Just had a great two weeks participating in the ‘I’m a Scientist get me out of here’ scheme http://imascientist.org.uk/
This is a free online event where school students get to meet and interact with scientists. It’s sort of like an X Factor competition between scientists, where the students are the judges.
The students could ask questions to us over live online chat rooms (these were very fast paced with the type of question varying drastically!) and also they could email questions which allowed more time to construct a considered reply.
It was a great exercise for the scientists involved, it made me consider how to explain scientific facts at a lower level (and found I rather enjoyed it). I was part of the Primary School Zone so it was refreshing to get to explain some pretty complex science in a paired down fashion.
Also I was pleasantly surprised by how inquiring the children’s minds were and impressed they had an understanding and interest in bacteria!
Here’s a list of a few of the questions I was asked
• What’s the best thing about being a scientist?
• If bacterium can eat other bacterium could we use them to help us?
• Do you know how many good bacterias there are and how many bad bacterias there are?
• What is the deadliest bacteria?
• What is the largest bacteria?
• How did the plague start and how did people survive it?
• How to grey clouds know when to rain?
• How many cells do u have in your whole body?
• Who invented time?
• Why does age affect your health?
So these pretty insightful questions were also interspersed with a lot of questions about zombies. Think they must be popular with the under 10s at the moment!
This fun experience suddenly became tense when in the second week the power was in the students hands to vote to keep their favourite scientist in till then end.
The other scientists in my zone were all very active at answering questions and posting lots of videos to aid their explanations so it was tough competition for the children’s votes.
However I managed to make it to the final round! Then was beaten by a very interesting Geohazard Scientist, even I learnt a lot from his answers and his research sounds pretty cool too.
I would recommend getting involved with ‘I’m a Scientist get me out of here’ to all PhD students, even those who don’t think of themselves being good/interested in science communication. It not only gave me a different perspective on children’s perception of science but also on my own work! The enthusiasm of the organizers and the children reminds you why science is brilliant, which is good to remember on the days when cloning is proving the most stubborn thing in the world…