Update 20th May 2020: To date the Scientist Next Door has hosted over 20 sessions and has been contacted by more than 30 families. Some 50 scientists from across the world have signed up to help, allowing the team to reach more households in the UK and abroad.
As of today, COVID-19 lockdowns are implemented in more than 160 countries around the globe, affecting over 90% of the World's student population. This impacts directly on children's education, removing an opportunity to learn through activities and interactions.
The uptake of science by children is strongly correlated with their socioeconomic background, their family connections with scientists and the possibility to engage in experiments and practicals during lessons. Therefore, the additional burden of home-schooling further widens the gap between classes accessing to sciences.
The Scientist Next Door project was created to support families and to create a new inclusive culture of learning together. Our website www.scientist-next-door.org acts as a platform to provide interesting materials, experiments and to organise calls. Through these calls, we want to give children a unique and continuous opportunity of talking to scientists and asking questions, to start scientific discussions within their families.
Our goal is to give support to families that are currently not benefiting from science connections, events and activities. Through this, we believe, we can lower the barriers that prevent students from the least advantaged backgrounds pursuing their aspirations in science.
The project was started by a small group of researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Durham. In the first three weeks of our existence, we have been joined by over fifty scientists from around the world, that share our vision - see who we are and what we do.
We want to encourage children to be curious about science and the world around them.
As scientists we were concerned that lockdown would widen the gap in the uptake of sciences by children and we wanted to provide a fun and accessible platform for their continued learning.
We have also been contacted by nearly thirty families, from around the UK and abroad. We held eight calls, and another few are already planned for this week. Each call generates new material, that we are hosting on our website. We have discussed multiple topics, such as Life (including discussions on COVID, with some Legends and Myths debunked), States of Matter and Waves and Light.
Other fun experiments for children and adults to try together include extracting DNA from a strawberry, how to compare your fingerprints and why boats float and balloons fly.
There is also a section about Covid-19 – explaining what it is, debunking some myths, explaining differences between viruses and bacteria, and why you should wash your hands.
Our goal is to give support to families that are currently not benefiting from science connections, events and activities. Through this, we believe, we can lower the barriers that prevent pupils from the least advantaged backgrounds pursuing their aspirations in science.
And this is a photograph from Friday 17th of April of a group of scientists (Alessia, Johanna, Basile and Valentina behind the beakers) preparing for the upcoming call and enjoying a DIY spectroscope!
- Want to also have fun? You can find the instructions on our website, or even better join us!
- If you are a scientist, you can write to Valentina on firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are a parent - contact us through the form on our website.
- Follow us on Twitter @Scientist_ND where we share videos, experiments, and live (online) events; and also share our Facebook page with your friends!
- Durham University Chemistry Department
- Durham University Physics Department