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Cell EXPLORERS, Ireland’s unique science higher education outreach programme, has started a new season of workshops in schools across Ireland with the Fantastic DNA Roadshow for 2018-19.
Funded by Science Foundation Ireland and aimed at bringing hands-on real science to the classroom, last year Cell EXPLORERS visited 62 schools and 110 classes nationwide, engaging with 2,757 pupils across 15 counties, compared to 8 counties in 2016.
One of the key goals of the Cell EXPLORERS’ Fantastic DNA Roadshow is to dispel the myths about who scientists are, who can become them, and what they do. Most children visited had not met a scientist before, and all children liked to learn from the approachable and fun Cell EXPLORERS scientists.
Dr Shane McGuinness, National Coordinator of Cell EXPLORERS said: “It is so important to engage our young people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) from an early age, to break the stereotypes around science and scientists. The growth of the programme, based on the volunteering activities of university and institutes of technology students and staff, is well beyond our expectations.”
The programme began in 2012 as a single team based out of NUI Galway and has expanded to a total of ten partner institutions nationwide, with year-on-year growth in reach and engagement. The coming year will see an expansion of the programme delivery even further with partner teams gaining in size and autonomy with additional novel outreach events planned.
Cathy Foley, Senior Executive, Education and Public Engagement at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Cell EXPLORERS is delivering public engagement to children and families through the involvement of inspiring young people studying or working in Science from Higher Education Institutions. The Cell EXPLORERS team members act as mentors and inspiration to young children to engage and pursue a passion for STEM topics. For that reason, we are delighted to support the project through the SFI Discover Programme.”
The lynchpin of Cell EXPLORERS is the dedicated team of volunteers, from undergraduate students across many different science backgrounds, through postgraduate students, postdoctoral researchers or faculty members. Last year, the Cell EXPLORERS volunteer team exceeded 256 dedicated and passionate scientists acting as role models across the national network. The programme attempt to reach some of the schools where children might receive less exposure to STEM extra-curricular activities with 40% of schools visited last year located in rural areas and 30% part of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) plan.
Overall, teachers and parents agree about the importance of the programme in providing a first positive exposure to science to their pupils. They ranked the opportunity for each child to do an experiment and the interactions between pupils and local third-level science demonstrators as the most beneficial aspects of the visits.
The ten-partner Cell EXPLORERS network is currently made up of the following institutions: NUI Galway, Athlone IT, Dundalk IT, IT Carlow, IT Tralee, Letterkenny IT, Maynooth University, University College Cork, University College Dublin and the University of Limerick.
If you would like one of the teams to visit your school visit www.cellexplorers.com and find your nearest team to make a booking. Alternatively, follow the initiative on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Cell EXPLORERS activities, and the expansion of the programme to other institutions, is funded by a two-year award under the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme, NUI Galway and Galway University Foundation.