So our department recently received a grant to work on outreach work. Since part of my final year project is outreach, this is really good for us. We have been working with local schools to run experiments in the classrooms for the classes of children, to see what studying science subjects in higher education can be like.
Over the last couple of weeks, a group of third (final) year undergrads including myself have been putting on a fingerprint extended experiment for year 8 students at one school. Obviously, if I was someone who wanted to become a teacher, that would be great. But actually that’s not what I want to do at all.
The thing is, though, that most people probably wouldn’t say they know that much about science. And neither do most 12 year olds. So although being great at research is obviously very important in scientific subjects, good research is pointless if people cannot communicate the results. So that’s why this sort of outreach is so great; firstly it allows school children to do something a bit different in their lessons, and hopefully to give a bit of context to the subject, but also so that we can actually practice explaining science to a general audience.
Early today, I had to explain my research project to groups ranging from age 10 to age 14. This was really enjoyable, but actually quite challenging. It made me really think about what I said, and served as a reminder that good communication skills are really important, and probably often underrated.