If participating in British Science Week has left you and your students hungry for more science activities, then this may be of interest…
Bayer, which is a supporter of the BSA’s education work, has opened a new schools laboratory, Baylab. It is free to use and will be the 14th Baylab in the world and the first in the UK. It will enable pupils of all ages to spend half a day or a day in workshops that allow them to explore science in a more practical way than there is often time for as a result of timetable constraints in the school lab. The workshops include tried and tested practical work from other Baylabs and from the Royal Institution.
Here, we interview Baylab’s manager, Emma Schierbaum, about this exciting new initiative.
Why have you opened a Baylab in the UK?
“The UK is now an important hub in the Bayer world, so there’s never been a better time for us to encourage people to take up careers in science. And with Brexit becoming a reality, it’s another opportunity for us as a company to demonstrate our commitment to the science community and to the UK.”
Does it include both primary and secondary learning?
“Absolutely! The Baylab offers a high level learning environment for pupils from primary right through to secondary level, Key Stages 2-5. They’ll be able to take part in practical work to bring to life scientific concepts and principles at all levels.
Who have you worked with to create the workshops?
“We started with the British Science Association, who audited the workshops from our European Baylabs for relevance and fit with the National Curriculum. That gave us an idea of how much adaptation we needed, and we have been working to adapt the first workshops from our other labs. In the meantime, we have an agreement with the Royal Institution, who already run a successful schools laboratory in central London, to use some of their established workshops.”
How long do the workshops last? Can you accommodate more than one set of pupils in a day?
“Workshops can last from two to six hours, depending on the level and complexity. We have piloted two sets of schools per day for the shorter practicals, and are also looking at splitting up groups so that one set can work in the lab while others work in the Inspiration Space. We are focused on bringing science to life, and providing the right environment to nurture curiosity. This is going to be particularly important for primary school pupils because this gives them a first introduction to science. Most young people have already found out what they like doing by the time they go up to secondary school, so it’s really important we give them a chance to see how fascinating and exciting science can be, and spark that interest at an early age.”
How Are Teachers Involved?
“Baylab is also going to be really important as a support hub for teachers. They won’t necessarily be experts in some of the areas we are going to explore here, so it can only help their understanding and develop their knowledge in key areas. We will be developing new workshops all the time, and will also be offering holiday programmes.”
What has been the reaction so far from schools and pupils?
“To date we’ve focused on workshops that involve producing something personal to take away at the end of it; such as bath bombs, lip balms and samples of DNA that they encase in a vial to wear as a pendant. So the pupils have a real sense of achievement, and something to show their parents and friends, which has made the workshops extremely popular. They’ve all commented on how much fun it has been. Teachers have been really positive too, and some have been really surprised at the level of knowledge their pupils have already.”
What’s your background, Emma?
“I worked as the head of science at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar Junior School in Wakefield as well in the secondary sector teaching science and chemistry to A level standard for five years. I’ve got a biochemistry degree from the University of York, and commercial experience with the multinational chemical company, Croda Chemicals, in Doncaster.”
Is there anything you miss about teaching in school?
“I guess that I’ll miss building up relationships with children over time, but I hope that they will keep coming back, and I can see how they’ve progressed. The best thing for me would be if they came in not planning to pursue science subjects, and then switched to science as a result of their experience with us.”
And finally, how do teachers book the Baylab?
“There’s a booking form on the Baylab UK website, where teachers can request specific dates and workshops, or ask any questions. We’re happy to hear from all types of schools, and also groups such as Girlguiding groups in the holidays.”
You can read more about Baylab on our BSA blog.