Science on a Shoestring

You don't need much - or any - budget to make the most of British Science Week 2021!

Our science on a shoestring guide is here to help you make the most of running an event on a budget. It contains information from other organisers who have planned and run activities themselves, as well as a few ideas from us. The most important thing is to remember to have fun and be creative!

Think of a theme

It often helps when organising an event or activity to think of a theme that links the event together and allows different subject areas to be involved.

This year’s theme for British Science Week is ‘journeys’ so why not use that as a starting point?

Get a presenter or book an activity

Inviting a presenter to your science week can be a powerful way to engage young people.  However, this can be expensive. Nevertheless, it is possible to find a volunteer speaker that will come into your event. Below are sources of presenters, many of whom are willing to help by offering their time.

Science Live

Science Live aims to support event organisers by giving you access to scientists and activity providers, connecting you with local volunteers and putting your events in front of the right audiences. You can search our offered ads for advisers to help you plan and curate your events, as well as enthusiastic volunteers and speakers to help you run and deliver your events.

You can also create wanted ads for the various roles you’d like to fill. When you create wanted ads they are added to our database, and the opportunity will be emailed out to the contributors whose criteria match yours. If they are interested, they will get in touch.

Once you have details for your event, like the date, venue and subject, you can register it so that we can help you attract an audience. Events will be added to our event listings and map on the What’s On page, and displayed to people in your area looking for events to attend.

STEM Ambassadors

The STEM Ambassadors programme brings illumination to students and switches on the minds of young people to the potential of STEM subjects and careers. STEM Ambassadors are everyday people from real working backgrounds who volunteer their time to act as inspiring role models to young people.

Ambassadors are an invaluable resource. They offer their time voluntarily to enthuse and inspire students about STEM subjects. They can do this through a variety of activities such as clubs, careers talks, helping with school events, lessons and competitions, and much more. Your local STEM Ambassadors Management contract holder can help you decide how best to employ an Ambassador.

Local Community

Other sources of free speakers and activities can be found within your local community. There are many people who will be willing to get involved,  you just need to ask.

Which local community groups could you go to for help? How could your local college or university get involved? Do you know any doctors, nurses, dentists or anybody working in a laboratory? Do you know any engineers or architects? Know a local builder? – even he or she could help! Don’t forget the resource of people; your local community is full of talented individuals just waiting to be asked.

If mums and dads get involved in sports events, why not science events?

“A friend of one of the staff brought in his reticulated python and ran small sessions for each class to get to know her! A local farmer leant us an incubator and ten ready-to-hatch eggs. I also contacted the University Physics Department and for the price of ingredients all the children got to eat ice-cream made in the demonstration of what liquid nitrogen can do!” -Michelle Tett

“If you have a theme then people who do things locally may come to you with an idea – for example, we had “Colour in Science” as a theme and I tutored art so we learnt about colour mixing, the colour wheel and absorption of water based paints by salt. What we were using to paint on was satin which had been near the entrance to the marquee at my brother’s wedding. In these days of reduce, reuse and recycle, I’m sure lots more ideas for how you can do things cheaply or free would be available if you’re brave enough to ask.” -Kerynne Robertson

Work together

Working together can be a great way to achieve a really dynamic British Science Week. Collaborating with other organisations can make science more fun and appealing to audiences who would not normally think science and engineering was for them. Exchanging ideas and resources also takes advantage of generic resources and gets everyone involved.

Another way to guarantee a great Week can be to work with local schools. School pupils can be unexpectedly good communicators and demonstrators and unexpectedly receptive audiences, so why not get them together? And pooling resources keeps the budget down!

Free resources

British Science Week activity packs

The British Science Association provides a range of free activity packs packed with hands-on science and engineering activities and projects. These activities are ideal to be used as part of a science fair or in a science club. New activity packs are available every year.

Download your free activity packs

In your own stock room

Don’t overlook the resources you already have. Have a look at what’s hiding away at the back of the stock room. Are there any leftover materials that can be used? You might have lots of elastic bands or a load of large boxes going spare: what can be done with them? See what’s in there and get it out!

Remember to collect materials all year round: empty bottles, toilet rolls, cereal boxes, elastic bands, newspapers, etc. This way you will have lots of great things to use during your science week. Alternatively, check to see whether there is a scrap shop/store/club in your local area. These shops are often membership based and can provide a brilliant, inexpensive or free resource for card, plastic, bits of material – all sorts. These things can be turned into rockets, cars, spaceships; you name it, the kids will think of it!

Look at to find a UK directory of scrap stores, or, use Google to find your nearest store.

Your local library

Your local library is a veritable ‘village pump’ of information for your local area. This can be a good place to advertise your event, recruit volunteers and collect free resources.

Local businesses

Local businesses are normally willing to provide free resources. One man’s rubbish can be another man means to build an empire! Again, all you need to do is ask.

“IKEA offered a range of materials. They have a point of contact, and as long as we went to collect it, we could go each week, fortnightly or monthly and they would just give us whatever scraps of materials or useful resources they had.” -Sara Blashford

“I’ve had film canisters from the camera shop and cellophane from the baby club art box to show how the different plants grow with different coloured light. The local Tesco store awarded us £10 to spend in store, and we did several different experiments from this including growing flowers (from my garden and the florists) in different coloured waters with food colouring, which gave spectacular results and which the florists were happy to display in their window.” – Kerynne Robertson

Get funding

British Science Week grants are available on our website (opening soon!).

There are three grant schemes available to support British Science Week activities: one for schools, one for community groups, and one for BSA branches.

Kick Start Grants

This scheme offers grants for schools in challenging circumstances to organise their own events as part of British Science Week. Kick Start grant is a grant for your school to run an activity or host a science event or activity which involves your students and the local community

Community Grants

This scheme offers grants for community groups that work directly with audiences who are traditionally under-represented and currently not engaged in science activity. Our definition of groups that are underrepresented in science includes:

  • people who are Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME)
  • people with low socioeconomic status (SES)
  • young people with anti-social behaviour, including those not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • people with a disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities (Equalities Act 2010)
  • girls and women
  • people living in a remote and rural location

Where else can I get funding?

Check out our Guide to Funding for details on other organisations that provide grants and how to apply.

You could also ask local businesses to sponsor your event. Offer to put their logo on your posters and in any press releases in return for sponsorship

Additional ideas…

Science-themed assemblies

You can get the whole community involved in your science week by doing a week’s worth of science-themed assemblies.  You could also invite guest speakers to the assemblies. Maybe one of the people you found from your local community can come in!


Organising competitions is a good way to get children excited and families involved. You could set a challenge for them to compete with other family teams. For example, who can build a 60-second marble run? You could give a handout with a few science games, crosswords, puzzles and a few questions to be completed. Have a look in the activity packs and the websites listed below for some ideas.

Alternatively why not take part in our national poster competition?

We’re here to help

The British Science Week team are here to help you. If you need any help or advice with your science week plans, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at [email protected]