Reporting from the Reptile Zoo!

Excitement is building for some of our much-loved events which will be making a return online this year. The National Reptile Zoo provide wonderful events for the younger pupils to learn about  lizards, tortoise, turtles, crocodiles, alligators, spiders, scorpions, frogs and more. This is definitely an event where science, education and entertainment all meet in the middle and proves to be an enjoyable learning experience for everyone, regardless of age.

Rossa Bracken from Laois and Abbie Mulligan from Longford were the winners of our mini-reporter competition in October. Rossa and Abbie had the opportunity to visit the National Reptile Zoo in advance of the annual Midlands Science Festival and ask lots of questions about some of their favourite animals.

Photo: Rossa, Abbie, Sarah from National Reptile Zoo and Pauline Nally from Midlands Science.

Midlands Science and ESB Deliver Science Outreach to Midlands Schools

Midlands Science is pleased to announce a recent collaboration with Ireland’s leading energy utility, ESB, which seeks to provide young people with the tools to participate in science as an act of engaged citizenship. This exciting initiative, “Everyday Science” will take place in a number of secondary schools across the Midlands in the coming weeks including, St. Brendan’s Birr Community School in Birr, Mountmellick Community College and Oaklands Community College in Edenderry.

Pat Naughton, Director of People and Organisation Development at ESB commented,

‘Our position as Ireland’s foremost energy company makes us a vital part in building a brighter, more sustainable future so ESB is delighted to work with Midlands Science to showcase the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths education. Supporting young people, adults and our potential future workforce to engage with STEM is a key aspect of our own work within the community. It is important to introduce young children to STEM at an early age in order to spark that curiosity to learn more and we also need to demonstrate its diversity and relevance by showing how important it is to solving challenges across all aspects of everyday life.’

A key part of the work carried out by not-for-profit organisation, Midlands Science, throughout the year is to work with companies, students, scientists, teachers, and community members to explore and solve STEM related challenges related to issues that affect their communities and experience of life. Connecting to real-world and more relevant topics helps young people to develop a deeper understanding of STEM concepts.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

“Everyday Science” will be delivered by RTE Junior’s award-winning scientist, Philip Smyth and using a range of workshop topics from Sustainability and Climate Change to Taste, Music and Future Tech, this project seeks to equip young people with the tools to actively engage with science in ways which will inform their future development as active citizens and a transition into adulthood, making decisions as consumers and citizens based on evidence. This is closely aligned to Science Foundation Ireland’s and Government policy which endeavours to have the most scientifically literate public in the world. In addition to students in selected schools taking part in this programme, teachers will be trained as facilitators as part of the programme, so they can cascade their learning to other groups which we will encourage the development of as part of the programme. Building a better future is a responsibility we all share and working with companies such as ESB enables Midlands Science to play a small part in this so we are very grateful to have this opportunity and look forward to continuing to inspire students across the region in the weeks ahead.’

Photo: Phil Smyth

 

Midlands Science partner with Energia on Science Outreach in Laois

Energia Scoil Bhríde, Portlaoise.
Photograph Liam Burke/Press 22

Midlands Science is delighted to announce a new collaboration with Laois County Council and leading Irish energy provider, Energia, which will see science education outreach being delivered to schools in the Portlaoise area in the coming months. Portlaoise has recently been designated as Irelands First Low Carbon Town and this special outreach education programme, has been designed to create awareness of climate change science and action.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

The Climate Action Plan is Ireland’s roadmap to becoming a climate neutral economy and resilient society by 2050. Becoming a climate resilient society will help us to cope with the impacts of a changing climate. Young people care about the environmental crisis and climate action because it is their future which will be impacted by the worse effects of climate change. Midlands Science is delighted to team up with Energia and Laois County Council in providing a number of science education workshops over the coming months with the help of Declan Holmes from Science Ireland. A transformational shift in the way our society and economy operate is needed and students are more likely to change their behaviours and encourage their parents to join them if they better understand the science of climate change. These workshops will teach them more about climate and environmental impact, but it will also be interactive and include brainstorming and teamwork opportunities on certain aspects of climate change education.’

Portlaoise has been designated as Ireland’s first Low Carbon Town under both the National Development Plan – Ireland 2040 and the Climate Action Plan 2019.  As a designated “Decarbonisation Zone” Portlaoise Town must deliver a range of climate mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity measures driven by Laois County Council to address local low carbon energy, greenhouse gas emissions and climate needs to contribute to national climate action targets.  At a minimum, these outcomes must be capable of meeting the Government’s targets for carbon emissions reductions specifically an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 (a 51% reduction over the decade).

One of the main ways of delivering these targets is by supporting and encouraging behavioural change so this outreach programme is essential to engage with younger generations and through their involvement the message can permeate through to parents and grandparents and the wider community as our youth are incredibly motivated and effective communicators of climate action.

Amy O’ Shaughnessy, Marketing Acquisition & Sponsorship Manager for Energia said,

“At Energia we are partnered with communities and business all across Ireland to make sustainable improvements that benefit the local environment, and also contribute toward the goals of Ireland’s national Climate Action Plan. We believe that local action makes a national difference, and as such are delighted to partner with Midland Science and Laois County Council, two organisations that are as committed as we are to positive change. At Energia, we supply 100% green electricity, with a clear focus on innovation and technology that is evident across our renewable developments and smart home solutions. This partnership is very much in line with the support we provide communities, and we look forward to assisting our partners and the pupils of Portlaoise in further understanding climate action and in making their own positive changes.”

 

Midlands Science Mark World Autism Awareness Week

World Autism Awareness Week takes place from March 29th to April 4th 2021 all around the globe and the United Nations General Assembly has unanimously declared April 2nd  World Autism Awareness Day. The purpose of this day is to create awareness of autism and to create a more inclusive world for everyone. The Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely challenging for children who are on the ASD spectrum with many crucial education services and supports still closed. During this very important annual week, the international ASD community come together in recognition of people with autism and their families and communities. As part of the celebrations hundreds of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world and the international goal is to shine a blue light on communities throughout the world to raise awareness and take action for autism.

Local development organisation, Midlands Science, has worked over the past year to provide various workshops with ASD appropriate science outreach in response to requests from the community and based on best practice research. Their project which is called Quiet Science is funded by Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Awards programme and it began with two pilot schools in Co. Offaly. It is now being rolled out online across the Midlands through appropriate partnerships.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman commented,

‘Quiet Science, which focuses on science activities for children on the ASD spectrum is a project we embarked on last year. It allows pupils to participate in hands-on, engaging science lessons with resources and instruction provided. We are delighted that despite the current pandemic and school closures, we are still able to offer these activities online with our professional providers, ‘Anyone 4 Science’ and we have had an amazing response from parents and children alike.’

Before this programme was delivered, a suite of outreach activities was co-created with students and STEM providers in consultation with appropriate ASD education experts. The project will also produce a manual of best practice which will be circulated following evaluation of the project.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘Lockdowns are challenging for all of us, and we are glad we have been able to continue to provide outreach. The students particularly seem to like the fact that special kits are delivered to their homes in advance of the workshops. We also saw great engagement with our Facebook Live events, which were also provided by the team at Anyone 4 Science last summer and we were so proud of our Midlands pupils for continuing to celebrate science in these extraordinary times. Creating awareness of neurodiversity and seeing strength and opportunities in diversity is vital in life and science and we are pleased we are able to offer some services at the moment that people are finding to be really worthwhile and engaging.’

Midlands Science was delighted to receive some very encouraging feedback from parents whose children had participated in the Quiet Science events. One parent said, ‘After participating in the Quiet Science workshops my son feels like a real scientist. It might not be a big deal for others but for my child, it means the world. When he knew he was going to be taking the ‘Quiet Science’ workshop, he made sure to have his lab white coat and goggles ready, and don’t forget his lab name tag… of course. It has made a huge difference and put that shiny sparkle in his eyes.’

#lightitupblue #believeinscience

Sealife, Planets and Virtual Experiments!

Today in schools across the Midlands, we have the Rediscovery Centre, the Exploration Dome, Marine Dimensions, Anyone 4 Science, Secrets of Superhero Science & The Irish Peatland Conservation Council. Tonight it’s Baking in Space!

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

“ 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.”

We had some great feedback about our  workshops with Marine Dimensions yesterday where one teacher said,

‘The children loved it and learned lots. Being from a landlocked county, we are mad to learn all about marine life! It worked well in Zoom, and was quite interactive, which was great.’

 

#scienceweek #BelieveinScience

Snakes, Spiders and Sea creatures!

Today, as part of the Midlands Science festival we have a big focus on all things reptiles, sea creatures and other popular animals!

We have the Reptile Zoo, Dublin Zoo and Marine Dimensions all ready and waiting on zoom to chat to pupils across the Midlands and give them an up close introduction to the fantastic creatures they look after on a daily basis.

This is ideal way to demonstrate to children that science is all around us in so many different ways and get them really thinking and wondering about the world around them.

#believeinscience

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

 

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