ExpeRimental brings science home

The Royal Institution of Great Britain is set to launch a major new project, ExpeRimental, which aims to kick-start a revolution in science learning by supporting and empowering parents to do exciting and easy science activities at home with young children.

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News

The Royal Institution of Great Britain (Ri) is set to launch a major new project, ExpeRimental, which aims to kick-start a revolution in science learning by supporting and empowering parents to do exciting and easy science activities at home with young children.

The project will launch with three short films on Thursday 17 July 2014 at www.rigb.org/expeRimental and the remaining seven films will be released one per week until 4 September. All the films will be free to watch.

ExpeRimental aims to give viewers the confidence and ideas to explore, question and test some of the fundamentals of science with children aged four to nine. The activities have been specifically designed to appeal to those families who have never considered doing science at home with their children or who do not feel confident in their abilities to do so.

This first set of 10 short films will be presented by parents and children from across London, Manchester, Eastbourne and Dublin and all the activities will require only common household objects or cheap and easy to buy materials. The project will also use social media to build a supportive community of home ‘ExpeRimenters’.

Dr Gail Cardew, Director of Science and Education at the Ri, said: “For 200 years our mission has been to encourage people to think more deeply about the wonders and applications of science and the Royal Institution is often called ‘the home of the science demo’.

“Our latest project, ExpeRimental, embodies this 200 year old mission completely by bringing exciting hands-on science into people’s homes, wherever they may live.

She added: “Supporting families to do science at home is hugely important. 84% of the UK public agree that science is such a big part of our lives that we should all take an interest, but only 41% of adults and 51% of 16-24 year olds feel informed about science [1]. Only a third of parents feel confident in helping with their children’s homework [2].

“These films have also been developed as a resource for primary school teachers and other professionals working with children. This is to address the fact that according to research by the Wellcome Trust, science is mostly taught by non-specialists in primary schools and nurseries and the amount of time devoted to science in the primary phase has declined in recent years [3].”

“With ExpeRimental, our ultimate goal is to help parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, health workers, foster parents and childcare professionals to spark the natural curiosity of children at an early age and to set them on a lifelong course of scientific exploration and investigation.”

Physics teacher and filmmaker Alom Shaha who developed the project said: “There are countless science demonstration YouTube films, science kits, parenting activity books and other resources already, but our research shows there is a clear need for activity ideas that are underpinned by a solid scientific foundation, are presented by real people viewers can relate to, and are explained in a way that is accessible and enjoyable.

“For example, ExpeRimental will demonstrate how making and playing with homemade cannons can turn the concepts around energy and forces into an explosive reality and how a homemade lava lamp can create a mesmerising illustration of the connection between density and whether things float or sink.

“ExpeRimental films encourage viewers to go several steps further than simply carrying out the activity. As well as covering basic scientific facts, ExpeRimental focuses on developing scientific skills like observation, prediction and how to conduct a fair test. Worksheets will help parents to prompt their children to look more closely at what’s happening, to ask questions and to discover the answers for themselves.”

Adam, aged 7 who features in 'Musical coathangers’ said: “It's mind blowing and epic how you can find different things to do experiments with at home. I liked finding all the things that could make sounds.”

Xanthe, aged 9 who features in ‘Balancing sculptures’ said: “It was cool, really fun and easy to do because all the stuff was lying around the house. I wasn't expecting the carrot to balance with only two marshmallows!”

Alom continued: “We believe ExpeRimental has the potential to have a huge impact on informal science learning and we have plans in place to expand the project to ensure that our films are representative of and accessible to all families and young children.

“We are keen to explore working with specialists and local organisations to raise awareness of the project in rural and under-served communities, to recruit and train up new contributors, and to eventually create a library of films that meet the needs of families from different cultures, those where English is not the first language and those who have children with varying needs and abilities.

He added: “We hope ExpeRimental will become the first place people think of when they need new inspiration on how to capture a child’s imagination and encourage them to explore the world around them in a more meaningful and hands-on way.”

The first 10 ExpeRimental films have been funded by the Gillespie Trust Fund.

Sponsorship and partnership opportunities exist to support further development and expansion of the project.

References

1 Public attitudes towards science, Ipsos MORI 2014

2 Goodall & Vorhaus, September 2011

3 2008 Wellcome Trust report on Primary School Science Education

Contact

For more information and to arrange interviews or demonstrations, please contact:

Hayley Burwell

Marketing and Communications Manager, Royal Institution 

e: hburwell@ri.ac.uk

t: 020 7670 2991

Additional materials

A Google drive containing the following materials for use in print or online is available:

-      Still images

-      Video trailer

-      Video clips

-      Example worksheets

-      Example certificates

-      Supporting evidence

Please email Hayley at hburwell@ri.ac.uk to request access.

About the Ri

The Royal Institution (Ri) has been at the forefront of public engagement with science for over 200 years and our purpose has always been to encourage people to think further about the wonders and applications of science.

We lead on a national programme of Masterclasses for young people in mathematics, engineering and computer science, run a variety of educational activities at the L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre, hold more than 60 public events each year, deliver the world-famous CHRISTMAS LECTURES and, through the Ri Channel, share the exciting stories behind cutting-edge science with people around the world.