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

 

Happy Pancake Day!

We know what we are eating all day so here’s the #science bit !!
Pancakes involve chemical reactions that create new flavours and textures. The chemical reaction is between a leavening agent [baking soda & baking powder] and an acidic ingredient [buttermilk] producing tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles form throughout the pancake, and are trapped as the batter cooks and solidifies. So you get a light and fluffy pancake honeycombed with tiny air pockets. The more of these leavening agents you add to a mixture, the more carbon dioxide will be produced, and the more bubbles will form. Once you have your tiny pockets of air bubbles, then comes the most complex and interesting part of the process.
This is the Maillard Reaction, and it’s this that gives pancakes their aroma, and a gorgeous golden brown colour. When you raise the heat on your pancake batter, the amino acids that make up the proteins begin to chemically bond with carbon and oxygen atoms from sugars. The end result is a complex brew of hundreds of different aromatic flavour inducing molecules, that give your food a distinctive and rich palette of flavours.
The Maillard reaction is behind the lovely flavour of roasted coffee, the malty flavour of certain beers and malt whiskey, that brown crust on a perfectly cooked steak, the nutty notes of maple syrup, or the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread. What’s more, the Maillard Reaction works best in an alkaline environment (i.e. a less acidic one). So the secret to getting that golden brown colour is to add more baking soda. Once you’ve added enough to neutralize the acidity of the buttermilk, anything left over will add to the browning. #pancaketuesday #believeinscience #pancakes

Bringing Science Home for Everyone

The team at Midlands Science has been working over the past ten months to continue to share our passion for science and promote the importance of science education during these challenging pandemic times. So much of our work relies on face-to-face interaction and usually we meet people in person and spread messages about science at events, in schools and our annual science, maths and engineering festivals. We have worked with our professional providers and science communication experts and we have adapted and found new ways to share our work throughout the Midlands and beyond, during the Coronavirus pandemic.

CEO of Midlands Science Jackie Gorman said,

‘Science in Your Sitting Room’ is the latest series of workshops which we are now delivering in partnership with Anyone4Science every Friday at 12:00pm. With schools closed once again and students unable to experience our events in their classrooms, we had to rethink how we reach young people and their families in the most fun and interactive way. We saw great engagement with our Facebook Live events, which were also provided by the team at Anyone 4 Science during the summer of 2020 and we were so proud of our Midlands pupils for continuing to celebrate science in these extraordinary times.’

Midlands Science is also pleased to be running eight weeks of ‘Quiet Science’ workshops for pupils who are on the ASD spectrum and these are taking place online every Saturday until March 13th These workshops are also delivered in partnership with Anyone 4 Science based on work done in 2020 with partner schools in our Quiet Science project.

‘Jackie Gorman continued,

‘At Midlands Science, we want to offer free and practical resources and support to all students, teachers and parents in navigating this new learning landscape. We are looking forward to exploring topics such as mould, bacteria, stress balls and toothpaste! We have been providing these particular online  events to schools in the Midlands region since March of 2020 and are delighted to now to be able to extend them out into the wider community.’

 

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