I started a new job a year ago.
It was just 5 months since my husband had left me, and after a few false starts, I’d landed a job as an Explainer at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
My first gig, as it were, was the Bradford Science Festival – this was a huge event that spilled out from the Museum itself and across to Centenary Square in the City Centre and beyond.
My job was to assist at the Smashfest experience. Our aim was to encourage an interest in STEM subjects, by way of a bit of experiential learning.
That was a year ago. Can you imagine the crowds of people? Can you imagine getting close enough to complete strangers to hand out leaflets, help them into their paper boiler suits, cram five families at a time into a tent? Can you remember when that was normal?
The scenario we were using, in order to get kids talking about science, was an unknown disease that was spreading throughout the city. We called it ‘Space Plague’ – but you know where I’m heading.
We had a series of ‘rooms’ inside the tent – and in each room we looked at the different aspects of handling a new disease.
The first room dealt with differential diagnosis – how is this disease different from other diseases that we already know about? It’s because of differential diagnosis that we now know to look out for a ‘new and persistent cough’ and a loss of the sense of taste.
The second room was epidemiology – it’s because of epidemiology that we know Covid-19 generally has a greater effect on older people than on younger people. Epidemiology gives us the R Rate as well.
The third room was about chemistry – it’s because of chemistry that we have a means of testing for Covid now. Although don’t get me started on the ‘system’ being used to deliver it… And it will be chemistry that delivers a vaccine, if there’s a vaccine to be delivered.
The final room was all about medical ethics. In here the children were encouraged to discuss some quite difficult concepts. Should people be quarantined? Is it ethical to expect medical staff to risk their lives treating people with an unknown disease? Is it ethical to leave people to die alone in order to protect the medical staff? One child suggested that the whole city should be cordoned off, no-one allowed in or out, in order to protect the rest of the country. Everyone thought that was a bit extreme – but substitute country for city, and that’s exactly what happened.
Looking back at what I wrote at the time, it all seems so innocent. We’re living in a different world now – a world where this is no longer just a fun idea for a Science Festival, but actual reality. And how very quickly we’ve got used to it!!
The Bradford Science Festival 2020 has been postponed, not cancelled – it’ll happen in October instead. See here for details.
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