Science Oxford’s spring news

With the temporary closure of our Science Oxford Centre and programmes in March, we said farewell to some members of our amazing Science Oxford team before they went on furlough. We are now operating with a small core team and the last few weeks have been busy as we continue to support local teachers and families with opportunities for science learning.

The start of the summer term this week sees the launch of our first Science Oxford Challenge – to code a rainbow message of hope on your computer or BBC micro:bit that you will be able to display in support of our NHS heroes. We look forward to seeing them in windows around Oxfordshire! When you’ve made yours, email us a photo to [email protected] or post it on Twitter or Facebook and tag @scienceoxford #scienceoxfordchallenge. For each of our challenges, there’s a prize for the best entry of a family ticket to our Science Oxford Centre – good luck!

Our challenges are just one of several of our Science Oxford Resources that we are developing for teachers in school and families with children at home. Each week, we will post a new challenge as well as a Bright Idea or STEM-themed talking point to get your brains ticking. We’re also scouting the web for the very best STEM resources that will be reviewed by our team and posted online. You will find all the new resources on our website and shared on our social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We hope to re-open our Science Oxford Centre with an exciting new programme in September. As well as a visit to the Exploration Zone, we will be offering planetarium shows in our new science dome, where children will be able to look at the night sky and learn about the planetary system. As part of a visit, school groups will also be able to enjoy pond dipping workshops for all ages and there’s a new workshop called Think the Link too. Information will be online soon and we will let you know when schools can start booking visits.

We are also pleased to announce that Science Oxford is the recipient of two new grants. The Education Endowment Foundation is funding the next phase of our Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS) training programme for primary teachers. TDTS focuses on developing inclusive and challenging science lessons that encourage pupils to use higher-order thinking skills. Previous trials of TDTS showed a significant positive impact on children’s attainment in science, as well as increasing their interest and self-efficacy in the subject. With this new funding, a further 250 schools across England will be able participate in TDTS during 2021–22, and a new train-the-trainer programme will be evaluated. The TDTS ethos underpins all our Science Oxford programmes, which support teachers and pupils with creative practical enquiry and problem-solving-based learning in science.

We have also received grant funding from Evolution Education Trust to bring the Science Oxford Centre’s Live Lab to life. The creation of the Live Lab in the Exploration Zone was initially supported by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. With this new funding, we will be able to develop a series of programmes in the Lab – for schools and the public – around chemistry and the life sciences that will give visitors the opportunity to try new hands-on activities and to directly interact with those working in STEM. Not only will it will help broaden the range of STEM experiences that our Science Oxford Centre is able to offer but it will also provide opportunities for people working in STEM who want to engage effectively with local family audiences.

Science Oxford manages the Oxford hub of the Presenter Network – set up for those who are actively involved in presenting in museums, science and discovery centres and visitor centres in the UK. It will now be run by our School Projects Officer, Ian Snell. The next event is a free interactive online workshop featuring Roberta Wilkinson and Matthew Kemp from Geologise Theatre called Science, Story and Song. It is open to presenter members in the region and membership is free.

Even though many of our Science Oxford staff are on furlough, our team has been busy supporting the current crisis in different ways. Our Outdoor Learning and Ecology Manager, Dr Roger Baker, has been baking incredible cakes in support our NHS heroes and Catherine Aldridge, Strategic Lead for Thinking, Doing, Talking Science, has got her sewing machine out to make scrubs bags for NHS healthcare and frontline workers to help the fight against Covid-19. Over 6000 bags – and counting – have been made by her Oxfordshire Crafters Group and they have been featured on BBC South Today, ITV Meridian, BBC Radio Oxford and the Oxford Mail in the last week. And, Kat Kelly, the Science Oxford Centre Operations Manager, has been organising Science Oxford kit loan to four primary schools in Headington that are still in operation for children of key workers. Over 80 children have been able to enjoy activities such as Bubbles, Slime, K’nex Construction and Marble Mazes.

Even though our Centre is closed, spring is still springing in our 15-acre woodland at Stansfeld Park. The bluebells and blossom are out, we’ve got some badger cubs on site and we’ve even spotted a Daybenton bat circling above our ponds.

We’ll be back with more news soon but in the meantime, please keep up-to-date with Science Oxford by following us on Twitter and Facebook or sign up for our regular newsletters.

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