Science-related residential summer school opportunity for AS students

Green_Vs_Polluted_CityInterested in how we can create a more sustainable future? Brilliant chance for AS level students to be part of our first ever residential Sustainability Summer School here at Manchester Museum. Bringing objects, technology and innovation together. Supported by the NWBLT, as part of our Lever Prize 2015 year. Find more info and how to apply here.

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Exploring frogs with physics!

Last week we were very excited to run our annual ‘Frogs and Physics’ A level study days, which are part of our ‘Engage with the Experts‘ series. These days give A level students a chance to meet current researchers and experts to see how their passion for a subject could lead to cutting edge research.

Museum specimens showing colour adaptations

 

 

 

 

We started the day by considering why colour is important in nature. This was provoked by a range of beautiful entomology specimens displaying colour adaptations from Manchester Museum’s collection.

Colour adaptations spotted on our Live Animal gallery

 

 

The students then explored our Live Animal gallery, where a large variety of amphibians and reptiles are on display, to spot living examples of these colour adaptations. The gallery also contains a window showing some of the behind-the-scene conservation work in which the Museum is involved. Including breeding tanks of endangered Lemur Leaf frogs.

 

Andrew Gray, Curator of Herpetology, The Manchester Museum

Andrew Gray, Curator of Herpetology

During our first expert talk of the day, by our Curator of Herpetology, Andrew Gray, one of our red-eyed leaf frogs made an appearance to show off its impressive bright colouration. Andrew explained that amphibians in the wild are under threat due to a range of factors, such as a deadly skin fungus and climate change. He stressed how effective it can be when experts from a range of disciplines work together to tackle the large issues surrounding endangered animal conservation.

Mark Dickinson, from the Photon Science Institute at The University, explores the physics of colour

Mark Dickinson, from the Photon Science Institute

 

 

The current research being conducted by Andrew and Mark Dickinson, from the Photo Science Institute at The University of Manchester, is a brilliant example of this type of collaborative working.

In his talk, Mark explored the physics behind colour and explained how physics can help investigate the pigments within the skin of frogs.

 

The students got to investigat the physical properties of the frogs skin using non-invasive physics equipment

Using non-invasive physics equipment

 

In the afternoon the students visited the Photon Science Institute. They had the chance to see what a physics lab looks like and to use hi-tech spectrometers, infra-red cameras, and thermal imaging equipment.

 

Example of student comments from the days:

It was good to have the experts talk to us about their work, I also enjoyed using the equipment and looking at the equipment whilst walking through the lab’

‘Fantastic day!’

‘Thanks to staff and University students for taking the time to help’

If you would like to learn more about the conservation work Manchester Museum is involved with please visit Frog Blog Manchester 

 

New school year – thinking about a trip?

Somewhat unbelievably (at least we think so – the year is flying by!), it’s September and the start of another school year. We’ve been gearing up to the 2013-14 academic year with a refurbishment and refreshment of our school programme from Early Years to Post 16 and a new look to the Learning Pages on Manchester Museuslothm website: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/museum/learning . You’ll still find many of the ever popular sessions like Egyptian Worlds (KS2), Dinosaur Detectives (KS2), Forensic Science: A Bog Body Mystery (KS3/4 Science) and Citizen of the City (KS3 Citizenship) but also a few new ones and some like Dinosaur Challenge for KS1 pupils that are coming soon.

Do take a look and let us know what you think. If you are starting your planning for the year ahead then take a look at the website and see what takes your fancy for you and your class. If you need more information on anything then either email us at school.bookings@manchester.ac.uk or give us a call on 0161 275 2630 – we start taking bookings on 5th September.

We’re really looking forward to a jam packed year of school visits (there’s nothing we like more) and to seeing many of you and your classes in the Museum. That’s the programme spruced up – now just the office to go!

Discovering Diabetes A-Level Study Day with CADET

Students working with researchers on the ‘Dragons Den’ task

Giving students access to the fascinating cutting edge research that happens at the University of Manchester is a key priority for the Secondary and Post-16 science programme at Manchester Museum.  So when i was approcached by Elizabeth Pawson, a postdoctoral researcher in a research instutite called CADET (Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics) to help them develop an A-Level Study day about their research on diabetes i jumped at the chance.  Below is a blog post written by Lizz about their experience and the study day which took place on 18th October:

14 members of CADET (ranging from PhD students to professors) took part in the first Discovering Diabetes Study Day on October 18th. The study day, which was developed and designed by researchers at CADET, in collaboration with Alexa at Manchester Museum, to specifically complement the A ‘Level syllabus and was attended by AS and A2 Level students from Cardinal Newman College in Preston and Salford City College.  The study day enabled students to find out about diabetes, diabetic complications and how diabetes research is carried out whilst working closely with the range of scientists and clinicians who work at CADET.

Students presenting their 'pitch' to the DragonsAfter an opening talk which introduced the students to diabetes and to the role of CADET within the University, the students then participated in a “Dragons’ Den” style activity. In this the students worked in small groups and learned about different secondary complications of diabetes, how they are investigated at CADET and how scientific research is funded. They then had to pitch for future funding for research into the different complications, with the chance of winning £1 million. As shown by the evaluation at the end of the study day, the students very much enjoyed this activity and as such were very vocal during the pitching process! They were also very interested in learning about how academic research is conducted and felt that this session provided them with new insights into scientific research careers.

In a second activity the students were taught about the different technologies that CADET scientists use regularly as part of their research. The students had a work book of data and analysed results from a series of experiments with the aim of identifying biomarkers of importance in diabetes. They then had to decide which molecules could be potential future therapeutic agents and justify future research into their role in the disease.

Winning group

Evaluations carried out at the end of the day showed that the over 90% of the students felt the day directly contributed to what they were learning in college and felt that had a better understanding of diabetes research. In addition they were keen to study science at degree level and found the interactions with the scientists a useful and invaluable experience. Moreover the staff who attended with the students recommended that the day is repeated again next year. The researchers at CADET thoroughly enjoyed themselves too, and are currently working on extending the study day so that more students can attend. Then next day is scheduled for March 2013 and will hopefully become a regular, biannual event.

Researchers from CADET

 Some comments from students who attended the day:

“ ..Really enjoyed the Dragons’ Den session as it was a good insight into the real scientific world”

“..New found knowledge was very interesting and relevant to my future interests and courses…”

“The workbooks will be very useful in future study”

 “I not only learnt about the effects of diabetes but also about how funding is gained for research”

 “I learnt a lot and would really like to do more events like this”

“Everyone is nice and helpful”

“It was fun, hopefully coming back soon”

 “I really enjoyed working with scientists and asking them questions, that was the most important and interesting part”

Working with scientists investigating biomarkers of diabetes

Our engage with the experts A-Level Study days are always very popular and this one was no different.  It was fully booked within a couple of days of the date being advertised on the website!  We are delighted to annouce that we will be running it again on 21st March 2012, so if you would like to give your students the opportunity to take part and work with the scientists, please do get in touch.

Alan Turing: Maths and Morphogenesis workshops

Want to know how maths is applied to the real world? Bring your KS4 students to our Alan Turing: Maths, Modelling and Morphogenesis maths session that accompanys our Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma exhibition to find out. Led by University mathematicians, this workshop explores mathematical modelling, and enables students to find out more about the pioneer of biological mathematics who lived right here in Manchester: Alan Turing and how he used maths to investigate the secrets of life. The 2 hour session is available at selected times on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 15th November 2012.

For AS/A2 biology and Maths students, we are running A-level study days that would be perfect for them to understand the link between these two subjects. One of our Engage with the Experts A-Level study days Alan Turing: Maths and Morphogenesis works with University researchers to unlock the mathematical mystery behind patterns in the natural world and discovers how Alan Turing began to tackle this problem. It is a full day (10am-3pm) on Monday 15th October 2012, Monday 22nd October 2012 and Tuesday 13th November 2012

If you would like any more information or would like to make a booking, please contact Alexa on alexa.jeanes@manchester.ac.uk or 0161 3061764.

Matrix in the Museum 2012

Making a Cartilage model

On 10th, 12th and 13th July, the Manchester Museum hosted our annual ‘Matrix in the Museum’ events which are run in partnership with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research in the Faculty of Life Sciences.    This year we had three schools visiting over the week; Stretford High School, Manchester Academy and All Hallows RC High School, all bringing year 8 classes to take part in the days’ activities.

The students were split into 5 teams for the day; Team Mucus, Team DNA, Team Cell, Team Cartilage and Team Matrix, all with a research scientist as their team leader.  The day started by having a tour of the research laboratories in the Michael Smith building.  The students get to see real scientists at work and find out about the work that they do. It was then over to the Manchester Museum to complete their team challenges! 

 Each team had a different challenge to do about their respective area of research i.e. team name, from making a model, to writing a song/poem or rap to preparing a presentation to show the rest of the class. The students worked brilliantly to complete these challenges, coming up with some fantastic ideas and creative ways to showcase what they have learnt.  After lunch, during their final preparations, two  ‘judges’ or Professor and research group leaders came round to talk to the students about what they had been doing over the course of the day. 

Team DNA (Team Pro) from Manchester Academy with Dr Keith Brennan and Dr Pat Caswell

It was then time to show off the work they had been doing.  Each team presented their topic to the judges and the rest of the group and demonstrated their model and song/rap/poem.  The judges then had to pick a winner – itwas often a very tough decision with all groups performing really well and showing how much they have leant from the day.  A special mention has to go to Team DNA or Team Pro as they were known from Manchester Academy whose constant energy and enthusiasm throughout the whole day was just fantastic!  It was a brilliant few days and I hope the students enjoyed as much as we did!

Thank you to all students, researchers and PI’s that took part which made it such a successful event.

GCSE and A-Level Geology workshops

During the past few months, we have seen a surge of interest in our GCSE and A-Level Geology offer.  It is great to see students fascinated by our specimens and engaging with museum experts, such as our Curator of Earth Sciences David Gelsthorpe. We have a selection of different geology workshops that can be tailored to meet the needs of specific groups, from Understanding and Interpreting Fossils, Trilobites and Exceptional Preservation.  For the full menu of session available, please see our website.  Workshops can also be supplemented with wow-factor fossil session and gallery tours as required. 

We have welcomed Altrincham Boys Grammar School, Aquinas College and Balshaw High School to the museum over the past few months.  Below are a few pictures of the workshops in action.  If you would like to book any of our Geology workshops, please do get in touch.

Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma Exhibition

Our latest exhibition ‘Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma’ opened at the end of March.   The exhibition coincides with 2012 Turing Centenary Year, celebrating 100 years since Turings birth. Alan Turing is known to most people as a mathematician and pioneer of computing, as well as being a significant part in the solving of the Enigma code at Bletchley Park during WW2.  However the main focus of this exhibition is his work relating to biology, specifically to his fascination of how pattern, shape and form appear in nature, in a process known as morphogenesis.  In 1952, Turing published this work in a paper (The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis) describing a model showing how these patterns could develop from the interactions of two chemicals. The new exhibition combines material used by Turing during his research time in Manchester with objects from the Museum’s extensive natural science collection.  The exhibition is in our 3rd floor exhibition space and runs until 18 November 2012.

As with all our exhibitions, we are developing a learning offer to allow students to explore further the ideas in the display.  Due to the high level content, we are planning a KS4 workshop and a series of Turing related A-Level Study Days, during the summer and autumn term.  Initial details of the workshops are below:

Maths/Science Turing workshop for KS4 – 2 hours, £75

This hands- on, interactive workshop will allow students to explore the scientific contribution of Alan Turings work.  Students will investigate how codes were used in early computing, the numerical patterns found in nature, and how it links to the Fibonacci sequence.  Though facilitated  learning on the new ‘Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma’ exhibition and getting up close to the museums collection, this session shows applications of maths to the natural world and cleverly links both science and maths curriculum.

Turing A-Level Study day, part of Engage with the Experts series (Full day) £150

Through a series of talks by University of Manchester Academics, hands – on activities and debates, your students will discover how their A-Level studies relates the last work of the famous scientist Alan Turing.  They will find out more about embryonic development, morphogenesis and pattern formation in living things and the Maths behind ‘Patterns in Nature’. 

We will be offering a few sessions free of charge during the trial phase (May/June/July), so if you are interested in this offer, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can get involved with your own Turing experiment, by growing a Turing Sunflower

Archaeology in the Park

Recently, pupils from Manchester Academy, Aquinas College, Medlock Primary School and Heald Place Primary School were invovled with the archaeological investigations that took place at Whitworth Park as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund supported excavations by the University of Manchester. The project involves partners from the  University of Manchester Department of Archaeology, The Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Friends of Whitworth Park and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relation Resource Centre.

 During their time on-site in the Park students were able to learn more about its past features, such as the lake and bandstand,  and were provided with an introduction to archaeological field techniques and recording methods. They were encouraged to part in the process of recording, processing and cataloguing finds, and then use these to explore aspects of past activities and the material culture of Edwardian life.

All students appeared to relish the opportunity to be involved and take part in the actual process of archaeological digging, learning new techniques and gaining hands-on experience in this practical subject. You can see photographs and comments from Manchester Academy’s visit here.

To find out more about the project, visit their blog: www.whitworthparklife.wordpress.com/

New Secondary Science Session: Nature’s Palette

Image - Pigments practical

Over the past few months, I have been working on developing a new secondary science session aimed at Key Stage 3 and 4.  I wanted this workshop to use as many specimens and objects from the Museum’s collections as possible and also include a practical experiment, a critically important part for any science investigation.   I decided on a theme for the session being ‘Colours and pigments’ and  decided to use this theme to explore the many aspects of colour in the physical, chemical, natural and cultural world.  The session was entitled Natures Palette: Pigments, Paradise and Photosynthesis.

It is a jam packed session with many hands on interactive and educational activities that starts with the physical basis behind light and colour, including the electromagnetic spectrum, visible light spectrum and how we see colours.  How humans use colour and why it is important to us is explored with a discussion and video tour round the human cultures collection stores area by Curator of Human Cultures, Stephen Welsh.  Stephen shows us some really fascinating examples of how colour is used and how important it is in different human cultures all over the world, both nowadays and throughout history.

The inspiration behind human’s use of colours is often from the natural world and so next students  investigate how colour is used in the animal world by using both a variety handling specimens as well as in the galleries.

Image - Up close to the female panther chameleon

The curator of herpetology, Andrew Gray also used his collection of live reptile and amphibians to illustrate the varied and sometime quite spectacular ways that these animals use colour for different purposes in the natural world.  The rare and beautiful animals really bring a different dimension to the session, as the students have an opportunity to get up close and observe the animals, with Andrew explaining their colourful adaptations.

The workshop then investigates the importance of pigments and colour in plants and of course photosynthesis.  Using a scanning spectrophotometer, the students investigate photosynthetic pigments in different plants and use their results to decide whether the colours in Smarties and M&M’s originate from those particular plants!

Image - Students working together investigating plant pigments

During the past three weeks, we have been trialled this new session with students from Our Lady’s Sports College, Swinton High school and William Hulme Grammar School and it has been a big success.  Some of the comment and feedback from the students can be seen below:

‘I really enjoyed the session.  It gave me a greater understanding’

‘I had a great time meeting all the animals and using the expensive equipment and i really enjoyed looking round the museum’

‘I liked today.  It was amazing.  All the stuff we did was extremely interesting’

We plan to add Nature’s Palette to our regular programming from September and will be releasing dates that this session will be available over the summer.  However, if you are interested in booking this exciting new workshop for next year, then please do not hesitate to contact me on alexa.jeanes@manchester.ac.uk.

I also just want to say thank you museum curators and staff who have contributed to the session development and helped me in selecting and getting the objects and specimens together for this object rich session.  So thanks to Henry McGhee, David Green, Dmitri Logunov, Lindsay Loughtman, Suzanne Grieve, Scott McManus, and Stephen Welsh.