Rarely are projects run solely to spread enthusiasm but the Abingdon Science Partnership, ASP, does just that. Its aim is quite simply to get children, students and adults interested in science.
Set up three years ago by staff at Abingdon School, the Partnership’s focus is community science, getting involved with schools, clubs, local organisations and events. Now entering its fourth year, ASP has been hugely successful so far and has a very bright future ahead of it.
Jeremy Thomas, the ASP Co-ordinator says: “We want everyone to explore science, not just to learn what’s on a syllabus, and it’s exciting no matter what age you are. We started with our own ideas but now we are part of big, national projects such as the Polar Explorer Programme which puts primary school children in touch with scientists working in the polar regions, and ATLAScraft where secondary students from several schools constructed a virtual version of CERN’s ATLAS detector in Minecraft. We want people to see how fascinating science can be, and not just the headline stuff – every day science is great too.”
The Partnership has a dedicated science lab at Abingdon School which hosts activities and events including Science Oxford’s Saturday Science Clubs which regularly attract up to 60 primary aged children and their parents. The clubs, which are practical and hands-on, are run voluntarily by ASP staff and Abingdon School students. They explore diverse topics from building rockets and investigating fossils to making models of human digestion. And they’ve even run science for adults too with a ‘Gunge for Grown Ups’ evening.
Sophie Batin, Education Outreach Manager at Science Oxford said, “The Abingdon Science Partnership has been invaluable in supporting our programme of fun, interactive science activities for young people and their families in Abingdon and beyond. The sessions are always well received – families love the exciting mix of hands-on science and inspirational teaching that the Partnership provides.”
Brownies, Beavers, Rainbows, Scouts and Guides all use the ASP lab. Children can work on badges, Science Investigator and Star Gazer, and get involved with projects such as clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Interested parties include 10 Downing St who invited the 30th Abingdon Beavers to visit and demonstrate their project.
ASP’s activities cover over 50 schools and community organisations across Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. The Partnership supports CREST at ten schools with around 300 Year 2 and Year 3 pupils gaining the Star award each year. ASP has also become a catalyst for the growth of local STEM outreach activities, supporting these in both maintained and independent schools and youth groups. The Partnership works with local community organisations including the annual Abingdon ATOM Festival of Science and Technology.
Louise Warren, Head-teacher of Buckland CE Primary School, said, “We had the privilege of sending three of our classes to the Abingdon science lab. The children all returned, challenged and enthused having taken part in a wide range of activities from investigating floating and sinking and using levers to create water extraction devices, to the excitement of Bunsen burners heating different compounds. Our Year 5 and 6 children were captivated by comparing the DNA of a human and a shark whilst our younger ones await their turn with great anticipation.”
Jeremy Thomas says, “We have made great strides in our first three years and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response. It’s fantastic to see how exploring science in different ways can really capture the imagination, particularly of school age children. If ASP and other initiatives can continue to fuel this enthusiasm then I’m very optimistic about the future of science in the UK.”