What is the Mobile Lab?
This activity, which began in April 2014 and has since been much in demand by local schools, was designed by our Public Engagement Officer, Hélène Doerflinger. A team of five volunteers (chosen from among the Gurdon Institute Post-docs and PhD students) turns up at a local state primary school with a van full of microscopes and specimens. Each visit consists of a two-hour, hands-on workshop for 30 children in Year 5. The children put on lab coats and are guided to use the microscopes for mini experiments, to discover what a cell looks like, or to understand the life of a model organism such as the fruit fly.
The children are thrilled to have access to real scientific materials, to do experiments and to meet working scientists. We have had positive feedback from 98% of the children so far.
The teachers are also very enthusiastic about the experience. They find that the activity is pitched at the right level; they note that the children are very much engaged and value the fact that we bring real equipment and real samples into the class. In fact, all the schools we have visited so far have asked us to come back the following year to see the next set of children reaching Year 5.
Between January and July 2015, 270 children in Year 5 were visited by the Mobile Lab; this was a considerable increase on our first year (2014) in which we visited a handful of classes in Years 2, 3 and 5. In 2016 we are booked in to see 300 children in Year 5.
“I did enjoy it because it was so interesting and it felt like I was a real scientist.”
“I enjoyed the workshop because it was the best science lesson ever!”
We are happy to share our learning and experience to others who might like to offer such an activity to other schools. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (note that our Mobile Lab calendar of visits is fully booked).
Specific funding for this project was provided by grants from the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund in 2013 and Higher Education Innovation Funding in 2015.