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By Susan Raikes on

SMG celebrates British Science Week 2023

British Science Week is always a highlight of the year for our colleagues and our young visitors - this year has been no exception with a wide range of activities happening all across the Science Museum Group. British Science Week is a 10-day celebration of science, engineering, technology and maths. Taking place from Friday 10 – Sunday 19 March 2023, this year’s theme is Connections.

British Science Week kicked off for the Science Museum Group on Monday 13 March, when we announced an exciting new partnership with Blue Origin’s Club for the Future on a project called, Postcards to Space. The ambition of the initiative is to inspire children to imagine the positive impact they can have on the future, pursue careers in STEM subjects and galvanise the next generation of space explorers.

Postcards to Space asks children from across the globe to fill in postcards with their thoughts and ideas for the next generation of space travel. Their postcards will be put on one of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rockets and sent into space, with the postcards then safely delivered back to their authors with a stamp to officially certify that they’ve been to space.

To mark the launch of Postcards to Space in the UK, schools were invited to enter a competition to design the perfect interplanetary postbox. The winning entry was designed by ‘Team Rocket Science’ from St Mary’s Primary School. The winning postbox was built by technicians at the Science Museum, and is ready to receive the cosmic cards while on display at the museum.

‘Team Rocket Science’, winners of the Postcards to Space postbox competition from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Hammersmith, with Kylie Lucas from Blue Origin, Gwen Griffin from Club for the Future and Susan Raikes from the Science Museum.

Travelling through the solar system also became a key theme in a special Live Lesson, exploring forces, that was devised in a partnership between CBBC and the Science Museum to celebrate British Science Week. The episode aired on CBBC on Monday and is currently available to watch back on BBC Teach.

With the Live Lesson’s astronaut Frankie stuck in space, pupils were challenged to design a landing module to bring the intrepid explorer safely back down to Earth by using their knowledge of gravity, friction and air resistance.

The programme was recorded in the museum’s galleries with astronaut Helen Sharman, local school children and one of our Explainers all joining as very special guests.

Rhys Stephenson and Maddie Moate in Exploring Space at the Science Museum for their Live Lesson on forces

Then on Tuesday, British Science Week gave us the opportunity to go out to visit a fantastic school in Kent whose students were shortlisted for the Zayed Sustainability Prize, one of only three finalists in the Europe and Central Asia schools category.

Having first met them in Abu Dhabi at the awards ceremony, SMG Director Sir Ian Blatchford and I visited Northfleet Technology College in Gravesend to see their work in action. Meeting staff and students Ben, Shimon and James we had a tour of the College Nature Reserve that the boys have cleared land for and created entirely from scratch.

Despite the distinctly gloomy weather we saw how much progress has already been made with 1,000 trees planted, a weather station with live data which can now be used in lessons, plenty of bug hotels, a new vegetable patch and the beginning of a new pond and apple and cherry orchards. There are cameras on the site which have captured the activity of foxes and woodpeckers. We also heard about plans for a colony of bees, an outdoor classroom and lots of opportunities for business studies once all that produce is ready to be sold. There is also a forest school on the site and maths lessons take place there too, calculating the potential height of all those trees!

Visiting Northfleet Technology College for British Science Week (c) Northfleet Technology College

The older students had invited Year 2 pupils from local primary schools to join in a special range of activities for Science Week and we saw them bravely adding to the orchard and the vegetable patch despite the rain! The younger children were also given tree saplings to plant back at their own schools, spreading the impact of the project even further.

We are very much looking forward to seeing the NTC boys’ work grow and develop and have made plans for them to visit the Science Museum in the near future.

At Northfleet Technology College Year 2 pupils from local schools were invited to add to the orchard and vegetable patch (c) Northfleet Technology College

An exciting new show has also launched exclusively for schools at the Science Museum this week. Mission to Space explores the fascinating world of space travel where Key Stage 2 (7-11 years) will discover the planets that make up our Solar System and learn how they orbit the Sun. The shows will continue as part of the regular programme for schools alongside Destination Space, Feel the Force and It Takes Guts.

Over at Locomotion, there’s been a jam-packed week of free workshops and activities, all exploring the theme of connections. Self-led family learning activities exploring themes of science, technology, engineering and maths are being offered on a drop-in basis. For schools and education groups pre-bookable Explainer-led workshops have been laid on, focusing on STEM topics for KS1 and 2.

Locomotion is also working with Shildon Alive to host a free after-school club for local families. Families can join three weekly sessions in March, which are ideal for KS2 children. The sessions explore our connections to food, our connections to the places our food comes from, and our connections between food and the natural environment. This after-school club has been made possible thanks to funding from the British Science Week Community Grants fund.

Visitors enjoying a trip to Locomotion (c) Eleanor Bentall

Over at the Science and Industry Museum, there have been lots of free opportunities for education groups and visitors to ask questions and get hands-on with science. Get Curious held a special British Science Week takeover by AND DIGITAL.  Using clever coding, visitors could guide a robot through a maze, get crafty with ciphers and encrypt their name in a binary bracelet. Plus, there was a chance to be immersed in a Virtual Reality headset experience.

Scientists, engineers and other STEM professionals also shared their experiences of work in a series of interactive talks as part of National Careers Week and British Science Week in a STEM Careers Q&A series. Visitors heard from people working in science-related roles to find out more about what they do, how they got into their role, and what inspires them.

Giant Leaps – a new interactive installation by acclaimed choreographer Corey Baker at the National Science and Media Museum

Meanwhile on Saturday 18 March, the National Science and Media Museum is hosting a Family Fun Day exploring the wonders of space. At Giant Leaps, visitors can enjoy an out-of-this-world experience with a new interactive installation by acclaimed choreographer Corey Baker. They can throw some shapes as they’re transported through the galaxy and see the influence of their movements on the journeys of stars and space dust. There’s an opportunity to experience space and light in a whole new way with the live show, Exploring Space: Science Show. Visitors can discover how we use telescopes, satellites and rockets to explore our universe and learn more about the planets and stars of the galaxy.

There’s also a chance to take part in space-themed sensory activities for all ages, including a sensory ‘space-walk’ provided by local community partners. And if that weren’t enough, they can join Impact Gamers for Space Station Gaming to create a mini space station game using techniques from paper to PC – and then take materials away to carry on at home.

Like I said, it’s been a busy week across the Science Museum Group.