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Inspiring young scientists

25 November 2013

Inspiring young scientists web

Two female scientists from the University are embarking on a mission to use both theatre and astronomy to inspire a new generation of scientists.

Dr Haley Gomez, an astrophysicist, and Wendy Sadler, Director of the award-winning spinout company, Science Made Simple, are both recipients of awards from the National Science Academy which is a Welsh Government Scheme designed to support STEM education in Wales.

Dr Haley Gomez, an astrophysicist, and Wendy Sadler, Director of the award-winning spinout company, Science Made Simple, are both recipients of awards from the National Science Academy which is a Welsh Government Scheme designed to support STEM education in Wales.

In recent years the numbers of students, notably women, taking up physical science subjects has been in decline. Outreach activities to engage young people are viewed by the Welsh Government as being vital to reversing this downward trend. STEM subjects, along with other numerical disciplines, are highly valued across a range of occupations, offering students varied career opportunities.

The Universe in your Classroom’ is a project led by Dr Gomez that aims to engage with 100 teachers and reach over 1400 Welsh primary school students. The initiative will employ a team of role models - ranging from astronomy undergraduates to professional astronomers - who will visit classrooms all across Wales (reaching 60,000 pupils over a decade). Role models will bring the wonders of the Universe into the classroom, by combining innovative teaching tools and technology including robotic telescopes, enquiry-based learning and Universe-in-a-box kits.

Dr Gomez from the School of Physics and Astronomy said:

"We now know that the way young children think is very similar to the way a scientist thinks, primary children like to test why things happen in an informal way and learn from watching and listening, linking different things together. So it's a perfect age to introduce these young scientists to the amazing universe and inspire them using creative activities based on the Moon, stars and other distant objects in the sky.

"Our diverse group of science role models will help demonstrate to young children that science is for everyone. We hope to help Welsh children (and their teachers) become more interested and more confident in science and technology, using the awe-inspiring medium of astronomy."

By establishing this project, Wales joins the Universe Awareness (UNAWE) project - a global initiative endorsed by the International Astronomical Union. It aims to use the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire young children and encourage them to develop an interest in science and technology in order to engender a sense of global citizenship.

Also based in the School of Physics and Astronomy, a University outreach company science made simple will be using quite a different technique to engage families with the wonder of science.


‘Science without words’ is a unique family theatre show that uses physical theatre, live science and humour to excite audiences about the science in the world around them. The show has no spoken language, but features a number of visually intriguing experiments presented by tech-savvy clowns to a musical soundtrack. The aim is to encourage children to ask more questions about the things they have seen, and to start conversations with their parents about science. The show is aimed at families with children from 4-11 years old and will be touring six theatre locations across Wales.

"We’re thrilled to be able to tour this show in our own region across Wales following a sell-out stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival," said Wendy Sadler. "Families are increasingly looking for entertaining and educational things that they can do together, and with the follow-on activities we provide after the show we want to get parents and grandparents actively involved in recreating elements of the show in the kitchen when they get back home.

"Research suggests that it is vitally important that parents are positive about science to help encourage children to choose it as a subject to study later in life. We believe that capturing this enthusiasm earlier in life is essential to build a supply of future scientists and engineers for Wales," she added.

Related links

Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy
Science Made Simple
EU Universe Awareness

 

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