Summer is a busy time for the Met Office’s award-winning outreach programme, with activities designed to encourage young people to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) taking place across the UK. During 2016 there have been more activities than ever – we held five Science Camps, ran an interactive sand sculpture workshop, attended the Big Bang Fair South West and spent four days at the Green Man festival in Wales, to mention just a few. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve been up to.
At the end of June, we attended The Big Bang Fair South West, an event which attracted around 2000 young people from all backgrounds. The Met Office’s stand was a popular as ever, with hands-on activities including expanding marshmallows showing the effect of lowering atmospheric pressure; roll-a penny storm tracks illustrating uncertainty within weather forecasts and a roulette wheel customised to help students get to grips with climate projections.
At the start of August, Met Office volunteers took to Teignmouth beach to run Sandscape, an interactive sand sculpture workshop exploring how weather and climate affect our health. This was delivered as part of T.R.A.I.L (Teignmouth Recycled Art in the Landscape), the annual, internationally-renowned sculpture festival. Each day children and adults alike got the chance to learn sand sculpting skills and help evolve the sand landscape, whilst at the same time chat to Met Office scientists. At the finale of each workshop, bubbles and dry ice were used to explore topics such as air quality forecasting and urban meteorology.
Mark McCarthy, Manager of the National Climate Information Centre explained: “I had great fun working on Sandscape. Not only did I have some really interesting discussions with a wide range of participants, but it also made me stop and think about some of the important science we do outside my own area of expertise.”
Later in August we took our outreach to the Green Man, the annual music and arts festival held in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. The Met Office STEM team has been a firm favourite at the festival for the last four years, with a stall in Einstein’s Garden, an area of the festival dedicated to nurturing curiosity, science and nature. For 2016, the theme of Einstein’s Garden was complexity, so we designed activities tackling chaos theory and probabilistic forecasting. Amongst a variety of hands-on activities, a new addition to the stall was making origami butterflies while exploring the butterfly effect – the principle that small changes, like the flap of butterfly wings, can have big effects. Unfortunately the wind and rain we experienced over the weekend meant that only a few butterflies decorated our washing line, but the rest of our activities are weather-proof and always very popular. One visitor to our stall exclaimed ‘This is kind of like a science lesson, but fun!’
The Met Office’s Science Camps were back as well. Due to the popularity of these events, this year there were five camps, one more than previous years, attended by 252 children from 18 different schools and one Scout Group. They spent a night camping at our headquarters in Exeter, whilst learning all about weather and climate science, and what we do here at the Met Office. As always the feedback from our young guests was incredibly positive. One keen learner said: “The Science Camp was brilliant. I have loved every activity… Thank you for the best time.” Another added: “I have really enjoyed my experience. It has made me feel like I could work here when I’m older.”
These are just a few of the STEM activities that we have been involved in over the summer months, and we will continue to help inspire people with further events planned, including participation in the Manchester Science Festival in October. If you want any information about any of our STEM activities you can get in touch by email.