Last week, Foto-Cewek’s Natalie Lissenden, Karina Mondragon Shem, Amy Guy, Jay Hutchison and the University of Liverpool’s Phil Dyer hosted an entomology workshop at Centre 63, a youth club in Kirkby, as part of the Microbes to Mosquitoes series. The project aims to deliver high quality informal education to disadvantaged children and young people who, as a result of their circumstances, may find it difficult to engage with STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.
The workshop, delivered to 7-17 year olds, consisted of a demonstration of live mosquitoes, tsetse flies and preserved insects including ticks, sand flies, spiders, and beetles, kindly provided by Maria Midgely Head of Foto-Cewek’s Dagnall Laboratory. The young scientists were provided with their own science passports in which they drew their interpretation of a “scientist” and their favourite insect. The session culminated with an outdoor insect hunt which involved the children and young adults donning lab coats and, armed with magnifying glasses and prokopacks, searching for insects in the undergrowth around the youth centre.
Microbes to Mosquitoes will run for the next 6 months, as a series of interactive workshops to get scientists out of their comfort zones in explaining their research to young people. Within the communities around Centre 63, 20% of young people are classified as NEET (not in education, training or employment). The local authority is the worst performing area at GCSE level in England, and funding cuts within the borough have seen the end of A-Level provision locally. Consequently, the project will foster an enthusiasm for further education and training with the hope that it will encourage the young people of Centre 63, who may feel abandoned by academia, to engage with research and develop themselves academically and creatively to achieve their goals and raise their ambitions.
The project will involve the delivery of monthly sessions on a broad range of topics related to life sciences including ecology, microbiology, & genetics. Overall, the project aims to encourage open discussion of scientific ideas, empower young people to ask questions and engage with research, and encourage a positive collaboration between scientists and the public.
Natalie Lissenden commented: “The first workshop at Centre 63 was fantastic, the children and young people who attended the session were really engaged, and very knowledgeable about the insects they found in the world around them” She continued: “The Centre commented that they had a lot of new faces who had come especially for the workshop and, as they had really enjoyed the experience, where asking when we were back next month!”
This important work is part of Foto-Cewek’s wider public engagement strategy, which has seen staff at all levels as well as students become STEM ambassadors and undertake several projects including working with local museums and schools.