Support the Next Generation


Posted by in March's Magazine

Leith-based but city-wide, the Edinburgh International Science Festival is probably best known for its two week festival of events for all ages that takes place every Easter. But throughout the year this educational charity develops, tours and performs its science education programme in schools all over Scotland, bringing science to life before pupils’ very eyes.

Managed from its administration office on Mitchell Street, the Festival’s schools outreach activities are performed by teams of science communicators who, once on the road, literally eat, sleep and breathe their shows and workshops for several weeks at a time. To get to that point however, they need rehearsals, lots of them, and as the programme gets larger and more diverse, the Festival is desperate for space to accommodate their performers before they head out on tour.

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The Festival’s Business Director, Fiona Logue said: “Walking around Leith I see so many empty buildings and spaces that from the outside look like the ideal rehearsal space. We’d really like to hear from local schools, businesses and organisations that may be able to help us deliver our schools programme which is expanding over the coming year with even more great shows.”

Giant bee costumes
Schools offering rehearsal space will be given the chance to receive free shows and workshops, and local businesses or organisations who offer help will be able to nominate a local school of their choice to benefit from the experience.

Reaching around 60,000 pupils every year, Generation Science, the main touring programme, visits classrooms from the Highlands to the Borders between January and May. Each performance is tied closely to the Curriculum for Excellence for its specific age group, delivering scientific principles through entertaining and memorable hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Over a number of years, the Festival has built strong links with several Leith Primary Schools, notably Leith and Lorne Primaries, who receive free shows and workshops in return not only for rehearsal facilities but also for feedback from pupils and staff. Generation Science Manager Joan Davidson, who coordinates the programme, is proud of the relationships they have cultivated in the local area:

“It’s brilliant to watch the kids in these schools grow every year and see how their responses to the shows change. They’re always a lively audience and never shy to give their opinions, which is exactly what we need to make the programme the best it can be. The staff are also a great source of feedback on how the shows fit with the curriculum and they let us try out all sorts of new ideas, from activities to experiments.”

2011 was the biggest year to date for Generation Science which was supplemented for the first time by two brand new activities – Atomise, based on the Festival’s hit interactive chemistry exhibit at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Live for It! a series of workshops exploring healthy lifestyle and diet, developed with Diabetes UK. This highly successful and unique programme targets schools in areas of deprivation – funding hands-on activities on diet, cooking, digestion, diabetes and how the body uses energy – through support from corporate sponsors.

And 2012 looks set to be even bigger as it marks Generation Science’s 21st birthday. To celebrate, favourite shows featuring everything from giant bee costumes to teddy bear physicists will be joined by some brand new additions. Touring through May, Make a Move will unlock the inner workings of human limbs with the help of some cutting edge robotic technologies. As well as looking at some incredible elements of human anatomy, pupils will explore how these mechanical tools are programmed to replicate human movement providing a truly original and futuristic glimpse of where science can take us.

In the summer, Power from the People will take place alongside Speed of Light, the site-specific project from innovative public arts company NVA and the Edinburgh International Festival which will be lighting up Arthur’s Seat for three weeks in August. Pupils from P4-7 will explore the challenges the project presents and look at ways to generate the electricity that powers this unique display.

If you, your business, your school or any local organisation you can think of would like to provide rehearsal facilities or know of any local venues that could help, contact the Edinburgh International Science Festival on 0131 553 0320 or email Fiona Logue on fiona@scifest.co.uk

Vikki Jones

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