GDST Junior Science Conference 2018: Curiosity is in our DNA

What is the best way to learn about science? Having liquid nitrogen poured over your arm is one! Igniting hydrogen is another. Playing with fire – in a reasonably controlled way – and burning biscuits in liquid oxygen could be yet another.

Fearless volunteers from schools across the Girls’ Day School Trust did many of the above at the inaugural GDST Junior Science Conference at the Royal Institution on Thursday 3rd May 2018.

This was the first time the GDST has brought together Year 5 girls (aged nine to 10-years-old) from schools across the GDST family for a dedicated subject festival.

‘They could see it was risky,’ said Will Wareing, GDST Deputy Director for Education, ‘but there was such a reward as well. You could see wonder and awe written in their faces’.

Gathered for a spectacular finale in the iconic Faraday theatre, from which ground breaking science discoveries have been communicated and displayed for centuries, girls were joined by parents and relations who clearly enjoyed it as much as they did.

‘My husband Simon, who has a scientific background, said they were the most impressive experiments for children he’s ever seen,’ said one parent.

Another commented: ‘[My daughter] has clearly been inspired by what she saw and experienced today and no doubt this will continue to fuel her passion for the subject.’

The Royal Institution has a long history of teaching by showing and doing and this was a very active day of science for the girls.

Earlier in the day, girls donned lab coats to extract DNA from cheek cells. They then physically manipulated chromosome models and discussed various features of their genetic inheritance.

‘Our girls have come in this morning with their DNA (and they know what this means!) hanging around their necks. So proud and have clearly learned a lot,’ said one junior head teacher. ‘The girls even want to go to college in London when they’re older; the impact of these London conference days is truly immeasurable.’

Along the way, they learnt that female scientists come in many guises – from marine biologists to astronauts, from engineers to leading sportswomen.

Exploring the museum and displays at the Royal Institution, they heard about notable scientists such as Kathleen Lonsdale, whose pioneering work on the nature of benzene, was carried out at the Ri.

‘The only problem for these girls might be how to follow such an experience … but perhaps that isn’t such a problem if they now realise that they can do anything!’ said Will Wareing.