CNAP - Centre for Novel Agricultural Products

Public Engagement

CNAP is committed to communicating science to wider non-specialist audiences.  We achieve this objective through a variety of ways such as delivering workshops, interactive activities, seminars and lectures to different target audiences.  Our main focus is schools outreach in the areas local to the University of York, although we do work with other groups, such as U3As, clubs and societies.  Some examples of the activities we offer are listed below.  

Professor Ian Graham is a BBSRC Regional Schools Champion in the area of Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology.  

For further information please contact Caroline Calvert

Examples of outreach activities:

Workshops are free of charge and can be tailored to the age, abilities and needs of pupils. All resources will be provided, but schools should be aware that a school teacher must be available to assist at all times.  Teachers should have in mind what outcomes they want from a session so we can adapt activities to achieve these. 

Many of these activities can be adapted for groups of adults and we have used them for interactive science exhibitions.

If you would like a visit by a CNAP scientist please get in touch and we will do our best to assist you. 

Schools Activities

Look Closer!

This is a workshop aimed at KS1 pupils in schools (aged 5-7) and is run by a CNAP scientist with the help of the classroom teacher.  Pupils are encouraged to improve their observational skills using a range of equipment such as magnifiers and microscopes.  Popular specimens include spiders, headlice and bedbugs! 

For 2013, we have introduced a range of insect specimens encased in acrylic blocks which enables pupils to examine whole insects in a safe manner. 

The full workshop takes around 80 minutes and comprises three different hands-on activities, including making craft items for school displays. Shorter versions of this workshop can also be delivered, with craft resources made available to the teacher for use as a follow up activity in class time.  

Hidden Worlds – Secret Lives

Aiming to raise awareness of biology and to generate enthusiasm and interest for the subject, Hidden Worlds has been running since 2003 and is targeted at KS2 pupils (Y5/6). 

This workshop uses light microscopes to introduce pupils to the natural world, allowing them to explore for themselves the fascinating structure of a wide range of biological specimens including insects, plants and animals.  Pupils learn the basics of using a microscope correctly and explore how structure can relate to biological function.

The workshop lasts around 75 minutes and can be combined with other activities, such as ‘Introducing Microbes’.  Alternatively, as an addition to the workshop, pupils can participate in an arts workshop which enables them to explore communication of science through art.  

 Introducing Microbes

This upper KS2 activity covers some basic microbiology, introduces students to three different classes of micro-organisms and considers how they can be helpful or harmful.  Interactive activities include:

What does Yeast like to Eat? An activity where pupils set up an experiment to study which food products yeast can use as energy. 

How Clean is your School?  Pupils investigate which areas of their school have the most airborne microbes. 

The activity requires around 90 minutes (75 minutes plus 15 minutes the following week) but can be longer dependent on the time available and can incorporate use of microscopes.

 Plant Explorers

This activity also looks at the central role plants play in our lives: how we use them and how they function.  The workshop offers a wide range of activities such as plant growth, plant lifecycles, plant and flower structure and extracting DNA from plants.  The selection of activities will depend on the age and ability of pupils as well as local resources in school.  Specific examples of activities:

Flower structure is examined using a range of resources, including flower model kits and a learning to dissect a flower, labelling the constituent parts and understanding their function.

Extracting DNA from plants using a safe protocol can be carried out in school or as a part of a visit to the University.

This activity is suitable for all ages in KS2 and usually takes at least an hour but can run for longer depending on which themes are explored.

Fibonacci Numbers and Biology

This session uses a combination of maths challenges and hands-on exploration of seeds, fruit and plants to reinforce the message that plants follow ordered patterns to achieve optimal growth. Several different versions of the session are available for pupils from Year 5 to Year 8. KS3 sessions are designed to fit into a single lesson lasting one hour while KS2 sessions can be expanded to last up to two hours. Children work in groups to continue the Fibonacci number sequence and discover how those numbers are often linked to the arrangements of petals, leaves and seeds. Older KS3 pupils use the number sequence to create a mathematical spiral while younger pupils use pine cones, pineapples and cucumber seeds to create detailed observational drawings.

Medicines for Malaria: solving problems with science

This activity is based on the Artemisia Research Project, which is a large research programme funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is improving supplies of an anti-malarial drug from the medicinal plant Artemisia annua; this is an excellent example of how science can be used to solve global problems and benefit society.  Best suited to secondary school aged pupils and above, the content can be adapted for a school’s needs. 

Medicines for Malaria is delivered using a combination of presentation and elements of discussion and hands-on activities, including; examining Artemisia plants for different traits, field trial designs, malaria medicines and counterfeits. 

BBSRC Schools Regional Champion

Professor Ian Graham is a BBSRC Schools Regional Champion in the area of industrial biotechnology and bioenergy – these awards are for academics to engage with secondary schools.  The main activity organised under this banner is an annual, day-long symposium for regional schools.  The first one will be held late September 2013 and will be available for Y10 pupils.  Participants will experience lectures and talks given by senior research scientists, as well as interactive activities and tours of research laboratories and technology facilities.  The overall aim is to enthuse and engage pupils who have just embarked on their GCSE studies, demonstrating the value of science to society with exciting, current research stories. 

Participation is for local schools who are invited to bring small groups (up to 11 pupils) and requests for invitations can be sent to Caroline Calvert.  Funding towards transport costs will be considered for state schools. 

Equipment Hire                 

We have equipment that local schools may loan for a short period.  Items include: light microscopes, magnifiers, bug hunt kits, insect specimen blocks, insect life cycle and plant lifecycle blocks, flower kits and biological models.  Instruction on use of equipment together with advice on lesson ideas can be offered as part of this service.  There is no charge for equipment but we require you to take good care of it.  All loan items must be collected and returned to the University of York. 





Latest News

2 new Networks in Industrial Biotechnology awarded!

Congratulations to Ian Graham and Simon McQueen-Mason, who will each lead a phase II NIBB.

New bioeconomy initiative launch in York 

BioYork established.

Poppy genome decoded DNA code of the opium poppy genome determined.

Poppy (x70)

Strengthening links with India: 2 major new research projects Funding secured by CNAP PIs.

Oilseed rape

Seeing the light: unlocking seed germination Key gene identified.


GINs to improve UK crops! Agri-Tech Strategy funding award for Ian Bancroft led OREGIN Network.



CNAP Director, Professor Simon McQueen-Mason

CNAP Manager, Dr Caroline Calvert

CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, UK