CBeebies Big Day Out

Tuesday 11th August 2015

 

The phone rang.

“Hello, my name is Anthony, I’m from BBC Learning. Are you familiar with CBeebies?”

I squeaked that I was. In fact, having three children under 10, I am VERY familiar with the tv channel!

Anthony was organising the science component of The CBeebies Big Day Out with The Furchester Hotel. A free five day festival in Weston Super Mare, described on Twitter as “Woodstock for toddlers”. As someone who usually works very locally, I was genuinely surprised by the call. It turns out that Jon Wood, one of the BBC’s regular festival science presenters had said “If you’re doing CBeebies, you need Sarah Bearchell”.

So last week, we found ourselves in a huge inflatable tent in Weston Super Mare. We ran different activities around a food theme, to fit in with the BBC Dish Up campaign. Children could explore cornflour/water gloop, consider additives to breakfast cereals and test the freshness of eggs but there were two favourite activities amongst families.

The first was the taste test where children donned a mask (in the Furchester theme), pinched their nose and tried to work out what kind of fruit juice they were drinking. The aim was to show how we use more than just our sense of taste when eating. Small children have never been so eager to be blindfolded! In fact, the masks were so popular, the Sesame Workshop puppeteers asked for them at the end of the week.

 

Masks

 

The other favourite involved using a fake digestive system to explore the passage of food through the body. We became known on site as The Poo Man and The Poo Lady and whole families promised to track their digestion by having sweetcorn for tea. A kind of faecal Track ’n’ Trace.

Plate to poo

As the festival was a free event, it relied heavily on volunteers to help run activities. We had two fabulous Oxford-based helpers: Luiza Patorski (Science Oxford) and Jules Pottle (Science Through Stories). They did an amazing job, spreading delight and enthusiasm in equal measure. I’d like to say a huge THANK YOU both to you and all the other volunteers who made it possible.

40,000 people came through the gates with the intention of seeing Rastamouse and The Furchester Hotel Show; a large proportion of them visited our tent. We found that whole families were eagerly engaging with our activities; the adults were beaming with delight at their children’s discoveries and often confessing that they had never thought about science for such a young audience.

The whole event was enormous fun and a truly amazing experience. I’m still singing the Rastamouse theme in my head but I think I’ve finally got all the fake poo out of my hair.

Dr Sarah Bearchell (Sarah’s Adventures in Science) is an award-winning freelance science presenter. Most of her work is with primary school audiences in Oxfordshire. She also specialises in science for the very young and for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

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