Bob Plant : Some Miscelleneous Outreach Links : UoR, Dept Of Meteorology

Some Miscelleneous Outreach Links

Careers talk at a high school
Departmental blog entry on atmopsheric optics and the Battle of Milvian bridge
FFIR project blog entry on the predictability of rainfall
Outreach at a local primary school

Careers talk at a high school (November 2016)

On Wednesday 16th November I went to a high school in St Albans to talk to sixth formers about Environmental Physics and possible careers building on from it. Their arrangement is that various lunchtime careers events are advertised to the sixth formers on particular topics and they are free to sign up to what interests them most. Apparently there are a lot of activities going on at lunchtimes as a few students had said that they would have liked to come but had clashing commitments (e.g., there were some Children in Need activities going on, and some of the students came to the careers meeting in their mufti-day pyjamas!). Nonetheless, there was some good interest in hearing about Environmental Physics as we had something like 20 students and 5 members of staff, out of a sixth form cohort of around 80.

The format was about 20 minutes for some lunch and general pleasantries, about 20 minutes for me to give a talk and about 20 minutes for Q and A. The first half of the talk was about what Environmental Physics is and what career options it can open up. In the second half, I discussed flash flood forecasting to give a flavour of a concrete application. That seemed very much worthwhile, in order to balance the generalities and the specifics. However, I would perhaps put slightly less emphasis on that if repeating the talk: a 60/40 split may be better than 50/50. The students had some good and wide-ranging questions afterwards, and they had clearly paid a lot of attention and taken a lot on board.


Outreach at a local primary school (December 2011)

On Tuesday 6th December I went to the KS1 Science Club at my local primary school. This is a regular after-school event involving perhaps 15 children each week. Actually, I go along semi-regularly to help out, and have previously done things like "make your own slime" (ie, cornflour and water as a non-Newtonian fluid) and "fun games with dry ice" (ie, phase changes). But this was the first time it was themed around the atmosphere.

The experiments were:
  • making a cloud in a plastic bottle (they did this in pairs and had a good time)
  • putting a cardboard tube over a toaster, then a bin bag over the tube so that the bag inflates like a hot air balloon and floats up (this was more of a demonstration than an experiment in the end as the toaster got rather hot and the teacher was a bit worried about the prospect of five-to-seven year olds playing with melting plastic)
  • fill a tank with cold water, put in a small cup of warm water dyed with food colouring, the cup being covered in cling film, and then make a hole in the film. Watch the convection current. (This was kind of a demonstration too as limited equipment and time, but plenty of scope to get the children to do little bits and pieces of it with me. We repeated it with warmer water and discussed why the currents were different - not because one was red and the other one blue!)
Also we did:
  • How to forecast snow. Looked at an animation of "snow risk" across the UK for the coming week. The main thing they learnt from this was where Reading is on a map. They were all desprately keen to take a guess and several were adamant about placing it in northern France so it was a bit like a game of pin the tail on the donkey. Then we went through the animation and found that the best chance of snow in Reading was being forecast for late on Friday (about 40\%). They went home very excited about that idea, but I'm not sure many of them really grasped the idea of chance. Things like "I'm not promising anything" didn't seem to dampen their enthusiasm for the great event to come.

Overall it seemed to work well. A lot of stuff in one hour, but we like to keep them busy. It's somewhat limited what can be done at KS1 and the main thing is to get over the idea that doing science is fun. Science club for KS2 will run in the Spring term and I'll probably try similar-ish things. It will be interesting to compare their reactions.