The 11th- 20th March 2022 is British Science Week and it’s so great that we have to give it a full 10 days.
Five years ago today I completed “Run the Solar System” a guided audio tour of the Solar System running 10km around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to mark the start of British Science Week 2017 – I remember it well, because I had my first date with my partner that evening and had to hobble on my red giant of a blister to meet him and I’ve been an overexcited liability ever since.
STEM fanatic or occasional consumer of David Attenborough – the fabulous thing about British Science Week is it is open to all. Lots of organisations get involved sharing awesome resources, inspiring stories and free events – it’s well worth checking out the hashtag #BSW22 if you’re social media savvy or just checking in with local community groups and places (such as libraries, museums, wildlife charities etc.) to see what’s on local to you.
British Science Week also provide free activity packs for schools and community groups of all ages which you can download here.
As an OU STEM student, I love seeking out new ways to engage with Science. Here are some of my favourite science activities for you or your family/friends to try this British Science Week.
Activities for Mini Scientists
Build Your Own Lava Lamp
You will need:
- A clear container – for example, an empty plastic bottle or jar
- Vegetable Oil
- Food Colouring
- Alka-Seltzer Tablet (only one is needed unless you wish to repeat)
- Fill the container ¾ full with vegetable oil
- Fill the rest of the container with water (but take care not to overfill it!)
- Add 5-10 drops of food colouring.
- Add ½ an Alka-Seltzer tablet (you can add more when you need) and sit back and watch the reaction.
- (Optional) You could try and sit the container in warm water or in the fridge and see how this changes the reaction.
Oil is less dense than water so you will start out with two layers – coloured water at the bottom (food colouring is water soluble so will mix with the water but not the oil) and the less dense oil floating on top.
The Alka-Seltzer tablet sinks to the bottom where it dissolves and will begin to fizz giving off a gas (carbon dioxide). These gas bubbles are less dense than the water and the oil and they rise through the oil layer to the surface taking some of the coloured water with them. Once the gas rises all the way to the top of the oil layer into the air above it leaves the coloured water behind, which is more dense than the oil, causing it to sink back down to the bottom.
Try NASA’s Straw Powered Rockets or build this printable Space Shuttle Glider (both of these are on the fiddly side so may require patience from the budding astronaut or indeed, the supervising adult).
Activities for Not So Mini Scientists
Fancy helping scientists out with real research? Of course you do, that’s why you’re reading this article.
My top recommendation for grown ups this British Science Week is to get involved with Zooniverse.
Zooniverse is a citizen science platform which means anyone (yes – anyone, no expertise required) can contribute to research from their own device and at their own convenience. This could be spotting patterns in data (they’ll explain simply what to look for), animals on camera footage (you'll be provided with a helpful onscreen guide) or answering simple questions about historical records or images.
One of my favourite ways to avoid calculus is to support “Dingo? Bingo” where you use a handy field guide to identify Australian wildlife (and sometimes unsuspecting humans) on camera trap images. I’ve not found a Dingo yet but with a huge exam yet to revise for, there is great hope.
If you’re not sure where to get started or would like more information, the Open University is ready to assist this fine British Science Week with a free online event on one of their very own Zooniverse projects on Monday 14th to kick start you as a sofa dwelling Black Hole Hunter. You can sign up here.
If Zooniverse is not enough there are lots of other ways to become involved with Science at the OU without being a STEM student:
- Try a STEM Open Learn Course. I recommend Astronomy with an Online Telescope and because I am a terribly biased Geology student An Introduction to Geology.
- Join a Science based Club or Society (you don’t have to study a related subject to be a part of these and they are a great way to network with people with similar interests).
Whatever you explore this British Science Week don’t forget to share your science week in the comments below or by using the hashtag #BSW22 #BritishScienceWeek on social media.