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Public engagement

We are passionate advocates of science as a part of everyday culture, and share our enthusiasm for biology through visits to museums and schools. Activities include public lectures, classroom workshops, open days for schools at the university, and public events at Weston Park Museum.

‘Sunshine for Breakfast’ Christmastime Lecture 2013
Over 1,000 local school children raised the roof with an almighty roar as our 3rd Annual Christmastime Lecture got underway at the Octagon on December 3rd. In the talk, ‘Sunshine for Breakfast’, Colin explained how plants capture the sun’s energy and convert it into the food that powers our bodies. Onstage demonstrations included a bike race, a pyramid made of enough baked beans to feed a child for a year, a pizza dissection, a sugar fire ball and two plant fuelled rockets that shot up off the stage. The highlight came when Colin revealed the world’s first ever robotic plant, which split water before our eyes using the energy from a strong light source, by the same process of photosynthesis as occurs in a living plant. Click here to see pictures of the event.

Sideshow Science has proved a success in our work with the museum. This involves live demonstrations of scientific principles in the museum atrium on busy days in the school holidays. The sideshow is aimed at primary-aged children and their families, and the emphasis is firmly on having fun, joining in, and taking ideas home to play with.

Sideshow Science: October 2012

We asked ‘How do plants fly?’ in a hands-on demo of seed dispersal for kids. We blew sycamore helicopters into the air with a giant fan and checked that coconuts really do float in water. With help from the three bears in their furry costumes we showed how animals disperse hooked seeds, and considered the mucky business of how birds and mammals spread seeds from the fruit they eat. Thanks to Hazel and Ellen for making a fantastic plant costume to show that the idea of a walking plant is a very silly one indeed …

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Sideshow Science: March 2012

We looked at how animals’ ┬áteeth are adapted to the food they eat. With help from some of our undergraduate science champions, we asked ‘Why don’t we eat grass?’, and showed how plant, fish and meat eaters manage to consume their meals. We zoomed into some human mouths with a mini camera to get up close to our own teeth.

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Sideshow Science: October 2011

We took on photosynthesis in ‘How to make a plant’. With help from casts of young helpers throughout the day, we put on performances for the grown-ups to act out how photosynthesis works, showing them how plants make sugar from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. Then we extracted chlorophyll from leaves.

[click on photos to enlarge]