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Insight Communities: Dr Aoibheann Bird’s eye view of science in the classroom

Submitted on Friday, 10/06/2022

Asking 10 year old children what they want to know about life, the universe and everything can be a really rewarding and yet also a very time consuming activity! Sometimes they can really stump you and you might even get a bit curious yourself –  “How fast would your heart need to be for it to explode?” “In what language do deaf people think?” “How many different organs can you live without?” “Is it hard to be a scientist?” “How do you get to college?”. Parents and teachers sometimes struggle to answer these questions for children, often due to a lack of scientific knowledge and understanding. As a result, children may stop asking questions because their source of information isn’t able to help, leading to a decreased future interaction with science.

Little Big Questions, an SFI Discover funded project, takes young school children from low socio-economic areas around Dublin and transports them to UCD to explore exciting science through play and inquiry-based learning. We have them for 90minutes per week for 6 weeks and the children get to ask such questions and not only learn the answers but most importantly learn the steps to come up with solutions themselves. This process engages children in a truly impactful way because it values and listens to the interests of all the children involved.

At the end of the day I am exhausted from all the questions, the excitement and energy from the children, but I also go home with a sense that I have made a difference, however little in a young person’s life by providing a welcoming space to visit campus and enjoy a foray into the world of Science, Technology,  Engineering and Maths.

Dr Aoibhéann Bird, EPE Manager Insight and Co-Lead of the Big Little Questions project