Technology Simplified

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The Cheltenham Science Festival has just finished and I was able to spend time there. See my other post 2009/06/08/cheltenham-science-festival on this for a broader view. For me the jewel in the crown was the Bristol University Mobile Teaching Unit (MTU) for the Applied and Integrated Medical Sciences (AIMS) Centre for Teaching and Learning (CETL) find them at

Image from the AIMS website

To be honest we nearly walked past it. AIMS is in a dedicated MTU so it wasn’t in the main hall but parked upon the side near the main Arena tent. We had time between events so ambled in, within seconds both the 7yr olds with me were fully engaged. The first thing that struck me was that MTU isn’t really a van it’s a TARDIS. Inside were no less than 6 separate activities:-

  • How nerves work.
  • A demonstration by Dr Lauren Hughes on lungs, she was also collecting field data on lung size and age.
  • Activities around words and the psychology of reading which included some field research.
  • A demonstration torso and head to show three types of nerve messages, one that tells us where we are, another relays touch and the last, pain and how it triggers reflex action.
  • A skeleton and also a model of a body and organs. The latter was like a 3d jigsaw allowing children to put the parts in and take them out.
  • A selection of animal skulls to show the way that animals adapt.

The staff were no less impressive, so often at events such as these, I see people miss the opportunity to communicate with children as they just don’t have the right skills. Not so here. The boys were instantly at their ease, asking questions, handling things and exploring the displays.  The staff even managed to keep an awkward hairy old grandpa involved, a real achievement!!! It was very obvious that all the staff enjoyed what they were doing. It just goes to show that it can be impossible to predict what will prove to be an effective work space, there is an interesting article at about this by the way. An hour later I had to herd the boys out to see Richard Hammond, I’m guessing they would have still been there now had I left them to it. Shame that next event was such a contrast. I hope this unit continues going from strength to strength and acts as an example of excellence for other similar initiatives.

186 · June 8, 2009 · Musings · Tags: , , , , , , · [Print]

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