IFR joins the Cub Scouts

23rd May 2012

IFR Research Scientist and STEM Ambassador, Mark Fernandes, describes his day spent making Yoghurt and explaining Science to over 200 Cub Scouts at the Norfolk Showground.

On Saturday the 5th of May, I and three other STEM Ambassadors, Jill from the Space Conference venue, UEA student Amy and Neil,an electrical engineer, delivered an outreach activity to the County Cub Scout camp at the Norfolk Showground.

About 1400 Cubs were registered for the camp and we delivered some or all of the activity to over 200 of them judging by materials used and booklets handed out.

I designed the booklets based upon the Science badge requirements from the Scouts web-site. I chose three Section A and three section B activities, choosing ones that a) could be delivered with minimal cheap materials , b) if possible, related to outreach activities that I had delivered before with adaptable procedures and c) achieved within a day (as a goal was to allow as many cubs as possible to achieve their science badges.

Our seven delivered activities included: Making simple switches, Hot air rises, Splitting light (CD spectrometer), Yoghurt making, Crystal structure & Measuring your pulse. We also did a make a CD Hovercraft activity as a bonus (as Amy’s Zoology activity of pond-dipping got cancelled).

The science was admittedly very broad and was aimed at an age range of 8-11 years old, but I was able to steer a lot of it to related IFR science and techniques (Pattern generation & matching e.g. gels & spectra; structures of compounds and their properties; Use of microbes in food production, Food security and Food safety. Bacteria and gut health; Pulse and exercise and their relation to cardiovascular health).

Yoghurt making was a popular activity (Amy was kept very busy) and worked well despite problems with maintaining the culture temperature in our venue (a seriously cold barn). The switches circuit (a re-engineered version of a circuit that I built at the Association for Science Education conference) also performed well.

The Crystal activity resulted in some sticky crystal lattice models constructed from marshmallows (pink and white for Sodium and Chlorine atoms) & dry spaghetti.

Big thank you to NBIP Communications team for supplying freebies and IFR publicity material (e.g. Open Day leaflets) -I gave out IFR wrist slap bands (for cubs who completed at least 3 badge activities) and my supply of 60 was exhausted after a few hours! My supplies of Science in Norwich pencils & stickers met with a similar fate.

It was an enjoyable (but frenetic) activity – hopefully we will have helped lots of cubs to get their badges and to enjoy and take an interest in science.

This event wouldn’t have worked without the assistance of the other STEM ambassadors, the Eastern STEMnet office (at UEA) and NBIP Communications. Also, a thank you is due to Paul Needs (IFR) for the loan of a molecular model construction set for the Crystal activities.

The Scouts Association website