Brighton Science Festival started ten years ago, because… well, because everyone needs a science festival. It’s the best way to discover where we came from, deal with where we are and debate where we might go in the future.
Yes, I know the shudder of terror that some people feel at the mere mention of the word ‘science’, but there is every reason to believe that can turn into a tremor of excitement. There are some extraordinary and inspiring science communicators out there, and we search all the festivals and publishers in Britain to bring the best to Brighton.
The festival is for all ages, but the ones we are particularly doing this for are 12-14 year-olds. When they arrive in secondary school from primary school they are fired up with enthusiasm for science. Within two years they hate it. Why? The government has recognised the problem and fiddled with the school curriculum, trying to make it more user-friendly, but that hasn’t worked.
There are two elements missing, which even the most energetic teachers (and I have met a lot of very, very keen teachers out there) have difficulty coping with:
There is no spirit of discovery. Young people love to explore, experiment and create. They don’t mind making mistakes along the way. But the curriculum doesn’t leave time for mistakes. They have to get the right version in their books straight away, ready to move on to the next topic. There is no room for the spirit of discovery.
Secondly, their parents don’t join in. Schools often have sports days, when all the parents come along. They have school plays; all the parents come along. When they have science days the school is deserted.
So the Family Fun days are there for both parents and their children to play, experiment, discover and share the experience.
One year, at the Family Fun Days, a big man entered the room with his two young children and surveyed the turmoil around him. Hove Park Upper School was heaving with a thousand mums, dads and kids, playing with sixty different kinds of science delight. In this particular room the challenge was to build a bridge across a 40 cm gap strong enough to support as many Mars bars as possible, using only four sheets of paper.
Dad’s eyes lit up. He said, “Stand aside kids. This one’s for me”. For the next fifteen minutes he was immersed in the task, his children on either side, looked at him as if to say, “but… you’re a Dad, not an engineer.”
As I watched I didn’t worry that the kids were being ignored. I knew that they were going to be engineers when they grew up. Why? because imitation is the key to career. What the parents enjoy, that’s what the kids will enjoy. Indeed, after a few minutes they were working on their own bridges, unprompted.
The Brighton Science Festival is building its own bridges, between science and the people. You should come. Actually you should bring a demonstration of your own. In point of fact, if you care for the future of manufacturing in this country, you should become a sponsor. Get in touch to find out more.
We hope to make science so irresistible to young students that the A-level courses are flooded with applicants. Already there is an increased uptake in Sussex. This is good. It means higher standards and better choice for businesses. Even for young people who decide to leave school at sixteen there will be an enduring interest in science and respect for scientists and engineers.
Come to the Festival. Bring your family, bring your enthusiasm.
Brighton Science Festival