker, performer or spectator. We would like to thank Science Foundation Ireland and all of our other sponsors and partners, volunteers, schools, venue providers, media and everyone who helped to make this year our biggest festival yet.

That’s it for this year from ourselves and Curious Kim for now but don’t forget that science is all around us, it can be fun and exciting as well as educational and informative and so essential!

We have enjoyed every minute and hope you have too!

Rounding up some Junior Einsteins and Words of Wisdom on Science Careers

scoil mhuire je 3Wednesday’s agenda was action packed again with a whole range of different science activities and events on offer across the region. We kicked off the day by welcoming back our friends from the Junior Einstein Science Club to Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore (photo)before heading to Athlone where a lucky group of students got to visit the fire station and learn all about the science of firefighting and the equipment involved in making it all happen.

We then enjoyed some informative careers talk from Women in Technology’s Laura Tobin and also from NUI, Maynooth’s Biology expert, Dr. Sean Doyle who visited Athlone Community College today.

It was down to Tubberclair next where Sustainable Energy Ireland delivered more workshops, this time for primary level and we also enjoyed some more solar weather fun today with TCD. The pupils of Killeagh NS enjoyed some fun and exciting activities provided by the Geological Survey of Ireland! We finished off the day in Longford where we held a public event all around ‘The science of heart health’ in association with Abbott Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation.

From Rycycling to Reptiles!

Tullamore Library Rediscovery Centre 1Today we had Rediscovery Centre workshops in the Tullamore Library which was a really fun and educational event for three Offaly schools. We also had Lorraine Bull from the Irish Wildlife Trust providing workshops in Clara Bog Visitor centre, teaching children about all kinds of things nature and wildlife. Career talks took place with the Amber Centre of TCD in Longford and children in Athlone had the chance to watch a tortoise in action as the Reptile Zoo Village visited for the day. We spent the rest of the day doing radio and promotional work so it is all go!

Today’s schedule has been jam-packed and the Midlands Science Festival 2015 is still young! Don’t miss out on places still available at some of our public events, check out the events page now!

Tick-Tock – Festival Coming!

midlands-keep-calm-150x150With around 24 hour to go we are busy putting the final preparations to the festival and are gearing up for a very exciting, science-tastic week ahead.

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible out and about across the Midlands this week where you will get to experience the wonders of science all around you and see that there really is something for all ages! Happy Science Week one and all!

Return of the Reptiles…

tortoiseWe are delighted to welcome back the Reptile Zoo and this year they will visit schools in Tullamore, Mullingar and Athlone.

National Reptile Zoo want to increase understanding of the world’s reptiles and amphibians, conserve animals and their habitats as well as offer opportunities for learning and enjoyment to the public. They want to continue to inspire a passion for nature and encourage people of all ages to become more engaged with the natural world around them. We are really excited about seeing all the animals again this year! You cant put a price on the childrens’ faces when a huge boa constrictor is lifted form its box…it is all very safe and presented in the most professional way of course so nothing to be afraid of! 🙂

Looking after your Mental Fitness with Dr. Eddie…

dr eddieWe are delighted that Operation Transformation’s clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy will be speaking in schools and at public events for this year’s Midlands Science Festival and we caught up with him recently for a chat…

What is your current role and background?

I am passionate about our mental health and wellbeing. I work in the HSE where I manage a team providing psychology services to young children, teenagers, adults and older adults with emotional, intellectual and physical challenges. I am a clinical psychologist – which is like a GP of emotional health. Through writing (columns in RTE Guide and Irish Daily Mail) I promote tools for wellness. My book “Becoming your real self ‘ – Penguin Ireland was a significant achievement in promoting this neglected area of our health.

Many people will know you from Operation transformation. You talk about improving things from the inside out – So, what do you think are some of the things that hinder people from making progress when it comes to health and weight management?

Often our emotional experiences are ignored. Understanding and tackling the roots to powerful emotions and what keeps them going can free you to live a life away from negativity to one that is focused and positive.

Can you tell us a little bit about what it is you do and how you try to help people make changes in their lives?

As a psychologist I support others through change from depression to hope, from anxiety to freedom, from shyness to confidence, stress to relaxation; anger to calm and control – effectively supporting the individual to be their Real Self.

Can you share with us some of your ideas and methods for building up and maintaining a positive outlook?

My ideas are based in evidence based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT and mindfulness practices. Both methods all you to accept with compassion or replace powerful negative emotions with more realistic ones.

Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important?

As a clinical psychologist I use the ‘scientists practitioner’ approach. Events promoting science are central to ensuring that critical thinking is encouraged. This is essential in a developing society. A society where science sits firmly and securely promoting the wellness of its citizens.

All the Fun of the Bog…

Clara bog blog picClara Bog is situated about 2 km south-east of Clara town in Co. Offaly. The Visitor Centre for Clara Bog is co-located at the library in Clara. The Midlands Science festival team is delighted to be hosting some school events at this venue for 2015..We caught up with Therese Kelly, Education Officer at Clara Bog Visitor Centre to find out more….

Clara Bog is perhaps the best remaining example of midland raised bog in Western Europe. Why do you think it would be well worth a visit?

Clara Bog is a very important part of our natural and cultural heritage. It is an ancient place that was over 10,000 years in the making! People have been connected to bogs for hundreds of years as sites for sacrifice, hiding precious jewellery, storing food and obtaining fuel but connecting with the bog as a nature reserve and recreational space is a relatively recent phenomenon. A walk on Clara Bog can promote a good sense of wellbeing. It is peaceful place full of unusual plants and creatures. It is the most studied bog in Europe and is also recognised as an important international wetland. Learning all about Clara Bog and spending time there reveals the marvels of this unique place.

What can one expect to see on a typical visit?

One of my favourite things about Clara Bog is that no visit is typical! The colours of the bog change with the seasons as do the creatures that live there. During spring hare’s-tail cottongrass give the appearance of a snowscape as their white fluffy seed heads blanket the bog. This is also a time of great bird activity as mating territories are being set up. Meadow-pipits and skylarks are a common sight swooping and soaring and it’s a wonderful opportunity, especially for school groups, to hear the lengthy lilt of skylarks that were once a common sound in the Irish countryside.

Migrant birds such as swallows and swifts can also be seen flying high in the sky catching insects to eat. Summer is marked by the bright pink and yellow flowers of cross-leaved heath and bog asphodel. Of course summer is also the best time to see the variety of insect life. Many dragonflies can be seen and indeed heard defending bog pool territories. Bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies visit the flowers near the boardwalk to find sweet nectar to drink and in the process transfer pollen and keep the web of plant life in motion. They must be careful though as the sticky tentacles of the sundew plant may trap and indeed digest them. If you are lucky you may see a lizard basking on the boardwalk, a kestrel hovering over your head or even a raft spider walking on the surface of a bog pool!

The rare Curlew nest on the bog and from the boardwalk visitors may hear their evocative call that is both unmistakable and unforgettable. Indeed one may even witness this large brown bird with a curved beak flying over the bog. As the full flush of biodiversity eases and autumn draws in visitors can experience a serene stroll accompanied by a rich floral tapestry of purple ling heather and orange seed heads of bog asphodel as they stretch across the bog. Both autumn and winter are a great time to view the many colourful species of sphagnum moss. Also known as the bog builder, sphagnum moss forms a rich mosaic on the bog’s surface comprised of green, red and orange colours. It is indeed the life support system of a raised bog as it is the main peat forming plant. If you take the time to stop and look around you may even notice the signs of native wild animals such as the Irish hare, pine marten and fallow deer as they leave their droppings on the bog.

You also have a special visitor Centre in Clara town, can you tell us a bit about this?

The Visitor Centre opened in 2010 to help interpret the significance of Clara Bog and peat lands in general and why some such as Clara Bog are being conserved. There is a multi-media exhibition space consisting of information boards, short documentaries, interactive touch-screen displays and models of plants, animals, birds and invertebrates. The exhibition space is designed with both children and adults in mind and encourages our sense of exploration and discovery. The Visitor Centre also provides free primary educational tours that reflect strands in the SESE curriculum. It is also an accredited Discover Primary Science & Maths (DPSM) Centre. On a DPSM workshop the children work together in teams as mini scientists. They use microscopes, balances and other scientific equipment as they conduct investigations which help them better understand the workings of Clara Bog and its inhabitants. The tours are designed to be engaging and fun. An ecology field trip is available to secondary level students. For more information or to book a tour teachers can contact the Centre 057 9368878.

Why do you think events like the Midlands Science Festival are so important?

The Midlands Science Festival is so important because it provides a platform to celebrate how diverse, interesting and significant science is in our lives and in the world around us. Fostering a love and understanding of science in children is especially important for they are the scientists of our