Science is yummy

24 May 2011

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We’re already making preparation for this year’s Midsummer Picnic. Eleanor Lanyon has been out and about, finding out what archaeology and scotch pancakes have in common…

‘Science is yummy,’ said a small, muffled voice beside me. It was one of my new young friends from the West Euston Time Bank homework club, speaking with her mouth full. I’d just run the latest in a series of ‘hands-on’ science sessions for this local community group, and she was eating her ‘stratigraphy stack’ – a model showing how archaeology builds up over time featuring scotch pancakes (Romans, Medieval and Post-Medieval) and cream cheese (Saxons, Tudor and Now).

This is the third year in a community engagement project with the group, which involves a series of workshops and activities that culminate in the Wellcome Collection Midsummer Picnic on Saturday 25 June. The group decided this year to focus on the children’s homework club and school holiday family activity programme, and we developed the idea of workshops exploring science in its widest sense. The aim is to deliver a range of hands-on experiences that inspire the children and their parents to see science as fun, absorbing and everywhere.

The project has certainly diversified my work – I could never have anticipated some of the activities we’ve done: erupting volcanoes, constructing solar system mobiles, launching paper rockets, reconstructing ‘ancient’ pottery, making sherbet and mento fountains. Never before have I spent so much time in a major DIY chain store working out what I need to create a rocket launcher, or what size flowerpots will make the best ‘archaeology’ when decorated and smashed. This is Blue Peter methodology at its finest.

Both myself and the group have enjoyed the opportunity to see professional science communicators in action, with a science show (Science Boffins) and a food science session that involved getting the audience wet, and hammering custard. The shows introduced some scientific terminology – hypothesis, reaction and so on – as well as exploring particular materials and experiments.

We’re now working on what activities will be on offer at the Midsummer picnic itself, held in Cumberland Market NW1 and open to all. We’re taking the most popular activities from the workshops – paper rockets, camera-less photography and hands-on experiments – and adding science shows, demonstrations, performances and food. Our Hypothesis is that the Reactions between these different Elements will result in a winning Compound!

Eleanor Lanyon is Library Outreach Officer, and part of the Wellcome Collection Events team.