I took a day off today to spend with Mrs H and the children during the school half term holiday.
We decided to visit the newly opened Cambridge Science Centre (CSC) in Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Despite Cambridge having an international reputation for Science and Mathematics due to the status of the City’s Universities it has lacked a venue to engage people in popular science.
It’s a fair distance from our house to Cambridge and we took a break from a busy morning’s arguing, petulance and disagreement to drive to Cambridge. What fun school holidays are 🙂
Pardon this little aside, it becomes relevant at the end. We listened to Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 phone-in show as we drove; the Government’s Workfare programme the topic of discussion. If you are not familiar this is the programme where unemployed people have been compelled to work to line the pockets of large businesses in order to gain valuable work experience stacking shelves rather than looking for work or doing socially useful voluntary work. Apparently in this country when you complete a degree course you are ready to learn how to correctly stack shelves in Poundland. This prompted yet another discussion about emigration 🙂 What has this country come to?
I confess to knowing Elan Lennard (@glamourgeek) who is married to Chris, a Director of the Charity that founded the centre. Despite knowing a little about how hard Chris, Elan and the team have worked to create the centre, I didn’t know what to expect.
The centre is a real joy. In a relatively compact space it’s full of interactive exhibits exploring Electricity, Motors, Hearing, Gears, X-Rays, Colour, Sight, Refraction and Lift. With each exhibit there’s an explanation of the science, with the exception of the gears exhibit. Despite being aimed at older children a few examples of what to build from the various levers, cranks and gears would help smaller children learn the basics. Volunteers and staff are also on hand to explain and play. There are (hourly I think) demonstrations, we enjoyed a demo of static electricity given by a very enthusiastic and entertaining scientist. Despite having ambitions to grow, the Cambridge Science Centre punches above it’s weight and has the potential to inspire thousands of future physicists, biologists and chemists.
If only empty High Street shops up and down the country could be filled with exhibits like those we played with today and enthusiastic volunteers recruited to build science clubs. If they could change the exhibits frequently, attract knowledgable speakers and through guerrilla science inspire children to want to study hard and pursue careers in physics, biology, chemistry and technology. If, next door, there was a maths club, an entrepreneurs club and a computer science club we wouldn’t have to worry about our children struggling to find shelf stacking jobs in Sainsbury’s. Instead of aiming for the lowest common denominator our children could realise their very great potential and allow the UK to compete strongly in the future world economy.
The CSC is well worth a visit if you are in the area, and I would love to see it grow, not just in Cambridge but elsewhere.