Building Bridges: meet the researchers

Nearly 600 school pupils from Gloucester visited Oxford this month and spent time with researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Reading. Pupils learned key messages about the researchers' work on sustainability, as part of the Building Bridges programme’s Green Planet theme focusing on the environment and sustainability.

Building Bridges supports primary school students’ successful transition to secondary school by boosting their academic motivation and engagement. This sustained contact programme was set up by the Department of Chemistry and works with multiple partners from across the collegiate university and externally.

Waste Age

The Williams Group focused on the development of polymers from sustainable sources and captured carbon dioxide. A model factory and beads representing monomers from different source material were used to help pupils understand how polymerisation occurs. These ‘polymer’ bracelets become a talking point at various points in the day as pupils moved onto different activities.

School pupils taking part in the Waste Age activity at the University of Oxford

It’s Elemental

The Aldridge Group’s session, highlighted the need to replace precious metals with those more earth-abundant, such as aluminium and iron. Pupils enjoyed putting their maths skills to the test working out relative proportions, as well as the energy saved (in boiled cups of tea) through altering the target metal. Issues such as deforestation and mining were made more relevant by reference to landmarks local to the children’s schools and homes.

School pupils taking part in the It's Elemental activity at the University of Oxford

The whole programme was FABULOUS!

– School teacher

I Will Survive!

The Flashman Group (formerly Department of Chemistry, and now Biology) considered how climate change affects algal and plant growth. Pupils learnt about lab research techniques and had to spot the difference in plants artificially flooded, considering plant responses and the work of the group in understanding this.

School pupils taking part in the I Will Survive activity at the University of Oxford

Raise the Pulse and It’s not Cricket

Two research groups from the University of Reading completed our carousel. ‘Raise the Pulse’ focused on including fibre in staple foods through the inclusion of the fava bean, whilst ‘It’s not Cricket’ considered the use of alternative protein sources to traditional farming. Pupils enjoyed the opportunity to use a powerful microscope and the live crickets were a highlight!

School pupils taking part in the Raise the Pulse activity at the University of Oxford

These sessions built on Science Assemblies delivered in British Science Week and lesson activities delivered by the schools’ teachers in the run up to the visits.

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