In 2013 my friend and collaborator Colin Wilkinson ran the Young People’s Programme at the British Science Festival. It remains the biggest event I have ever organised. This annual celebration of science, organised by the British Science Association, moves around the country. In September 2013 it came to Newcastle upon Tyne. The accompanying Young People’s Programme is a schools-focussed side-festival which includes talks, shows, workshops and other activities.
Colin and I have worked together for a long time and our approach is usually go big or go home. For this event we ultimately welcomed 6650 pupils, exceeding our original target by 48%. Activities were spread across 4 days and 4 different venues (Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Sunderland Museum and Newcastle City Learning Centre). There were different offers for different age groups – Key Stage 2 (age 7-11), Key Stage 3 (age 11-14), Key Stage 4 (age 14-16) and Post-16.
The programme included headline shows the Fire Show, Superhero Science, and Zombie Science, plus a hands-on exhibtion zone and workshops. At Key Stage 2 the hands-on workshops were most popular with Herbal Magic (making bath bombs), Magic of Chemistry (flame tests) and Animal Senses (live insects and other small animal) all scoring highly. At Key Stage 3 the hands-on exhibition was a big hit. At Key Stage 4, Fuelling Change (biofuels and model boats), My Community: Our Heritage (archaeological surveying) and Energy Dragon’s Den (comparing fuel sources) were all very popular.
Colin and I organised the entire programme including venue management, organising and scheduling the activities, coordinating school bookings, and recruiting staff and volunteers. As the event was run on a very tight budget there was a lot of work involved in negotiating contributions in-kind and supporting volunteers.
Feedback from both teachers and pupils was very positive with 98% of teachers rating it excellent or good. You can download the summary evaluation report below or contact me for the full evaluation.
A selection of photos from the British Science Festival Young People’s Programme in 2013 (credit Gavin Duthie Photography)