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University uses bedbugs to bring science to life

Posted on 3 March 2003

Bedbugs, giant spiders legs, and influenza molecules are bringing art and science to life for schoolchildren thanks to the University of York.

Staff from the University's Department of Biology won £10,500 in grants to give children more understanding of the natural world, and have been giving them a peep at some horrors and marvels through 15 high-powered microscope lenses. The children later reproduced what they'd seen with the help of art outreach workers and their work will be on display at the York Festival of Discovery which starts on Thursday 6 March.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council gave £8,000 in the 'Hidden Worlds - Secret Lives' award, and Yorkshire Arts added £2,000.

Dr Alex Brabbs of the University said: "We visited the schools twice. The first visit was science based, and gave children the chance to see how all living things start from common building blocks in the form of cells. Then we returned to help them communicate what they'd seen - by writing or drawing or even making a video. They've produced some stunning work."

The grants also paid for print-maker Jane Keneally and graphic designer Phil Robert to work with the children on the second visit. The children's artwork ranges from watercolours to collages and cellular patterns. The Festival aims to be interactive and the project microscopes will be available for the public to use during the week alongside displays of the children's work.

The schools involved in the project were Derwent Junior, Badger Hill, Tang Hall, Poppleton Road, and Fulford Cross. Pupils form Year 6, Key Stage 2 (Key Stage 3 at Fulford cross) took part.

Mrs Alex Hodgson, science co-ordinator and Year 6 teacher, Badger Hill Primary School, said: "This was a fantastic hands-on project that brought micro-organisms to life for the children involved. The opportunity of working with 'real-life' scientists has given the pupils a picture of science that will remain with them for a ong time to come."

Professor Dianna Bowles, the Weston Professor of Biochemistry at the University, added: "We are delighted to have set up this programme with primary schools. The living world is an amazing place and microscopes can open children's eyes to a completely new world, full of excitement and adventure. The schools have been fantastic in the help they have provided and the pupils overwhelmed us with their enthusiasm. It has been a great time for all concerned and we are now working on how we can do more."

Notes to editors:

  • York Festival of Discovery runs from March 6-16; the children's work will be on display during the Discovery days at the Guildhall (6-8 March).
  • Admission is free.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153