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CNAP scientists reveal a secret world

Posted on 5 March 2003

Bed bugs, spider’s legs and influenza molecules are bringing science to life for schoolchildren thanks to CNAP at the University of York. Professor Dianna Bowles, CNAP Director and Weston Chair of Biochemistry, was awarded £8000 by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for Hidden Worlds – Secret Lives, a science communication project to give children more understanding of the natural world. Yorkshire Arts contributed a further £2500 to enable the exploration and understanding of science through art. The project is also supported by Garfield Weston Foundation core funding to CNAP.

The overall aim of Hidden Worlds – Secret Lives is to stimulate the children’s curiosity and to show them that there is more to life than meets the eye on an everyday basis. Teams of CNAP scientists visited five schools in the York area and gave pupils the opportunity for ’hands-on’ experience with microscopes. During a second visit, the children produced artwork representing what they had seen with the help of local artists, printmaker Jane Kennelly and landscape artist Phil Roberts. The children’s work will be part of an interactive display at the York Festival of Discovery which starts on Thursday 6th March.

Dr Alex Brabbs, project co-ordinator said “We visited the schools twice. The first visit was science based, and gave the 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 had seen – by writing, drawing, or even making a video. They have produced some stunning work.”

The schools involved in the project were: Badger Hill Primary, Tang Hall Primary, Derwent Junior, Poppleton Road Primary and Fulford Cross.

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 long time to come”.

Professor Dianna Bowles 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 have 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 6-19; the children’s work will be on display during the Discovery Days at the Guildhall (6-8 March). Admission is free.
  • The Hidden Worlds – Secret Lives stand will comprise interactive microscope demonstrations and activities, a display of the children’s art work and a video made at Fulford Cross School.
  • CNAP is a research centre in the Department of Biology at the University of York specialising in solving problems for industry, society and the environment through gene research.
  • The Science and Society office in CNAP aims to promote an awareness of biological science and technology to audiences from a non-scientific background.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153