‘Gopher Science Lab’ kick-started National Biology Week on Saturday with some fun family activities at the Big Biology Day in Cambridge

Gopher Science Lab is a hands-on workshop designed especially for inquisitive primary aged children where we use house-hold items, familiar analogies, simple language and fun to encourage natural curiosity. For the Big Biology Day we used some crafty activities devised by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to construct DNA origami models and make complimentary base paired bracelets.

Nine year old Elliott agreed to Google the length of an unravelled chromosome when he got home, three year old Alexander was able to match up a sequence of beads for a snake and a butterfly, and lots of parent questions kept our explainers on their toes.

Aside from the Gopher Science Lab activities, children and their families participated in a selection of biological activities from many other biologically orientated organizations such as the Society of Biology and the RSPB, and audiences were given the opportunity to ask questions about the science behind the fun.

Background to the Big Biology Day
Ian Harvey (Head of Biology at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge Science Festival Organizer, and Biochemical Society Education Committee Member) was inspired to set up the Big Biology Day as his offering to the family audiences of Cambridge for the first ever National Biology Week. To say that Ian is an enthusiastic communicator of his science would not do him justice. Mr Harvey shares his fervour for biology with his students, colleagues and anyone else who happens to be around. His excitement is contagious and if you are a scientist within earshot, it will not be long before you too will be drawn in to one of his schemes. Ian is fast becoming known in the town for his owl pellet dissections and even has his own secret pellet dealer!

As well as the usual Gopher team, we enlisted some “Guest Gopher Gurus” to drop in to lend a hand for an hour or two with the help of our Cambridge-based Local Ambassadors Dr Sue Ozanne and Dr Rik Van Veen. Alexa Hime was on hand once again to start off the activities, making it an ideal event for anyone who was new to public engagement. It wasn’t long before all the volunteers were confidently engaging with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds. A Huge thanks to our Guest Gurus: Anna Cooper (our colleague at Portland Press Ltd),and PhD students Emily Rowe and Naomi Penfold (Institute of Metabolic Science) and Emma Robinson (Babraham Institute).

Jane Thomson, School Projects Manager, Biochemical Society

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