Tag Archives: science

5 places to take Science mad kids in the North West

As the parent of a science mad child, we seem to spend a lot of our free time in science museums and visitors centres getting hands on with the sciences. As a result we’ve had some brilliant days out in our hometown of Manchester and across the North West. Today I’m sharing with you five of our favourite places to visit in the North West for science mad kids.

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

I can’t even contemplate writing about science in the north without mentioning the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. It’s a huge and iconic site, you can pop in for a quick hour or very easily spend a whole day exploring, learning and getting hands on. They have a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibits as well as lots of hands on things to do.

Tim Peake science

As I write this they have Tim Peak’s Spacecraft on display as a temporary exhibit as well as the vast number of permanent displays including the Power Hall, Air and Space Hall, Textiles Gallery, Revolution Manchester and explore some artifacts from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Take a ride on one on the working steam trains along the track at the museum.

It’s such a great day out, slap-bang in the heart of Manchester City Centre. Find out what’s on at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on their website.

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, Widness

The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre is the only museum in the UK which explores the science and technology behind the chemical industry. Packed with lots of hands-on exhibits, activities and demonstrations it’s one of our favourite places to visit with our son. They have an ever-changing programme of hands on exhibits as well as a fabulous observatory, a “Scientrific” Gallery and the Alchemy Theatre & Catalytic Discovery Lab.

It’s a brilliant science-packed place to visit, we love it there! For more information about the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, visit their website.

Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire

Most people will recognise the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire as the place where Stargazing Live is filmed. Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It is open to the public and has a lovely new visitors centre as well as fantastic hands-on exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close and personal.

You can read about our visit to Jodrell Bank Observatory here. For more information about Jodrell Bank Observatory visit their website.

Jodrell Bank science

Spaceport Planetarium, Wallasey

Spaceport is small, but well worth a visit if you’re in the area. With its focus on space and space travel, this attraction is suited to visitors aged 7+. Visitors learn about space as they walk through different themed galleries, which all have a variety of interactive and audio-visual exhibits, the highlight of which is a visit to the brilliant Spacedome planetarium itself.

Read this review of Spaceport Planetarium from Mini Travellers.

For more information, visit the Spacedome Planetarium website.

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum is such an iconic place to visit for Mancunian children. It has so many interesting things to explore and is packed full of science exhibits. There are lots of natural history exhibits, plus geology, archaeology, botany and Earth sciences to go and see. The big draws for us are Stan the reproduction cast of a fossilised Tyrannosaurus rex and upstairs the frog filled Vivarium, home to a large collection of endangered Costa Rican Frogs.

We visit Manchester Museum with almost alarming regularity. It’s a brilliant place to spend a few hours exploring and learning about all kinds of things.

For more information about Manchester Museum, visit their website.

There are so many fantastic places to visit in the North West. Where are your favourite places to take the kids to learn about science?

5 places to take Science mad kids in the North West

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

Tasked with coming up with some interesting crafts and things to do with three children during the half term, I thought we’d start our week by making some egg and cress heads. I thought it would be interesting to watch them grow over the week. They’re easy to put together and all three had great fun making them and watching them grow over the week.

This activity is perfect for my 7 year old who is in Year 2. Cress grows incredibly quickly, and almost before your eyes. This fast growing crop was really exciting for the children to watch growing. Each day they found a new thing to be excited about. The best day was when they got to try eating the peppery cress, it’s a rare sight watching three children delightedly eating their greens!

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

Growing egg and cress heads is a great opportunity for children to talk about their observations about how the seed grows into a plant and guessing what will happen next. It can also help to promote scientific thinking and helps with linking science to real life experiences.

Growing Egg and Cress Heads

You will need:
A hard boiled egg each
Cotton wool
Cress seeds
Felt tips to decorate your egg

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

How to make your egg and cress heads:
Hard boil your eggs and get a grown up to carefully take the top off and scoop out the egg inside.

Gently decorate your egg however you want. We drew pictures of cats and dogs on ours, but you could do almost anything.

Fluff up some cotton wool and put it inside the egg. Then pour some water over the cotton wool. Sprinkle some cress seeds on the top of the cotton wool and put on a windowsill in an egg cup.

Check the progress of your seeds every day, sprinkle more water on the seeds every so often. Within a week all of your seeds should have sprouted and your egg head should have a thick crop of cress hair!

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy this Jelly Bean STEM Architecture

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

Children’s Books: Five Superb Books About Science

One of my son’s favourite things is science. We can often be found at a science museum, or experimenting at home. He also loves to read books about all kinds of science; with a particular focus on dinosaurs, space and the earth sciences. I’ve picked out five of our favourite books about science, each one is a great introduction and resource for science mad kids!

Here are my Five Superb Books About Science –

First Encyclopedia of Science by Rachel Firth published by Usborne is a lovely basic introduction to science. Suitable for younger children this children’s encyclopedia is packed with easy-to-read text and lively illustrations which  introduces a broad range of basic science topics. It’s a great first step into science for younger children!

Children's Books: Five Superb Books About Science

Bug Hotel by Libby Walden and illustrated by Clover Robin is a beautiful book aimed at 3-6 year olds. Each page details the hotel habitat where creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes can find a place to stay. Lift the flaps to find out facts about your favourite garden insects and learn how a bug hotel can create a sustainable, safe environment for insects and mini-beasts.

365 Science Activities by Minna Lacey is jam-packed with fun science activities and experiments. With a different activity or experiment for every day of the year, this book is filled with hands-on science you can do at home with everyday things you’ll find around your home. This book is perfect for inspiring future scientists!

Astronaut Academy by Steve Martin is a wonderfully fun book for aspiring astronauts. This activity book will test their ability to manage life in space, working on their hand-eye coordination and putting them through obstacle courses; building a balloon rocket, learning basic first-aid skills, how to deal with weightlessness, and doing fiddly things while wearing big gloves! The book also includes stickers, a poster, board game, press-outs, and a model space shuttle; in fact everything an astronaut needs to get started!

National Geographic Kids – Everything Volcanoes and Earthquakes by Kathy Furgang. The National Geographic Kids series is fantastic for explaining things in ways children will understand. We are big fans of the Nat Geo books and Everything Volcanoes and Earthquakes is one of our favourites. Packed with incredible photographs and facts, this book takes a fun approach to science; introducing kids to plate tectonics and the tumultuous forces brewing beneath the Earth’s surface. 

Do you have any favourite books about science you read with your children? 

Children's Books: Five Superb Books About Science

What’s On: Manchester Science Festival 2017

The family-friendly programme for this year’s Manchester Science Festival has been unveiled. The 11 day science extravaganza is packed with events, including a robot playground, family rave and a wild dinosaur experience.  

This year’s festival runs from Thursday, 19 October to Sunday, 29 October and features more than 100 events at venues across Greater Manchester including Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport and Bolton as well as the city centre.

Headlining the Manchester Science Festival at the Museum of Science and Industry, will be the blockbuster exhibition Robots which explores the quest to recreate humans in robotic form. Smaller robot fans can also explore the themed activities at the Robots Playground featuring Miro the RoboDog, Nao the dancing robot and a host of other metallic friends.

Manchester Science Festival

Credit: Numen/For Use

Also headlining the Manchester Science Festival is Tape, by award-winning artists Numen/For Use. They are transforming the 1830 Warehouse at the Museum of Science and Industry into a giant spider’s web made from sticky tape. Visitors can climb through a translucent “stretched biomorphic skin” strung above the ground and crawl along winding networks of cocooning passageways.

Other events at the Museum of Science and Industry include Scribble Bots, Human vs Machine and Lego Space Rovers. Plus two fantastic immersive smartphone adventures featuring Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamarr, The Lost Program and Reporting For Duty.  

Further afield, visit the #CitizenScience Showcase to find out how people just like you are helping to make world-changing discoveries or experience the AquAIRium, a “dry aquarium” that brings every sound, scent and surface of the ocean to life. Puzzles, problem-solving and PlayStations: it’s all about experimental gaming at GameLab where for good measure, they’ll also take your mutt’s mugshot portrait using the latest camera technology. All three events are held at the MediaCityUK campus of the festival’s lead educational sponsor, the University of Salford.

Sing along to the A-Z of science with the Ensonglopedia of Science or discover the weird things the human voice can do at Electrifying the Voice. Music-lovers can enjoy science raps at the Hip Hop Science Stop Weekender. Experiments get excitingly explosive at Quantum of Science, while things that rain down from the sky is the subject of Meteorites and Fireballs.

Enjoy a creepie crawly boogie woogie at Big Fish Little Fish’s family rave. Encounter some Dinosaurs in the Wild and get hands on with the archives (and some Lego robots) in Science at Central.

There’s yet more hands-on fun at A Grand Exposition. A four-day celebration of the region’s diverse community of artists, makers and creative technologists, and The Science Studio. Visitors can get up close and personal with the chemicals, reactions and elements artists use in their art. The young coders of Manchester can test their hacking skills at HackManchester Junior; plus TV astronomer Mark Thompson will explore the magical properties of matter with exploding elephant’s toothpaste and vortex generating dustbins in Mark Thompson’s Spectacular Science Show.

The popular Pi: Platform for Investigation returns with daily events at the Museum of Science and Industry; featuring the real-life amazing researchers investigating subjects including flooding, dementia and killer fungi.

For more information and to see the full programme of events at the Manchester Science Festival, visit www.manchestersciencefestival.com

An audience with Astronaut Tim Peake in Manchester

On Saturday we set off an an out of this world adventure at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (known locally as MSI). We were part of a small audience with astronaut Tim Peake – something the small boy was beside himself with excitement about. 

Tim was there for a very special event, a trailblazer for the Manchester Science Festival. He was there to talk about his adventures on board the International Space Station. 

Tim Peake

Aspiring astronauts hoping to follow in Tim’s footsteps were able to hear him speak about his experiences in orbit and quiz the spaceman on what life is really like on board a space station.

Tim returned from the six month long Principia mission in June this year. During the mission Tim carried out a spacewalk and ran the London Marathon in space. His mission has inspired thousands of British schoolchildren to learn more about space – the small boy and his class grew some “space seeds” at school which had been sent from the International Space Station, and for several months we keenly followed Tim’s adventures in space.

As you can imagine, the room was filled with school children excited to see their astro-hero, the interviewers did a fine job of asking him about his adventures in space, illustrated for the most part by photographs which Tim had taken.

Tim Peake

After the fascinating interview (which was live streamed if you want to watch it for yourself) the audience of children were given the chance to ask Tim questions. There were some really good questions, but the one about space toilets really stuck with me. Apparently 90% of the urine is recycled into drinking water, with the remaining 10% being bagged up and disposed of in the trash.

Tim Peake

As an adult I was incredibly excited to be in the same room as Tim Peake, but the small boy, who is just 5 years old has now met someone who is a real hero. He will remember this day for the rest of his life, and I hope he will be inspired, if not to go into space, but at least shoot for the stars. As Tim says, there’s no direct route to being an astronaut, but working hard and having fun are a big part of the journey.

The small boy had managed to bag himself a front row seat for this audience with British Astronaut Tim. You can watch a short video of our morning below –

Tim Peake’s appearance in Manchester was part of a seven-date UK tour organised by the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency and was the trailblazer event for the Manchester Science Festival 2016.

Manchester Science Festival 2016 marks the end of the city’s year-long role as European City of Science, and runs throughout half-term from Monday 20 October – Sunday 30 October.

You can read my preview of the Manchester Science Festival here.

Tim Peake

For more information and full event listings for the Manchester Science Festival 2016 visit their website.

What’s On: Manchester Science Festival 2016

With the summer holidays now a dim and distant memory, the programme of events for the Manchester Science Festival 2016 has just been revealed. For ten days in October and throughout the October Half Term they have a jam-packed programme filled with fun and (mostly) free, hands-on family activities for all ages!

Produced by the Museum of Science and Industry and supported by Siemens and the University of Salford, the Manchester Science Festival 2016 runs from Thursday 20 October to Sunday 30 October.

Manchester Science Festival 2016

There are a whole host of events for all the family. Family highlights at the Museum of Science and Industry include: the Virtual Reality Playground for gaming fans and tech loving tots and teens featuring the very latest in VR devices, offering a unique and hands on insight into what the future holds; the Manchester Megapixel which offers visitors the chance to see themselves as pixels and to take part in a giant megapixel installation to be revealed in full on the Festival’s closing day; and Robot Orchestra Live where Manchester’s exclusive robot orchestra – formed entirely from recycled instruments, electronics and junk – perform alongside human musicians at the museum for the first time. This unique musical experience will be conducted by Graphene, a life-sized robot built by Manchester Science Festival 2016 Sponsors Siemens.

Across town, family highlights include the annual Science Jam at the media city campus at the University of Salford. Pop in over the Festival’s opening weekend for a chance to experience life among living machines and venture into a “forest of curiosity” where writers, poets and actors team up with scientists, naturalists, geographers and environmentalists to embark on an interactive journey of discovery.

Harry Potter Fans are in for a rare treat with The Philospher’s Scone. Enjoy an afternoon tea with a difference at Harvey Nichols Manchester. Enjoy miniature cakes and pastries inspired by the world of Hogwart’s most famous student as author and journalist Roger Highfield explains how magic really works. There will also be a screening of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. Fancy Dress is a must!

Manchester Science Festival 2016

Little explorers and crafty kids can partake in Artist Sundays and Big Draw at the Whitworth to create take home colourful art works inspired by the gallery’s collection; uncover the mysteries of space in the Big Science Telescope Show at Jodrell Bank; go Hunting for Infections at Quarry Bank Mill; Play with oversized orgami, twisted vines and massive paper sculptures at Nightshade at the Gallery Oldham; join in Messy Science at the University of Bolton and in the Science Spectacular at Manchester Museum; have a go at 3D modelling at Z-Arts or silver ring soldering at Manchester Craft and Design Centre – a mere handful of the many drop in and largely free activities taking place throughout the Festival.

Manchester Science Festival 2016

Manchester Science Festival 2016 marks the end of the city’s year-long role as European City of Science, and runs throughout half-term from Monday 20 October – Sunday 30 October.

For more information and full event listings for the Manchester Science Festival 2016 visit their website.

Days Out: Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire

Most people will be familiar with the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire as the place where Stargazing Live is filmed. Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It is open to the public and has a lovely new visitors centre as well as exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close and personal.

We visited Jodrell Bank one sunny but bitterly cold day in February. It’s not actually that easy to find as the signposting is few and far between, but if you look for the giant telescope and head towards that you’ll eventually find it (or just use sat nav like normal people). There was ample parking in the car park and it cost £7 per adult and £4.95 per child to get in, which we felt was good value for money.

The visitors centre is not huge, it houses the cafe, shop, reception and a display room with information about various parts of the universe as well as a clockwork Orrery, something I’d never seen before but instantly wanted to have one in my house. An Orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system. There was a handle at child height which we turned and watched the planets and the moons on the ceiling move around. It was something quite special and we spent a lot of time looking at it and talking about the planets.

Jodrell Bank

From the visitors centre we went outside, there were gardens to explore, but as it was very cold we decided to head straight for the outdoor science experiments area. There were a number of large scale experiments to try, each with a plaque explaining what to do. We particularly liked the “Whispering Dishes” or parabolic reflectors, two dishes opposite each other, but some distance apart, one person would whisper into the dish and the other could hear it. It was brilliant and very popular. 

Jodrell Bank

We were close to the base of the telescope, there is a large fence around it so you can’t actually go and touch it, but you can get very close. The Lovell Telescope is huge and the dish measures 78 metres across, I was in awe of the size of it, even though I remember visiting as a child.

Jodrell Bank

Having spent around an hour outside conducting experiments in the cold, we headed into the Space Pavilion to have a look at some of the indoor exhibits and to discover how the scientists at Jodrell Bank use radio telescopes to learn more about distant objects in space. 

Jodrell Bank

There were lots of hands on exhibits to look at and play about with, as well as a little room where you could sit and watch a film about space. The boys loved it in here, the was lots for them to look at and learn about. I felt the Space Pavilion would have benefited from having someone there to help explain and demonstrate some of the exhibits, but I like to have things explained to me. 

Jodrell Bank

After a few hours exploring we felt ready for a hot cup of tea and some cake, sadly the Planet Pavilion Cafe was heaving, so we headed to the shop to buy some space souvenirs and experiments we could try at home, then hopped in the car and left.

Jodrell Bank

We’d had an especially lovely afternoon at Jodrell Bank. We’d explored both the observatory and the outer edges of the universe, learned a little bit about science and got some fresh air. It was a great afternoon out and we are planning to return in the summer when it’s a bit warmer.

For more information about Jodrell Bank visit their website.

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, The University of Manchester, Macclesfield, Cheshire, Sk11 9DL

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, Widnes

During half term week it’s hard to find interesting, entertaining things to do for all the family. Something that isn’t all about sitting in front of a screen for hours, perhaps something secretly educational would be good too. The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes is both interesting and entertaining as well as being educational. It’s also good value with a family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) costing just £19.95 for the day.

During half term (and all school holidays), the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre have a programme of events designed to attract families. This half term there are two workshops, the first “Energy from Waste” which is a fascinating look at what happens with our waste, for example all Manchester’s waste goes to a processing plant in Runcorn and the fun workshop will look at how waste is turned into energy.

The second workshop is “Ludicrous liquids” and you can discover amazing liquids that act like solids, liquids that change colour on their own, liquids which act like magnets and you can even have a go at creating your own lava lamp.

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

During school holidays the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre is open 10am-5pm (last entrance 4pm). Car parking is free and you can grab lunch or a snack at the Elements Cafe’. It’s a lovely day out and a great way to introduce children to the exciting world of science and give them the opportunity to explore and discover new things.

If you’d like to visit The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre this half term please do visit their website for more information.