Education Secretary learns how to make clouds and slime at Swansea University

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams came to Swansea University this week to see a showcase of projects encouraging schools and the wider community to learn more about science.

The Cabinet Secretary made ‘clouds in a bottle’ and saw how stretchy slime is used as a fun way for children to learn about molecules and key early science concepts, such as the difference between solids and liquids.

Geoscientist Dr Mary Gagen and Physicists Professor Chris Allton and Dr Will Bryan, who lead the Swansea University Science for Schools Programme and Oriel Science teams, gave presentations to the Education Secretary and the Vice Chancellor about the university’s widening access agenda, outreach projects and the achievements of the schools and public science programmes.

VC Professor Richard B. Davies and Kirsty Williams‌Professor Richard B Davies, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University and Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education.

Speaking about the visit, the Education Secretary said: “Our national mission for education in Wales seeks to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and ensure an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence. Central to this is improving the way we teach subjects like science in our schools."

"Last month, I launched our new £4 million science and technology network for excellence which brings together schools, colleges, universities and the four regional education consortia working together to improve the teaching and learning of science and technology in Wales."

"Swansea University’s Science for Schools Programme is an excellent example of how this can work in practice. It was a pleasure to meet the team and see the many creative ways in which they’re explaining and promoting science in schools.”

Welcoming the Education Secretary’s comments Dr Mary Gagen said: “When we are children we are fascinated by the world around us, we play and experiment constantly, we’re all scientists when we’re young. If you show children how to make a slimy, stretchy goo that if pulled very fast behaves like a solid, and snaps, but if pulled slowly behaves like a liquid and flows, they want to know why, and the answers come from physics and chemistry! Everyone learns by playing and experimenting, scientists just get to do that every day.”

“It was fantastic to meet the Cabinet Secretary. We are committed to doing what we can to make science a subject that more students realise they can do. I didn’t get exceptional grades at A Level but I worked hard and studied science at university and it’s taken me into a job that I love doing every day. We’re particularly keen to encourage more girls and young women to take science subjects at school so it was great to talk to the Minister about our schools science programmes.”

Kirsty Williams

Dr Sarah Roberts, Director of Education at The Faulkes Telescope Project and Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education.

The Education Secretary saw experiments and heard about:

  • The Swansea University Science for Schools scheme (S4) - a Welsh Government funded project offering science workshops and summer schools, at Swansea University's College of Science.
  • Oriel Sciencea project showcasing science and research in the community. Creating accessible, informative and interactive science exhibitions. Oriel Science was set up by academics from Swansea University's College of Science. On display was a Cosmic Ray Detector which detects the decay products which result when high-energy cosmic rays hit the earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • The Reaching Wider South West Wales Partnershipwhich aims to increase participation in higher education by people from a wide range of underrepresented groups and communities in South West Wales. The Partnership runs afterschool clubs focusing on Maths and Science. On display were tasks which the children engage in like Tower Car Racing, Prime Number Twister and designing drone delivery systems.
  • Technocamps -  provides hands-on computing workshops to inspire, motivate and engage young people. Its mission is to inspire, motivate and engage people with computational thinking and promote Computer Science as underpinning all aspects of modern society. The project is led by Swansea University, with University Hubs based at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Cardiff MET, Glynd┼Ár and the University of South Wales, so the teams have been able to run Workshops across the length and breadth of Wales. The Education Secretary heard that in January Technocamps engaged with 15,000 children. Technocamps also engage in teacher training through its Technoteach programme and have run 46 accredited courses across Wales in the last year.
  • The Further Maths Support Programme WalesFMSP provides tuition for students who have not been able to access Further Maths at their schools or colleges and is provided through online sessions and/or lessons at a local university, school or college. FMSP provides valuable support for all students planning to study maths related degrees such as science, Engineering, technology and computer science.
  • The Faulkes Telescope Project - provides access to robotic telescopes and a fully supported education programme to encourage teachers and students to engage in research-based science education. It provides free access to robotic telescopes as part of the LCOGT network and free access to online educational resources (ages 9 -18 years), software and teacher training.
  • Department of Chemistry Schools Programme - Dr Ian Mabbett brought the new Department of Chemistry’s Spectrometry in a Suitcase exhibition where students can learn all about this important analytical technique.