Today, we set out for Merrion Square in Dublin City Centre as part of this year’s St Patrick’s Festival. We took part in the Science zone of “The Big Day Out”. We showed children what it is like to work in a life science laboratory. We were assisted in this by some real life scientists: Dr Alex Ebhardt, Mariana Cardoso, Veronica Ibanez from Systems Biology Ireland, UCD and Aoife McNamara and Dr Taciane Alegra from the UCD Institute of Food and Health. Our volunteers taught the children how to use pipettes – micropipettes for the older ones, and squeezy transfer pipettes for the younger ones. To make this fun, we provided lots of colourful liquids made with food dyes. The children used their pipettes to create beautiful patterns of coloured drops on petri dishes and filter paper.
The ones more adept with the pipettes also made rainbows in a test tube, by carefully pipetting sucrose gradients with a different colour for each layer. In another experiment, children inspected petri dishes inoculated with washed and unwashed finger tips. In order to model this, children were asked to stick their finger into paint – representing bacteria and germs – and then wipe them off on a pair of trousers specially laid out for this experiment. As the children could see for themselves, just wiping the fingers was not sufficient to get it all off, only washing the hands with soap and water did the job. For those kids interested in CSI, they could also solve a crime scene by comparing DNA bands created by gel electrophoresis.
About 120 children attended the workshop, it was an inclusive event where also children with disabilities took part and enjoyed the science experience.