I’ve been involved with Celebrate Science for the past 3 years, and I can say without a doubt that it is one of the highlights of my year. Watching scientists at all stages of their careers come together to create such an amazing event is incredible, and it’s humbling to be able to be a part of it.
Of course, it’s a chance to practice communication skills with a variety of different audiences, hone your organisational skills and demonstrate that you’re a good team player but I think it’s about so much more than just CV building. It’s a chance to share what you love about what you do with people who are excited to learn. It’s a chance to inspire the next generation of scientists and show them that science is so much more than equations, facts and figures. It’s a chance to show children (and often their grown-ups too!) a new way of looking at the world around them or make them think about something in a completely different light.
Volunteering at Celebrate Science is also a laugh, and I’m not joking when I say some of the anecdotes will stay with you for a long time! I’ve been asked where the internet is kept (and was I worried that we might need a bigger room), been told that all the colours mixed together made a ‘poo-colour’ (not white as I was suggesting) and had one child tell me that ‘they didn’t really enjoy my activity very much, but could they do it a few more times just to make sure’! For me, the reactions of older children and adults are often better than those of the younger kids. They’re trying so hard to appear to ‘know it all’ but can’t help but get excited when they see something new. I love watching the adults itching to have their own go at the activities after their kids have finished!
But maybe the most important thing of all is highlighting the people behind the science. The stereotype of the boffins in white coats doing complicated maths on a blackboard persists, and while I don’t doubt that those types of scientist exist they are far from the norm! We need to show that there is no ‘typical’ scientist, and that science is open to anyone regardless of background, gender or belief. We need to show that you don’t need to know everything to be a scientist, you just need to be excited to find out more. We are working to make science more diverse, and an important part of this is showing children that people just like them can become whatever they want to be. Children love the opportunity to talk to a ‘real life scientist’ and you never know, you may be the inspiration for their future career!
From a more practical point of view, no special skills or expertise is required to help out, just enthusiasm and willingness to help people discover new things. I know it sounds awfully cheesy but the best thing to bring is a smile!
Celebrate Science takes place over half term, Tuesday 29 – Thursday 31 October 2019, 10 am – 4 pm in the marquee on Palace Green. It’s also FREE!