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!

In Conversation with Tullamore native Debbie MacCaffery

Debbie you are originally from Tullamore in the Midlands but are working as a Science and Maths teacher in Australia..is that right?

Yes, I have worked as a Science and Maths teacher since coming to Australia. My current position is part time (3 days per week), as I still have small children. I teach junior Science and Maths and then I have a senior Maths Class and a Chemistry class too. The courses for high school differ slightly here but the majority of the content is very similar to what is covered at home. I really enjoy teaching in Australia and in particular I love teaching students for whom Maths and Science may be a struggle. It is my challenge to find a way to communicate a difficult idea or concept in a way that makes sense to them.

What course did you choose after secondary school/why? My degree was in Chemistry and Microbiology from UCD and then I did a Higher Diploma in Education at Trinity College to become a teacher . Maths and Science teaching suited my 3rd level course perfectly.

What was your favourite subject at school and why? (assuming it was a science one!)

Science and in particular Biology was probably my favourite subject at school, by a nose over the rest of the subjects I did for my Leaving Cert. I think the reasons that I loved Biology are still the same today as they were in Mrs Garry’s class!! Firstly, I love the fact that within the boundaries of our skins and skeletons, reside these immensely complex and independent organisms, capable of intellectual brilliance and physical feats, but yet whose equilibria can be so easily disturbed. I also am a passionate Environmentalist and I think that Biology and Chemistry studies helped to shape this. I follow lots of Science blogs just to find out new facts and for the thrill of the knowledge. I love passing on those insights.

What kind of science subjects did you study as part of your journey to the career you chose?

In school I took Biology and Chemistry as my senior science choices. I then studied Chemistry for my degree along with Microbiology and Biochemistry, Statistics and Mathematics and some I.T.

What would you say to someone considering a career in science?

A career in Science is the start of a life long journey of learning. Initially after school I wanted to be a doctor or a physiotherapist. I had two great Science teachers who instilled in me a love of Biology and Chemistry and even though I was not studying or pursuing my initial career choices, now I have come around to think that for some of my students, I could be the person who inspires them to follow a career in Science themselves. Science is so varied in it’s career opportunities today – from Marine Biologists to Lab Technicians, and Dental Hygienists to Climate Change Technicians. There are jobs that will exist in years to come in Science fields that we haven’t even planned yet. These jobs will be technically centred and will require trained scientific thinkers. In particular I like to see more girls taking Science subjects, if they enjoy them, as a door to a science career. In 2015, the UK Education Secretary said data produced by London Economics consultancy showed that girls who take Maths and Science at high school senior year levels go on to earn a third more in wages than those who keep to the Arts and Humanities.

Capture the Attention of Young Minds!

nanoWe caught up Offaly’s Lucy Prendeville after she received her Leaving Cert results in which she achieved an amazing 8 A1’s! She has now headed happily off to Trinity College Dublin to study Nanoscience….

What advice would you give to someone going into exam year?

In my experience, routine is key. I had a steady routine that I stuck to religiously. I came home from school and took a break until four o’clock. I studied from four to six and then took a break from six until seven, where I had my dinner and watched some television to wind down. I then studied from seven until ten. Once it hit ten o’clock I put the books away. There is no point studying late into the night, you wont take anything in and you will only be tired the next day. It is very important to be disciplined in sixth and even fifth year. It’s all worth it in the end!

What was your favourite subject and why?

I absolutely love physics, chemistry and maths but chemistry was definitely the one that tickled my curiosity. From the start of fifth year I was amazed by this subject. I enjoyed every single topic in chemistry. I was fascinated by the detail involved and always enjoyed carrying out experiments. I think that chemistry explains so much and it can be seen everywhere in the world. I loved connecting things that I learned from my chemistry book with real life. I never felt bored with a chemistry book in front of me.

Did many students at your school study science or were there more popular subject choices?

We were very lucky in my secondary school Sacred Heart in Tullamore because all of the science subjects were catered for; biology, chemistry, physics and ag science. However of them all, biology was definitely the most popular.

What are you planning to study at third level?

My course is called ‘Nanoscience, Physics and Chemistry of Advanced Materials’ and I will be studying it in Trinity College. I am very excited to start and I feel that this course will really suit me. It incorporates my three favourite subjects; physics, chemistry and maths.

At the moment Nanotechnologies are being used to change every day things ..is there anything you can see this discipline being able to do in the future..what is the next big thing in Nano..in your opinion?

Without a doubt, nanoscience is huge at the moment. I don’t think I could even begin to visualise what is in store for the world regarding nanoscience. All I can say is that the world is changing fast and without a doubt, nanoscience will be at the cutting edge.

Challenges remain in trying to ensure we have enough future scientists here in the Irish economy. What do you think we can do to encourage more young people to consider a future career in science?

In my opinion, it is necessary to capture the attention of the young minds! It all starts in primary school. I was very lucky to attend Scoil Mhuire national school in Tullamore which piqued my interest in science. I remember building a volcano and being fascinated at seeing it erupt with the addition of baking powder and vinegar. Groups of scientists came to the school with presentations on various aspects of the world such as spiders and dinosaurs. At that young age, these demonstrations were perfect to introduce us into the amazing world of science. For someone to consider a career in science, they need to have an interest in this area. I had the privilege of going to a primary school that opened my eyes to this magical world.

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! 🙂

Exciting Science Shows for Laois..

declan holmesWe are delighted and very excited about welcome Declan Holmes and his science show to a  lucky school in Laois this year! 

The show is a fun and engaging way for children to learn about science in ways they can easily related to. It starts with heating and friction, seeing the colour of materials change with heat. Students find out how planes fly with hovering sweets and balloon helicopters. Then come exploring rockets and air cannons.
Pupils will have the chance to will create waves and play musical instruments from twirling tubes to boom whackers and straw
kazoos. There will be time for science Q&A at the end.

We are really looking forward to this one, a new and action packed addition for 2015!

 

 

November Sunshine with Curious Kim!

lukimToday saw the return of our virtual Midlands Science Festival mascot Curious Kim and what better way to welcome her back than with a really lovely canal walk in the sunshine after school.

Kim is a lover of all things science (the more fun the better) and will be coming to a school or venue near you soon, so keep an eye out and if you get a chance to take a photo with her please send it on to us via the website..or via twitter @curiouskim1…..

Not long to go now!

Sea Life Fun for Midlands Schools

marine picDid you know that seals, dolphins and porpoises are regularly sighted off our Irish beaches?
Well, we have more excitement on the way this November in the form of a wonderful organisation called, Marine Dimensions, a social enterprise dedicated to marine environmental education, research and conservation. The mission of Marine Dimensions is to enhance understanding and appreciation of marine biodiversity through education, research and community based participation.
We will be hosting a number of workshops during the Midlands Science Festival through the travelling School of Marine Biology, bringing biologists and sea creatures to the region and who knows maybe we will inspire some future marine biologists in the process!

 

Roll up for a Perfect Blend of Science and Entertainment

Science circusPower drill, basketballs and smelly socks are just some of the bizarre props that Dr Ken uses to entertain pupils with his ‘Science Circus’ entertainment show.

We are delighted to welcome Ken this year for something extra fun and different, something we hope will help young people to look at the science subjects more favourably.

Dr Ken takes children on a voyage of discovery investigating how performers make use of many scientific principles in their tricks and stunts. Some lucky spectators will find out why jugglers love gravity, how clowns use the force like a Jedi and why unicyclists need to keep moving to stay still. It’s science but not as you may know it!!!

This is just one of many fun events happening in local schools in the Midlands during Science Week! Hope you are as excited as we are!

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.

Mobile Planetarium Comes to the Region!

dome pic

We are so excited to announced that the Exploration Dome is coming the festival this year promising some lucky pupils fantastic interactive astronomy journey right on their own doorstep! The mobile planetarium dome is 6 metres in diameter and can sit up to 45 children. It is very easy to set up and take down and has a vertical zippered doorway for entry and exit without crawling or squeezing!

 

The shows starts with an introduction to Astronomy followed by a full dome film with various different subjects such as earth science, Maths and Astronomy. It can be difficult for young children to take in lots of information around these types of subjects but the Exploration Dome makes it fun and keeps children engaged. They will see all the planets in the Solar System, the North star, learn lots of facts such as the closest planet to the sun is Mercury or planets that scientists say are no longer a planet!

The planetarium ensures everyone is given the opportunity to learn all about space and science in a fantastic, fun and safe educational environment. We cant wait for this one!