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My experience at Celebrate Science

Dr Tim Hawkins, Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Biosciences, describes his experience of volunteering and what it was like to see the return of Celebrate Science.
Dr Tim Hawkins, Outreach Co-ordinator for the Department of Biosciences
Dr Tim Hawkins, Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Biosciences

This year saw the welcome return of the in-person Celebrate Science festival which took place on 25 – 27 October. I’d been greatly looking forward to this as I hadn’t had the opportunity to get involved with something of this scale since 2019.

Since taking on my Biosciences Outreach Coordinator role, this was my third Celebrate Science event and it was better than ever. The event is unique, not only in its scale, but in the opportunity to interact with such a wide range of visitors. In fact, I met one older gentleman who had only come in to escape the rain but stayed for the skulls!

Skulls on Department of Biosciences stand
Skulls on Department of Biosciences stand

It was a busy year with visitor numbers exceeding 6,000. It certainly seemed that way at our stand with a constant wave of new faces. We were lucky to be located pointing towards the entrance so we were many families first port of call. I was chatting with people all day but it was amazing how the time flew with hours disappearing as you were talking about your favourite bit again and again. Each time getting the reward of seeing the engagement on their faces as you hit upon something that wowed them or got their mind juices flowing.

It’s always fantastic to share our enthusiasm for Biology and to see the children’s interest grow. This year, there were several particularly rewarding moments where whole families were getting involved. At first they’d support their child with the activity but then whilst they were enjoying that, they’d discuss the science behind it with us. This would involve them looking down a microscope at tissues and illustrating their own health experiences by sharing our science and their stories.

Microscope on Department of Biosciences stand
Microscope on Department of Biosciences stand

Kids particularly flocked to the skulls, as usual. It’s great to give them little bits of information about the adaptations the skull has to help point them in the direction for their guesses. They shouted and beamed when they were able to point to the right photo. I liked to hold up the walrus skull at every opportunity and insert the massive tusks… to gasps of amazement!

We had several of our Biology Into Schools students helping out and they were fantastic. I was very impressed to see how they were able to adjust their explanations to the audience, especially the younger children. The augmented reality T-shirts were a hit too particularly as it involved using an iPad. Again, something that the whole family were able to enjoy. Often the children would take great delight in looking inside their parent’s body, especially going inside the gut, and seeing it pulsate… “that’s pushing along mummy’s poo!”.

Augmented reality T-shirts on Department of Biosciences stand
Augmented reality T-shirts on Department of Biosciences stand

Of course, all the fun behind Celebrate Science has a serious or rather important underlying goal. That is to inform and engage the public, our local community, with our science and inspire these children to be our next generation of scientists. I sincerely hope we did; I think so.

Find out more

  • Dr Tim Hawkins is the Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Biosciences. If you would like to find out more about Dr Tim Hawkins, visit his profile.
  • Our Department of Biosciences, is a leading centre for this increasingly important are of study and is ranked 6th in The Guardian’s Best UK Universities 2022 league table. Feeling inspired? Visit our undergraduate and postgraduate webpages to find out more about studying with us.
  • Our community science festival celebrates our latest research and takes place each year during the October half-term holiday. Suitable for 7 to 11 year olds and their families, with a wide range of fun science-themed activities to enjoy. Find out more about Celebrate Science.
  • If you’d like to share your story or insights into your work, visit our Submit a blog or vlog page to learn more.