Science in the park – A glimpse of science and the public

By Hayley Smith

images by Jacqueline Mellisande http://mellisande.uk/

On the 19th March, 2016, the British Science Association held in my opinion the most popular Science in the Park event to date, with visitor numbers in excess of 7000. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Wollaton hall and deer gardens, a day of investigation and scientific education managed to enchant adults and children alike.

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I arrived at Wollaton hall early Saturday morning, with the first task of the day being to assist in the set up. This was no small task, with stalls representing everyone and everything from hearing research charities to soil experts, the University of Nottingham Institute of Physics and School of Psychology to some memorable robots from Nottingham Trent University. Being a biologist and keen owl-nut, a personal favourite was the Hawks of Steel exhibit. I was lucky enough to say good morning to one of the beautiful owls as the birds were brought out before the exhibit opened. The perks of being stationed in the gardens for part of my volunteer shift!

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Whilst offering programmes for the day’s events, the amount of genuine interest being shown came as both a pleasant surprise and an encouragement. The STEM Outreach society of the University of Nottingham, also in attendance, speaks of the importance of conveying a sense of intrigue and enthusiasm for all areas of science to the wider public. In presenting simple yet engaging activities for visitors, stalls showed the value of creating a first point of contact for people new to or less versed in scientific topics. Activities catered to all ages and included things such as creating a paper DNA double helix replica, psychological memory and speed tests to an explosive finish at the Physics Live finale. Others in attendance also included OPAL, who provided information on how to explore and categorise the environment around us in order to discover more about the current state of the British outdoors.

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An issue expressed by many attending and on social media related to the sheer volume of people in attendance. Walking through the interior of the Hall to go for lunch in the volunteer’s room was a mini-endeavour in itself, with the hall already packed by this time! Despite these frustrations the event was clearly a success – with more than three times the expected amount of people in attendance, these events prove themselves to be positive and valuable forms of outreach.