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

Discovering Science Online!

The Midlands Science Festival  got off to a great and busy start on Saturday when we held our online Discovery Day and hosted a range of  workshops, science fun, creative experiments and more. In a time of uncertainty, the Midlands Science  team is conscious that it is more important than ever to provide activities for our audiences to ensure that they keep learning about science in an accessible way.

Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, the Superhero Scientist, Anyone4Science, the Exploration Dome, The Reptile Zoo and Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience entertained and educated on the day and we had so many amazing questions from so many children from the Midlands and beyond, making it a really interactive and fun day of science and learning.

#believeinscience

Science Knitting Patterns for Science Week!

 

The Midlands Science Festival is a free, family-friendly, programme of events which allows people of all ages to discover something new, participate in a number of hands-on science and technology activities and see a whole host of live performances by science enthusiasts and communicators.

We even have some science knitting patterns for those with a talent for crafting! Why not create a common virus or some body parts from wool in a fun (and non-contagious!) way.

We have plenty exciting science experiments on the way in just a few days time. We will bringing a whole range of workshops activities to Midlands schools from marine exploration and reptiles to superhero science and sustainability and also to people at home with our digital Discovery day taking place on November 7th to kick things off and our informative talks on issues such as resilience and the science of skin!

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).

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

 

Thoughts on World Book Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Dr. Mindflip comes to Athlone for Engineer’s Week

Midlands Science is pleased to announce that ‘Dr. Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience’ will be cruising into Athlone as part of the annual Engineer’s Week celebrations which will be taking place across the Midlands in the coming weeks.

Engineers Week is a week-long festival of nationwide activities celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland and events kick off on February 29th in a number of schools, libraries and other venues around the country. Dr. Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience is aimed towards secondary students and was developed in partnership with Dr. Dan Nickström from The Department of Experimental Physics at Maynooth University and a large team of artists, designers, musicians, gamers and actors.

When asked what to expect, Dan said, “Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience is a light-hearted and educational choose-your-own-adventure-game which takes place in a specially designed caravan that’s kitted out to allow participants to explore the many aspects of physics in a fun and unique way. It’s funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Institute of Physics and takes a gaming approach to learning so each choice that people make determines what will happen next. I am delighted to be coming to the Aidan Heavy Library for a drop-in event in Athlone in March and look forward to meeting as many people as possible to join in the Engineer’s Week celebrations in the Midlands for 2020. And don’t worry if you know absolutely nothing about physics, all you need is a curious mind!”

In 2019, there were over 850 Engineers Week activities organised in the community. The aim of each event is to positively showcase engineering as a rewarding and creative career choice to children in all communities. This fantastic, free Midlands Science engineering experience is being delivered in Co. Westmeath in partnership with the Aidan Heavy Library in Athlone and it will take place there from 11am until 4pm on March 4th. Each session can facilitate six people at a time and each session lasts twenty minutes. The event is suitable for ages 13 and up.

Mae McLynn of the Aidan Heavy Library said, ‘We are really looking forward to hosting this Midlands Science event and to welcoming Dr. Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience to Athlone. The library is always looking for ways to encourage more enthusiasm and interest in both engineering and science as future career options amongst second level pupils and this is the ideal way to do exactly that in a fun and interactive way.’

This is a drop in event. Please contact Mae McLynn in the Aidan Heavey Public Library, Athlone, Co. Westmeath

090 6442157 for further information.

Photo:

Dr. Dan Nickström from Maynooth University at a recent Midlands Science Experience Engineering event with Westmeath students.