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BioQuarter volunteers flushed with success of STEM clubs for local primary pupils


Primary schools in Craigmillar, Niddrie, Moredun and Gilmerton were thrown a lifeline by volunteers from the professional science community based at neighbouring Edinburgh BioQuarter when their after-school clubs were hit hard by Covid-19 rules.

To avoid children missing out, scientists, staff and students from BioQuarter and the University of Edinburgh King’s Buildings Campus came together to devise a series of fun STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based activities. The volunteers  then delivered these in hour-long virtual sessions to pupils in their homes and classrooms after school hours throughout the autumn term.

So far, with the help of the experts, pupils have enjoyed learning how to become contamination detectives, make rockets and telescopes and have even devised a recipe for toothpaste. The Clubs finish up this week with a session on making Christmas decorations using chromatography.

The twenty-five BioQuarter STEM professionals involved have been running a total of six after school clubs, with fifteen children attending each one.

Cathy Southworth, BioQuarter’s community science engagement manager, said:
“ It’s immensely satisfying for us at BioQuarter to feel that we can ensure our local young people still have an opportunity to learn and be curious about STEM when so much activity has ceased. This has been a popular initiative that everyone involved has enjoyed. We couldn’t believe it when the Clubs were oversubscribed by pupils wanting to give up their free time to learn about science, it’s been brilliant. Our volunteers included PhD students, clinical trial scientists, professional services staff and those working in some of the health innovation companies based in NINE, the life sciences innovation centre at BioQuarter.

“We carefully planned the sessions, packing all the resources needed and delivering individual science kits to each child. As well as enjoying learning some practical applications of science, pupils have had the chance to meet STEM professionals and gain an understanding of the types of jobs that exist in the sector. Hopefully, as well as having fun, they are inspired to consider a career they might otherwise not have thought about.”

Emma McGrory, Primary 5 teacher at Castleview Primary School said:
“ We owe a huge thank you to Cathy and all the scientist volunteers for everything they have provided and organised for us. The activities have been amazing and the kids have really engaged with them. I often have children ask me when school will be over, but when they say it’s because they want it to be STEM Club time, it’s very forgivable!”

Mhairi MacDonald, Depute head at Niddrie Mill Primary School, said:
“ We are very grateful to BioQuarter and all the volunteers for everything they have done each and every week for our children, and for the wider community. They have gone above and beyond in reaching out to children and their families, despite the challenges, and it’s been a huge success.”

Edinburgh BioQuarter – a partnership between the City of Edinburgh Council, NHS Lothian, Scottish Enterprise and the University of Edinburgh – is developing as Edinburgh’s £1 billion Health Innovation District. 8,000 people already work or study at BioQuarter and facilities on site include the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh Medical School, the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, alongside a number of world-leading medical research institutes and many of Scotland’s leading life sciences businesses based in NINE, the Life Sciences Innovation Centre.

During the summer months, BioQuarter gave out curiosity boxes packed with fun STEM activities to primary school pupils in the area after being approached by local teachers for support.