Year 10 Science Camp

… A week of inspirational challenges for all involved…

Science Camp

As a Year 10 student looking at work experience options I would have jumped at the opportunity to work in a lab. In fact my mum and I tried extremely hard to get me a lab placement but, despite several weeks of begging different labs in the area, the response was always the same- “Not until you are doing a degree will we take on a student for work experience”….. Not very useful for a 15 year old wanting to know if life as a scientist is something they want to pursue. This is why I was eager to get involved in the Year 10 Science Camp run at JIC.

(Science Camp runs for one week in July and is for year 10 students in and around Norfolk. During the week students are hosted by researchers doing one day projects, they attend practicals, go to question and answer sessions with researchers and learn how to present their own science projects to their peers and teachers. Check out the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JICScienceCamp, or Storify: https://storify.com/Yr10ScienceCamp/the-year-10-science-camp-2013)

Challenge 1: Supervising

I signed up to host a student for the day, setting up a small project for them to do. I even managed to remember to plant my seeds 2 weeks in advance, ready for the day. It was only on the day that I realised that maybe I was being too ambitious in asking my student to learn how to dissect maize plants down to the meristem (less than 1mm in size!) and then image them using a confocal microscope. I even realised that I was uncertain about what I knew about biology age 15…..

Maize meristems are less than 1mm in size. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Maize meristems are less than 1mm in size. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

However my student was extremely enthusiastic even after I explained her project (helping me to test some predictions generated through computational modelling of Maize leaf growth). Within two hours she had learnt how to dissect Maize plants and we started on the confocal imaging. By the end of the day we had a collection of images and we had even made a 3D moving picture of one of her leaf samples. Throughout the day she had a constant stream of questions and her enthusiasm and knowledge really impressed me, reminding me why I do science!

Challenge 2: Teaching

Teaching was the second challenge I volunteered for. The aim of the class? To explain why we use computer modelling and its benefits and how we use modelling to answer the question; How is shape determined during plant growth?

Students get involved with a computer modelling workshop

Students get involved with a computer modelling workshop

As I have never taught a proper class before (it is bit of a step up from the occasional lunch time tutor session!) it was a daunting task but I was ably helped by a team of volunteers from my lab. It is very different explaining your work to a roomful of scientists versus school students! I realised that I was most afraid of a roomful of blank faces closely followed by the question “What is the point of this?” but thankfully this didn’t seem to be the outcome.

Getting to grips with computer modelling of leaf shape

Getting to grips with computer modelling of leaf shape

By the end of the session the students had attempted to model the shape of a leaf collected on the walk over to the computer lab and many other weird and wonderful shapes. The students were even keen on showing each other what they had produced, generating a lot of jokes……

I would definitely say that Year 10 Science Camp is an amazing opportunity, not just for the year 10s but for the participating scientists too and I would recommend it to everyone. I think that it really achieves its tag-line of “Step into science and be inspired”, for everyone involved.

by Annis Richardson- a second year PhD student in the lab of Prof Enrico Coen

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