Back in November whilst I was working down in Wales I got an email about becoming and Education Outreach Fellow for my faculty. Outreach is something I have always wanted to be involved in and since some work in the first year of my PhD with a primary school have struggled to get into it really.
I applied for the position and to my surprise got it. This has involved working with the engagement department of the university and has had a big emphasis on delivering sessions during Leeds Festival of Science and British Science week. During this 2-week period I worked alongside the other biology outreach fellow doing practical workshops in high schools in west Yorkshire. We ran a session on DNA Gel electrophoresis and discussed the example of the Human Papilloma Virus, something that many of the kids were aware of from previous vaccination programmes.
The sessions were really rewarding and whilst seeing it as a taster of teaching there were definitely some moments we were thrown in at the deep end which was a steep learning curve but really enjoyable and a great experience. It was interesting to see how much emphasis is given to DNA technologies in the syllabus and how this has changed even in the last ten years since I did my GCSE’s. Having gone to a fairly rural school this is the sort of activity that would not have occurred in my high school and form the reaction of some of the teachers students this was definitely out of the ordinary.
The materials we were using were form a dedicated scientific education company which made running the sessions really easy with colour coded tubes and pre calibrated pipettes, it really took the stress out of planning and preparing when in the schools. Over the 2 weeks we ran sessions for almost 150 students which was busy but really rewarding, we have yet to receive the majority of the feedback from students and teachers but it was really good to engage children of this age and demonstrate how science isn’t just facts and talk about what we do as scientists.