Exploring the Science of Resilience in Uncertain Times

The term self-care is something that we have been increasingly hearing over the past six months as people come to terms with the Covid19 crisis. We are learning that it’s so important to make sure we look after our bodies and our minds every day but we also know that it can be hard to find the time for this when life is so busy and stressful. Midlands Science is delighted to present another unique, online public talk for Science Week 2020 which takes place this November. This event sees us delving into the world of the science of resilience and self-care with Dr. Craig Slattery, Midlands Science Chairperson who will interview Irish Psychologist & Psychotherapist, Dr Andrew Magee, who works closely with health service and the civil service staff on their mental and psychological well-being.

When asked about what kind of long-term effect that this Covid19 situation might have on people, Dr. Magee said,

‘We can equate this period of abrupt isolation to the Blitz in London during World War II in the sense that we know for sure this is a period of time which people will always remember aspects of. Many people are acting from fear at the moment, some are choosing not to even believe that the pandemic is happening. There is no doubt it will leave a mark. It will be recorded in history books and there is definitely a significant risk to our mental health not only because of the isolation and the uncertainty during this period of time but also for economic reasons and worries about the future.’

Self-care isn’t a way of preventing mental health problems but it is a practice of taking the time to look after ourselves in a kind and compassionate, which is great for staying psychologically healthy. There is a huge perception that self-care is selfish or self-indulgent or that it is seen as a reward, but it should not be viewed in terms of something we deserve or don’t deserve.

Dr Magee continued,

‘Resilience is something which has been commercialised in recent years. Resilience is all about a persons’ ability to function well despite very difficult experiences happening at the same time. It is not just about being a magic solution to bouncing back to normal after something negative happens. Resilience takes time and happens in small increments. The psychological aspects of resilience and self-care are closely linked as without that compassion for yourself, resilience struggles to emerge. Self-care allows us those critical rest periods in order to become more resilient.’

Midlands Science has been working with science communication experts and specialist professionals to create new science shows, informative talks and other online learning resources and running them online since the start of the Covid19 pandemic and this interview is part of a series of public events which will hopefully appeal to a large audience during these very different times.

Dr. Craig Slattery said,

‘Daily life has changed so abruptly and this is a time of massive challenge for people. This interview looks at how the pandemic and the associated uncertainty is impacting and weighing heavily upon people, how we are responding to the evolving crisis as individuals, the various phases and how it is affecting future plans and day to day commitments. Please join us online for this timely event, which explores not only the topic of resilience, but also the differences between psychology and psychotherapy and much more. It takes place during this year’s Midlands Science Festival and will be available online from November 7th and throughout Science Week 2020.’

Science of Star Wars for Science Week 2020!

We are really excited to explore the science of Star Wars with author and scientist Jon Chase for this year’s Midlands Science Festival. How long before we get a Star Wars speeder off the ground? What exactly is the Force? How could Kylo Ren stop a blaster shot in mid-air? How could we live on a gas giant like Bespin? Nature versus nurture: How does it play out in the making of Jedi? How much would it cost to build the Death Star? This is the Science Week event you’ve been waiting for !! Suitable for Padawans and Jedi alike.

We caught up with Jon to find out more….

Jon, we are delighted that you will be participating in this year’s Midlands Science Festival. You are a passionate science communicator who is on a mission to spread the messages of science in your own unique way. What methods do you use to do this and how do you make science more exciting and interesting especially for young children?

I make workshops to engage in hands on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as well as science shows to entertain, including plenty of humour where I can.  I also make raps about STEM as another way for people to become informed about STEM whilst being entertained at the same time. I generally try to keep things as light hearted as possible.

Was there a particular moment when you started to see the connection between music and science?

 

I suppose the closest thing to that would be when I produced a rap for NASA Astrobiology Magazine in 2008.  My lecturer at the time heard a random rap I wrote, which included references to the scientific method, He highlighted my ability to one of the producers of the magazine and next thing I knew I was producing a rap and video for them.   There was a lot of interest in what I did and from that point on, I was officially regarded as a science rapper.  I even ended up doing my dissertation on the topic of Science raps.

Using some basic principles of science, your book, ‘The Science of Star Wars’ co-written with Mark Brake,  unlocks some of the secrets behind the epic George Lucas movies. What can Star Wars fans expect form your upcoming virtual Science Week event with Midlands Science?

Lots of Science facts about the lifeforms and technologies seen within the movies, as well as an exploration of what humans currently know about space and how that impacts on the Universe of Star Wars.  Answering questions like how big is space, how old is it, could we find life out there, what’s the best space ships, how close are we to producing various Star Wars technologies?    

 You are known for cracking stereotypes about science. What can we do to make science more accessible to people and make sure people are less scared of it and more curious about it?

I think most people are curious about science but that feeling can also be linked with a fear and wariness of it. Much of science fiction has been really good at helping us to explore these fears, by helping us to imagine not only the future potential of STEM, but also the sometimes dire consequences.  It’s important to be honest with regards to science, i.e. Science is a way of thinking and doing things, and seeks to understand nature through that particular way of thinking and doing (known as the scientific method). Science does take time and effort to do, most people don’t find it easy but they work at it because they enjoy it (I liken it to playing a challenging computer game.  You stick at it because even though it’s hard, the end outcome is personally rewarding for you).  Most importantly, you don’t have to be good at science to engage with what it reveals about the world.  You just have to find the access point that works for the person, whether it be formal education, shows, movies, magazines, workshops, raps, computer games or whatever.

You have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a BSc in Science and Science Fiction. What would you say to a young person who is considering a career in science but might have been discouraged about it for some reason along the way?

Find different ways to surround yourself with science. In particular, think about the things that inspire you most about STEM.  Is it the future possibilities or its ability to solve real world problems now, do you like to know how everything works or are you fond of doing experiments and testing ideas?  We’re fortunate nowadays in that we can access information about all aspects of STEM via the internet, with people providing loads of different ways to engage with it.  Seek out the STEM messages and activities that inspire you and use that inspiration to motivate you through the various challenges you might encounter.  Remember, just like a computer game, you’ll embark on a journey that will be frustrating at times but personally rewarding overall as you overcome challenges one step at a time.

 

 

Midlands Science Executive Shortlisted for LIFT Ireland Award

LIFT Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation that works to build positive leadership skills in communities across Ireland. It created an awards initiative to recognise strong leadership at all levels of Irish society from grassroots organisations to corporate boardrooms. Midlands Science Business Development Executive, Pauline Nally, was recently shortlisted for one of these awards. We caught up with her to find out more…

 

Pauline, you are Business Development Executive for Midlands Science. Can you tell us a little bit about what that work involves?

 

My role can be quite varied depending on the needs of Midlands Science and the particular time of year but in the main, it is my job to fundraise, to produce high quality pitches and presentations, to identify and speak with relevant business and academic contacts who may be interested in collaborating with Midlands Science and track those leads. Building business relationships with existing clients and sponsors is also essential.  I have a passion for bringing value to non-profits and sourcing new opportunities and partners for the organisation is the key aspect of my role.

 

You have recently been shortlisted for an award in Dedication & Determination, having participated in LIFT Ireland’s programme over the past 12 months. Congratulations!

Can you tell us about your experience of availing of this programme and why leadership skills are now more important than ever?

 

I am truly honoured to have been shortlisted for a LIFT Ireland leadership award in dedication and determination. LIFT aims to get the people of Ireland talking about values and leadership and to grow our self-awareness which then informs both our decision-making and determination in our professional roles. The wonderful training that I experienced with LIFT has helped me to really understand where I need to focus attention in order to improve the quality of how I approach both my work and my life in general. I believe that when you are really aware of your values, you will not only increase your chances of success but will also encourage and bring others along with you towards achieving your collective corporate goals.

 

The values of LIFT impact our homes, our families, our friendships, our communities and our workplaces. What are some of the most important skills you feel you have acquired that you can take into your professional role going forward?

 

I am really looking forward to the practical day-to-day application of this facilitator training and to focusing on the core values including customer service excellence, innovation and continuous learning. Excellent communication skills are so important in my role as I interact with a diverse range of individuals and organisations at all levels of business on a daily basis. It is also so important that I have a positive and proactive attitude to driving new business and partnerships for Midlands Science so that involves building my knowledge about science education and promotion and being willing to learn about the sector and how it is developing all the time. As the escalating Covid-19 crisis is forcing the cancellation of many physical events, those of us involved in fundraising really need to think fast and strategically in order to prepare for the times ahead and one of the critical things that this training has taught me is to keep communicating and at all times in the most considerate and empathetic way.

 

What did you enjoy most about the training with LIFT and would you recommend it to others?

 

It was really great to engage and connect with people across all levels of the others organisations who partook in the training. During a time which is increasingly challenging for everyone, it provided a lovely opportunity to reflect on my work and think about some small changes I could quite easily make. There was something very reassuring about networking with others and realising that everyone has their difficult days but it is all about taking note and then having the tools to keep pressing forward to the next opportunity in a positive and confident way. I am delighted that I got involved and am very pleased to be nominated for this important award.

Midlands Science Festival Goes Virtual

For the first time in its eight-year history, the Midlands Science Festival will be accessible from November 8th – 15th as a week-long, immersive digital event as part of national Science Week. The core theme for Science Week 2020  which is now in its 25th year is ‘Science Week – Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future and in the present. This year’s festival offering will enable schools, teachers, parents and people of all ages to get involved virtually and it will deliver engaging talks, interactive workshops and presentations in a whole new and innovative format. In a time of increasing unease, the Midlands Science Festival team is conscious that it is more important than ever to continue to provide activities to continue to engage our young people, build optimism and help them to explore science and how it relates to everything in our day to day lives.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

“ The theme this year will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. We took the time to evaluate the situation as an organisation before deciding that a virtual festival really was the best way forward for Science Week 2020. It allows us to provide most of the events that we had already planned for our audiences, in a safe and secure manner.  This year we are inviting people to step inside a free, virtual science sphere to join top science communicators, workshop presenters, industry experts, science ambassadors and more! This pandemic has really brought an awareness to the way in which we all work, learn and consume information. We have been working diligently over the past seven months to adapt to an online model to continue to raise awareness of science and we would like to thank all of our wonderful partners and sponsors who have supported and encouraged us to do this during such a challenging time. Throughout Science Week there will be a variety of ways for you to get involved through events, social media and much more. You can also use and follow #BelieveInScience online.”

The Midlands Science Festival will this year celebrate science in the Midlands in a number of different ways. Some of the key highlights will include an inspiring journey into Space with Dr. Niamh Shaw, informative public talks on the ‘Science of Resilience’ and the ‘Science of Skin’ which will be available online and we are also really looking forward to delving into the exciting world of Star Wars with Jon Chase. We are also delighted to be providing a range of high-level, virtual career talks for secondary schools with some of our industry and academic partners, which we hope will encourage more and more students to consider science as a future course and career option.

Dr. Craig Slattery, Midland Science Chairperson, commented,

“Sadly, we have seen highly influential public figures around the world openly attempt to undermine or discredit valid scientific information to service their own agendas.  Now, more so than ever, delivering authentic, exciting and informative public science events to the people of the Midlands, young and old, is of the utmost importance.  Under normal circumstances, Midlands Science would organise over 100 face-to-face events during the Midlands Science Festival with a combined audience of over 10,000 people each year. Naturally this year is going to be very different but we are confident that the enjoyment and inspiration on offer will not be!”

This year also includes an exploration into Viking Heritage with the National Museum of Ireland and a family Discovery Day, which will see the return of some of much-loved activities such Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, Anyone 4 Science, the Exploration Dome, The Reptile Zoo, Ironman Engineering and Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience.

More information including the full schedule of events, speaker line-ups, and how to register will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

Promoting a Positive Attitude for Maths Week

Maths Week 2020 is here and as part of our celebrations, we caught up with Midlands Science board member and highly experienced post-primary teacher in Mathematics, Patricia Nunan, to hear her views on promoting maths as a subject and the importance of Maths Week…..

Maths Week is all about celebrating maths as a subject and promoting positive attitudes towards maths and of course, furthering the understanding of our world through maths. Maths Week will be very different this year due to Covid19 and schools will be doing their best to ensure the pupils get to have fun with maths whilst in school but what are some of the activities you think parents could be doing to increase their child’s understanding of maths in the household?

I think encouraging children to be involved in household activities like baking or measuring allows children to see the real world applications of Maths. For example, driving to school last week my 9 year old asked about Maths and driving and we discussed distance and speed but also when parking in terms of spatial awareness. Encouraging them at all times to see that Maths is a really useful practical subject as opposed to something which is abstract and difficult. Also, I think parents should resist from sharing their negative experiences or feelings about Maths and try to promote positive attitudes. Many parents will share their anxieties and difficulties with it and that creates anxiety with the child from the beginning. Furthermore, stereotypical play activities can alienate girls from engaging with blocks or building or puzzles which promote logic and spatial awareness. 

In recent times, we hear people talking more about maths anxiety. What exactly is this and what are schools and teachers doing to try to help pupils to overcome it?

Mind over matter. Often children have a negative perception of Maths by the time they get to school. Schools and teachers are encouraging children to see Maths as a more “fun” subject, something which can be really useful and enjoyable.  Initiatives like Maths Week certainly do a lot in this regard and in the promotion of Maths. Post Primary schools, often facilitated by the Guidance teacher, organise visitors and speakers who have graduated from Maths related courses or who use Maths in their jobs on a regular basis. On a more practical level, teachers spend time encouraging students to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills which they can apply across all subjects and as a life skill in general. 

What do you think it is that causes this initial fear of maths?

It seems to be more socially acceptable to be “bad at Maths”, cool even in some ways. People do not claim to be “bad at English” quite so quickly. I do believe a lot has been done in recent years to promote Maths both in society and in schools. However, there is always room for further improvement. Perhaps making the link between sports and Maths would bring further encouragement as it has been proven that Spatial awareness amongst girls is typically weaker than amongst boys, an important skill on any sports pitch. 

Why are events like national Maths Week so important? Do you think they help to change peoples’ perceptions of maths and make it more enjoyable?

Maths Week is absolutely crucial in my opinion as it places Maths awareness and skills at the top of the agenda, allowing students and parents to make the connections between real life and Maths. The Maths Eyes campaign which ran a number of years ago was a really fantastic initiative in my opinion as it pushed us all to look at the world around us and see the Maths in our everyday lives. 

@mathsweek

#MathsAtHome

Patricia is a qualified post primary teacher in Mathematics and French. She graduated with a Higher Diploma in Education from UCD and a Higher Diploma in Educational Management and Administration from NUI Maynooth. She then completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Leadership in NUI Maynooth and a Masters in Educational Management from WIT. Patricia has worked, as an advisor, with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) for the last two years in the areas of Leaving Certificate Applied, Numeracy, MFL and DEIS planning. She also led the design of the teacher CPD for the revised module descriptor in Mathematical Applications.  She is a board member of Midland Science which promotes STEM subjects across the midland counties and is a passionate advocate for active participation of girls in STEM subjects, in particular.

Patricia worked as a School Placement Tutor with Trinity College Dublin for a number of years and also facilitated workshops for the National Induction Programme (NIPT).

The Science & History of Vaccines

The word vaccine has a particular and curious origin. It comes from the name for the cowpox virus vaccinia and it was first used by Dr Edward Jenner. He observed that milkmaids infected with cowpox were immune to the smallpox epidemics that regularly occurred where he lived. Jenner made history in 1796 when he gave a patient what became known as the first “vaccinia vaccine”, a vaccine made from the cowpox virus. The doctor took pus from the cowpox lesions on a milkmaid’s hands and introduced that fluid into a cut he made in the arm of an 8-year-old boy named James Phipps. Six weeks later, Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox, but James Phipps did not develop the infection, then or on 20 subsequent exposures to the disease. In fact, Phipps later married, had two children, and lived long enough to attend Jenner’s funeral in 1823. Through extensive research Jenner discovered that cox pox protected people from smallpox. This was a ground-breaking discovery and it laid the way for the scientific fields of immunology, vaccination and preventive health which we benefit from today. Thanks to progress in science and a massive vaccine campaign by the World Health Organization, smallpox was finally eradicated from the planet in 1980.

Today with Covid19, vaccines are on everyone’s mind and you can follow the development of vaccines for Covid 19 at an excellent live vaccine tracker created by The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html The Jenner Institute at Oxford University which is currently working on a promising vaccine for Covid 19 is actually named after Dr Edward Jenner.

This year in Ireland, people are encouraged to get the flu vaccine as doing so could be vital to help the health system cope with any additional strain caused by Covid-19.While flu vaccination is important in its own right, it is really important that the country is not overwhelmed with “dual outbreaks” of influenza and Covid-19. Flu season runs from September to end of April and the strain of flu virus changes every year. The flu vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies (proteins that fight infection). Contrary to what you might read on social media, there is no aluminium, thiomersal, mercury, gelatine or porcine gelatin in the vaccine used in the 2020/2021fl campaign. You can read about what’s in the vaccine here – http://www.hpra.ie/img/uploaded/vaccines/SPC_PA2131013001.pdf

The vaccine for flu changes every year because viruses evolve by mutating so there are changes in their genetic code over time. The way it happens is a bit like the game Chinese Whispers, where one person says a word to another and it’s passed on further. By the time it reaches the last person in the game, the original word is lost and has transformed into another word. We can think of a biological genetic material as a sequence of letters and over time, sequences mutate: Mutations occur randomly, and any changes that occur in a given virus will be inherited by all copies of the next generation. Then, much as we could try to decode how one word becomes another in a game of Chinese Whispers, scientists can use models on genetic evolution to try to determine the most likely evolutionary history of the virus. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains protection against 4 strains of flu virus. These are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the strains most likely to be circulating this season. The four strains are:

  • an A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • an A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus

You can read more about the flu vaccine programme in Ireland and the flu vaccine here. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/flu-vaccination/about-the-vaccine/

There is a lot information online about vaccines and vaccine development and it’s important to be aware of how information is developed and shared. You can sign up to be a Share Verified Information Volunteer with the United Nations here. https://shareverified.com/en

A recent study by the British Medical Journal concluded that over one-quarter of the most-viewed videos on YouTube about COVID-19 contained misleading information. Consider the best places to get evidence based, verified peer reviewed information on health and vaccines. Roll up your sleeve and help in the fight against the flu, this winter it is more important than ever.

#fluvaccine #yourbestshot #askfortheevidence #shareverified #believeinscience

 

Celebrate Mathamatical Moments with Midlands Science

The Countdown to Virtual Maths Week 2020 is on!

 Maths Week has been taking place in Ireland every year since 2006 and has grown to attract participation from as many as 300,000 people annually across Ireland. We often don’t realise that maths is part of all facets of everyday life. Maths Week 2020 promises to be quite different due to the fact that large scale public events will now not be possible but Midlands Science is delighted to this year team up with Dublin City University lecturer in Mathematics Education, Dr. Aisling Twohill, to deliver our Maths Week activities in a new and virtual format so that we can stay safe while exploring the fun aspects of maths and all that it has to offer.

Aisling Twohill, Midlands Science Board member and lecturer in Mathematics Education, in the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies at DCU said,

‘I am delighted to collaborate with Midlands Science for Maths Week 2020. We will be utilising stories to make maths more accessible and more enjoyable through a series of videos which will be available on Midlands Science social media platforms throughout Maths Week. Picture-books are a great way to introduce maths concepts in a child-centred way, and two of the videos will develop children’s ideas around spatial relations and fractions through the stories of ‘Winnie the Witch’ and ‘Mama Panya’s Pancakes’. We hope that encountering maths in such attractive, and accessible contexts will develop younger children’s appreciation for maths and encourage them to see maths as part of their everyday lives. For older children and adults, we will focus two videos on the stories of the History of Number and Fibonacci and with these, we will explore concepts such as sequences, place value and the historical connections of  mathematics. Sometimes, the way maths is taught can feel quite repetitive, so we are also taking this opportunity to encourage everybody to have fun with maths through puzzles and games. We are even providing a few suggestions to get you started. Playing the games we’re suggesting will give you a chance to experience maths in a more dynamic and relevant way than you might have experienced through school textbooks!’

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘Maths is a key driver of innovation and growth and it impacts every aspect of life. Maths Week is a co-operative movement with local partners all over Ireland together with schools and teachers changing attitudes towards maths. It is coordinated by Calmast at Waterford IT and is an ideal opportunity for people of all ages to increase their appreciation and understanding of mathematics and it is part of our overall aim to try to make it more accessible to everyone. We are delighted to be working with Dr. Aisling Twohill who has made an enormous contribution to our work in promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) over the past year. We look forward to publicly sharing a number of innovative maths videos which Aisling has recently produced, to help us raise awareness of maths and to demonstrate how wide and varied maths can be as a possible career path.’

Maths Puzzles:

 

These puzzles are all available as apps or to play through a web browser.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘Maths Week, which takes place from the 10th to 18th October, may not be the same this year due to unavoidable circumstances and our original plans for this year’s celebrations have obviously been somewhat impacted, but don’t forget to tune into our brand new maths videos which we really hope will spark an interest in maths and also please check out www.mathsweek.ie/2020 where you will find plenty of engaging maths activities to help improve attitudes towards maths as a subject, build confidence and demonstrate to children the value of maths as a lifelong skill that is linked so many aspects of the wider world around us.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Biodiversity – the science of life on earth

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22nd The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. When first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity), was designated The International Day for Biological Diversity. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IDB, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This was partly done because it was difficult for many countries to plan and carry out suitable celebrations for the date of 29 December, given the number of holidays that coincide around that time of year.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth, in all its forms and interactions. It is everything and everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the food we eat depends upon it. 1.7 million species of animal, plant and fungi have been recorded to date but there are likely to millions more. The extinction rate of species is frightening, thought to be 1,000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet. That rate is faster that the losses the earth experienced after a giant meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs.

Today is World Biodiversity Day and there a lot of  books about biodiversity, which can help us all understand how interlinked and inter-connected our world is and most of them are available from the local library system. The classic is “The Diversity of Life” by EO Wilson, the scientist who is considered to be the father of biodiversity and “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan explores how biodiversity loss affects the foods we eat. EO Wilson in a seminal paper in 1985 “The Biological Diversity Crisis” described the natural world as a work of art that cannot be recreated once it is lost. “Each higher organism is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting, a Bach fugue, or any other great work.”

Scientists are interested in how much biodiversity there is  in the world as there is still to much to discover and understand. They are also like to study and understand how many species might exist in a particular ecosystem such as a forest, lake, grassland or tundra. A single forest can contain a huge range of species from beetles to deer and everything in between. Ecosystems with a lot of biodiversity tend to have good conditions for plant growth, such as the warm and wet climates we associate with tropical places in the world. Ecosystems can also contain species too small to see with the naked eye and looking at samples through a microscope can reveal a whole world of organisms and bacteria. The work of midlands photographer Tina Claffey has brought the beauty and diversity of the peatlands and its inhabitants of all shapes and sizes into sharp focus [pardon the pun !] for lots of people, creating an awareness of the biodiversity in the midlands region.

There is no better place to explore and value biodiversity than in your own back yard and considering pollinators is a great place to start.  Bees pollinate nearly 90% of plant species and they contribute to more than 35% of the world’s food supply. Give pollinators an extra boost in your garden by planting a variety of wildflowers and native plants to provide nectar that will bloom throughout the season  You can encourage other pollinators such as bats to stop by your garden by planting borage, corn marigold, cornflower, primrose and night-scented stock.  A new Gardening for Biodiversity book by Juanita Browne is available by contacting the Heritage Office of your local council. It was produced by Local Authority Heritage Officers, with help from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and The Heritage Council.  Explore and grow wildlife friendly gardens/patios or balconies and choose wildlife-friendly fencing to allow some access to passing wildlife. Biodiversity begins at home !

Photo – Jackie who works for Midlands Science has created quite possibly the teeniest tiniest meadow in the world in her back yard and it’s buzzing !!

 

 

 

 

 

Exciting Events later this year with Popular Science Communicator

We are so pleased to announce that we will be working with Dr Niamh Shaw later this year, during Science Week 2020 and the annual Midlands Science Festival. Niamh is a performer, writer & communicator with 2 degrees in engineering & a PhD in science. Passionate about igniting peoples curiosity she explores crossovers in STEMart & communication to share the human story of science. We caught up with Niamh to find out more about what to expect from her upcoming work in the Midlands this year …

Niamh, we are so delighted that you will be coming to the Midlands region to work with us this year as we continue to spread the message that science is all around us in much in everyday life. I know it is too soon to provide the finer details of what will be involved but can you give us a little flavour of what your events are like and what people might be able to expect..

 

Firstly, I’m delighted to be a part of Midlands Science festival this year. You also curate such a wide variety of events that cater for all types of people. My events will all obviously be space-themed and shared with stories and videos about my own space adventures. While there are lots of facts in my events, they aren’t science shows and I’ve made them especially for people who feel that science isn’t really their cup of tea. So lots of videos, pictures and stories about space and designed for people of all ages and all interests.

 

With everyone at home during the current Coronavirus outbreak, are there any tips that you can give to young people to ensure they stay engaged in science learning, albeit in new and different ways?

Science is about analysis really isn’t it? It’s about gathering information and based on the facts, you can better understand something. So my best tip for people to stay engaged in science is to find ways of using your analysis-time brain around the house.

For instance, have you as a family made a daily schedule? if so, what’s on the schedule? Is it the most efficient use of your time? Is someone doing more work than the other? What are the shared tasks? Have you all agreed on the procedures for each task? Do you have a logging system? Can you analyse the schedule at the end of the day? Can it be improved? That’s science right there, everyone!

And if you want to get involved in a home activity, just go outside when its dark and look up! Can you see the moon? If not, why not? How many stars can you see? What are the brightest ones in the sky? Do you see any planets? If you want to know more about what you see in the night sky, there are tons of apps that can help teach you astronomy. The moon will soon be back in our night skies, the planet Venus will be with us a few more weeks and Mercury, Jupiter and Mars will be more visible in the weeks ahead. So much to see, even without a telescope. So just look up!

 

We have heard you have a very exciting life’s mission..can you tell us more?

I have devoted the rest of my life to get to space. I haven’t it all fully figured out just yet but that’s the best part!  I do know that in achieving this,  that I get to share stories about the adventure with all of you! I want to be the ‘normalnaut’ storyteller! And so far, I’ve shared a few of my adventures- like being on a simulated Mars mission in the middle of the desert in America, then I went to Star City in Moscow and took a zero-gravity flight to feel what microgravity (or weightlessness) feels like in the body (very strange, in short!). And other adventures too which I’ll share with you all at the festival in November.

 

You were also recently the co-recipient of a very special award, can you tell us what that meant to you and a little bit about what it was?

I was absolutely thrilled to be given an award from Science Foundation Ireland for my work in communicating STEM, in recognition for all the events and talks and writing that I do about space and science. That was pretty cool.

 

Hard to choose I know but can you share with us what is your favourite science fact ever?

That we are such a tiny species living on a tiny planet that orbits an insignificant star in the Milky Way galaxy, 100,000 light-years in diameter, one galaxy of hundreds of galaxies grouped together in a cluster, the Virgo Cluster, which is part of a supercluster of other clusters and that 55 superclusters make up everything we currently know about our visible Universe, the edge of which is 46.6 billion light-years away from us right now. And yet, we regularly propel 3 people regularly into space and keep them alive onboard the International Space Station and return them safely to earth. That we are incredibly tine in this vast Universe and yet, when people come together and work towards a shared goal, we can literally make the impossible possible. I love that.

Anything else coming up that you can share with us? We are really interested to know what you have been up to recently?

My book ‘Dream Big’ from Mercier Press (a memoir of sorts of the story so far in getting to space) came out in bookstores about 2 days before the first COVID restrictions hit the country. We still have to have the official launch for that, which will probably happen when the book stores re-open. I’ve been working with RTE’s Home School Hub and have contributed some space content for them, which has been a privilege. I am planning the next big space adventure which will hopefully be ready to roll out when the lockdown and restrictions begin to loosen up (whenever that will be). I should be working with the International Space University this summer on their graduate programme in Space Humanities activities.  And lots of online activities too.

Looking forward to meeting you all at Midlands Science Festival!

 

STAY SAFE SAFE HOME

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