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YorNight: a day for education

Children get to grips with archaeology and nuclear hysics.

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Image Credit: Luke Snell

Last Saturday the general public was able to attend YorNight, hosted by the University of York at the York Barbican.
Hands-on activities and talks were held in the afternoon with a science cabaret later in the evening, focusing on topics such as astrology, magic and cosmology. The event mainly focused on children and the main consensus by the various stalls was to encourage children to think more about science and space.

This was achieved in a variety of ways. Many of the scientific ideas being presented were complicated so a mixture of food and craft were used in order to get the children involved. Perhaps one of the most popular stalls was the ‘Eat Bug outreach scheme’ where a variety of bugs could be sampled in order to pro-mote sustainability as bugs are high in protein.

The stall focusing on graffiti was also busy with children who were able to attempt their own graffiti, while being encouraged to learn about the historical value of it, and consider why modern graffiti is considered undesirable as opposed to graffiti from the Pompeii’s ruins.

A significant part of YorNight was devoted to encouraging children to think differently about science. Both nuclear physics and molecular chemistry used Lego to attempt to simplify their ideas for the children including Lego machinery to highlight the process of making molecules Nouse spoke to one parent who was disappointed to find that her 7 year old had understood very little of the day as the child had never heard of molecules and isotopes, even if they had been made out of Lego.
However as Joe Allcock from nuclear physics suggested the main aim of the event was simply for children “to interact with physics even if it is just through Lego as well as raising awareness of the positive side to nuclear physics.”
For example, whilst building towers with Lego, children were able to learn that eating a banana is potentially more dangerous than living by a nuclear power plant for a year in terms of radiation levels.

Interaction to help children was the main theme for most stalls and when asked by Nouse why he chose the materials he did for his stall that looked at prehistoric artefacts, Andy Needham highlighted the importance of making the unrelatable accessible to children which is why craft was being implemented. Interestingly, the Department of Archaeology had a strong presence at the event with at least eight stalls, including how to make prehistoric cheese and allowing children to handle 1000 year old Viking faeces.

Departments were allowed to apply for stalls and Penny Bickle from the Department of Archaeology pointed out that many research grants involve an impact component and that, in general, she believes archaeologists “enjoy talking to the public more” as people think “archaeology is just digging and it’s nice to get people more involved.

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