This year we’ve teamed up with The Renewal Trust to bring a nationwide science programme called ‘Curiosity’ to Nottingham, giving children and young people across the city the chance to benefit from free, inspiring science activities chosen and led by them.
Over the past month, we’ve started running science sessions in out-of-school youth clubs and play groups across Nottingham, as part of the nationwide ‘Curiosity’ project, funded by a joint venture from Wellcome and Children in Need. The project aims to take science into informal youth settings to see how it can be used to address issues affecting young people, like confidence, communication skills and self-belief. Our ‘Curiosity’ project with The Renewal Trust is just one of 32 local projects chosen to be part of the overall national programme, so this is great news for Nottingham.
We’ve been working with groups for children and young people aged 0 to 18 across different parts of Nottingham – from Bulwell to Sneinton, from Strelley to Forest Fields and we’ve been kept on our toes by some really insightful and curious young people. We’ve had questions like ‘How does Antarctica work?’ and ‘Are there any hedgerows in Nottingham with more than ten types of plant?’; we’ve had teenagers who want to test their ‘hypothesis’, ten year olds who can name the elements of the periodic table and five year olds who already know what static electricity is.
But all the young people we’ve been working with have started off from different levels of interest and engagement, and a key thing has been building up trust and relationships with the young people week on week. A real highlight was when the teenage boys at one of the youth clubs who usually don’t bother with us all lined up in a row and patiently waited for their alka-seltzer rockets to launch!
And ‘science’ isn’t just about technical terms, it’s about investigation, experimentation, observation; it’s about exploring the world around us. So with the under 3s at a local Tots Time, we’ve been playing with light, shadows and colours, and with the play groups we’ve been scrambling around their local environment looking for bugs and leaves to put under microscopes. We’ve been categorizing plants, creating new names for them in Slovakian and working out the best solution for cleaning coins – cherry lemonade, by the way, works just as well as vinegar.
We’re beginning to see no reason why science can’t be used to address issues affecting young people, just like sports, music and drama are. Science offers a platform for young people to think creatively, be imaginative, independent and speak up for themselves.
Over the summer holidays we’ll be working with holiday clubs and refugee groups to see how science can form part of summer out-of-school programmes, including science-busking sessions at The Renewal Trust’s Community Fun Day on 29 July. And we’re hoping that we’ll be able to extend our work in
partnership with The Renewal Trust to engage more ‘real’ scientists with new funding rounds at the end of the year.