Friday, 31 May 2013

'Schools Go Wild': OPAL Competition Encourages Budding Scientists to Study Ecology

Over 130 school pupils from around Devon and Cornwall got the chance to explore the fascinating world of science and nature at an event on campus recently.
OPAL South West and the School of Biological Sciences held a free day of activities for local primary, secondary and special schools to teach and inspire young people about the natural world around them.
Children from 14 different schools attended and were able to examine tropical bugs in a University laboratory, have a go at making a cloud and go on a spider hunt in the old walls around campus. Children were able to discover some local wildlife, and talk to scientists and researchers from the School of Biological Sciences about the important of science and understanding the world around us better.
Each school that attended had also been asked to bring along an environmental project they have worked on this year. The projects included everything from studies of local birds and bugs, to marine plankton and pond life.
Children learn about the importance of earthworms and how to carry out the OPAL earthworm survey to assess soil quality


Alison Smith, OPAL Community Scientist, said: “The quality of the projects was very good, and it was inspiring and encouraging to see how enthusiastic all of the school groups were about their environment. We hope this will become an annual event, which can help connect the University with schools in the community.”
The event was possible because of the help of sixteen student volunteers from Biological Sciences and other courses, who accompanied the school groups for the day, and staff from the School who helped run a range of exciting activities.

The entries were exhibited in the Sherwell Centre and the winners were selected by Dr Maria Donkin and Dr Paul Ramsay. Their prize was a tour of the University’s state-of-the-art Marine Building and a session in the ship simulator, and a class pack of ID guides on local wildlife to help them explore their local environment further.
The winners were Marlborough Primary with their project ‘Go with the flow at Slapton Ley’ (Kingsbridge), Mill Ford School with their project ‘Building a Bug Hotel’, and Eggbuckland Community College with their project ‘The Eggbuckland Environment Enquiry.’
Eggbuckland Community College winners with Paul Ramsay - the school won the secondary school category for the Eggbuckland Environment Enquriy


Marlborough Primary School winners with Maria Donkin - the school won the primary school category with their project 'Go with the flow at Slapton Ley'



Pupils from Mill Ford School, winners of the Special School Category, find out from Buglife how to make their school more pollinator friendly

OPAL is a national project funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and led by Imperial College London in partnership with the Natural History Museum and nine regional universities. The south west project is led by the School of Biomedical and Biological Sciences at Plymouth University, and has engaged with over 20,000 people in the past five years. A new project - the Plymouth Woodland Project - led by the OPAL team, will begin in September. For more info, contact Alison Smith: alison.smith@plymouth.ac.uk.


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