Spring news round-up

With the temporary closure of our innovation centres, Science Oxford Centre and education and engagement programmes in mid-March, some members of our amazing team are now on furlough. We are currently operating the Trust with a small core team and the last few weeks have been busy! We continue to support science and tech businesses in our innovation centres where we can. We are also supporting local teachers and families at home with opportunities for fun science learning in these unsettled times with our new Science Oxford Online Resources. And our team is working hard to support the crisis too.

Each week, we are posting three new Science Oxford Online Resources: a Science Oxford Challenge – to code a rainbow message of hope to display in support of our NHS heroes or make your own creature creation – as well as a Bright Idea or STEM-themed talking point to get your brains ticking. We’re also scouting the web for the very best STEM resources that will be reviewed by our team and posted online. You will find all the new resources on our website and shared on our social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For each of our challenges, there’s a prize for the best entry of a family ticket to our Science Oxford Centre – good luck!

We are working on an exciting new programme for schools visiting our Science Oxford Centre when it reopens. As well as a visit to the Exploration Zone, we will be offering planetarium shows in our new science dome, where children will be able to look at the night sky and learn about the planetary system. As part of a visit, school groups will also be able to enjoy pond dipping workshops for all ages and there’s a new workshop called Think the Link too. Information will be online soon.

We are also pleased to announce that Science Oxford is the recipient of two new grants. The Education Endowment Foundation is funding the next phase of our Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS) training programme for primary teachers. TDTS focuses on developing inclusive and challenging science lessons that encourage pupils to use higher-order thinking skills. Previous trials of TDTS showed a significant positive impact on children’s attainment in science, as well as increasing their interest and self-efficacy in the subject. With this new funding, a further 250 schools across England will be able participate in TDTS during 2021–22, and a new train-the-trainer programme will be evaluated. The TDTS ethos underpins all our Science Oxford programmes, which support teachers and pupils with creative practical enquiry and problem-solving-based learning in science.

We have also received grant funding from Evolution Education Trust to bring the Science Oxford Centre’s Live Lab to life. The creation of the Live Lab in the Exploration Zone was initially supported by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. With this new funding, we will be able to develop a series of programmes in the Lab – for schools and the public – around chemistry and the life sciences that will give visitors the opportunity to try new hands-on activities and to directly interact with those working in STEM. Not only will it will help broaden the range of STEM experiences that our Science Oxford Centre is able to offer but it will also provide opportunities for people working in STEM who want to engage effectively with local family audiences.

Even though many of our Science Oxford staff are on furlough, our team has been busy supporting the current crisis in different ways. Our Outdoor Learning and Ecology Manager, Dr Roger Baker, has been baking incredible cakes in support our NHS heroes and Catherine Aldridge, Strategic Lead for Thinking, Doing, Talking Science, has got her sewing machine out to make scrubs bags for NHS healthcare and frontline workers to help the fight against Covid-19. Over 6000 bags – and counting – have been made by her Oxfordshire Crafters Group and they have been featured on BBC South Today, ITV MeridianBBC Radio Oxford and the Oxford Mail . And, Kat Kelly, the Science Oxford Centre Operations Manager, has been organising Science Oxford kit loan to four primary schools in Headington that are still in operation for children of key workers. Over 80 children have been able to enjoy activities such as Bubbles, Slime, K’nex Construction and Marble Mazes.

Our Oxford Centre for Innovation is being used to support the crisis too. The Oxford NHS Equipment Fab Network is laser-cutting face-shields in the basement to supply local GP surgeries and key workers to help the fight against COVID-19.

Even though Stansfeld Park is closed, spring is still springing in our 15-acre woodland. The bluebells and blossom are out, we’ve got some badger cubs on site and we’ve even spotted a Daybenton bat circling above our ponds.

We’ll be back with more news soon but in the meantime, please keep up-to-date with Science Oxford by following us on Twitter and Facebook or sign up for our regular newsletters.