Edinburgh International Science Festival

This article is from 2008.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Terrific scientific

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is 20 years old this March, but as Kelly Apter discovers, you’re never too old to talk about poo

Since 1988, the Edinburgh International Science Festival has proved that the words ‘science’ and ‘fun’ are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the Festival’s extensive programme of hands-on events has become a highlight in the interactive kiddie calendar.

This year the Festival is bigger than ever, with venues across the city getting involved. As usual, the ‘Wonderama’ will take over the Assembly Rooms, offering a range of activities from robot building to animal handling, while at the Royal Museum, a series of events will help children – and accompanying adults – look at life from a different angle. None more so than ‘How To Make The Perfect Poo’, a fun show exploring what goes on inside us between table and toilet.

‘We all know that we eat food and at some point we go to the toilet,’ says Hannah Crookes, Education Manager at Dundee science centre, Sensation, ‘but what happens inbetween is a really exciting journey that’s going on all the time. And during the course of an hour-long show, we recreate what it takes our bodies several hours to do.’ With the help of giant ragdoll, Stuffee, Crookes and volunteers from the audience discover how our food travels from a to b. ‘Stuffee’s got the same organs as us,’ explains Crookes. ‘So we take them out and see what they do, and then identify which ones are involved in the digestive process.’

The hands-on approach continues, with volunteers mashing up food, squashing it in a bag and squeezing it through a tube, replicating what our mouths, stomachs and small intestines do every day, with the eventual hope that the audience, young and old, will pick up a few pointers on the importance of eating healthily.

Meanwhile, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, a vast programme of largely free events will tackle the weighty subject of climate change. From recycling to composting and growing your own food, there are hands-on activities for all ages. But how do you make climate change fun and engaging for children? ‘It’s challenging,’ says Head of Development, Mike Robinson. ‘But it’s unbelievably important and every child should know about it. The science is pretty much unequivocal, so there’s no point in us just reiterating that there’s a problem. We want to look at the practical things you can do to make a positive difference.’

According to Robinson, there are a number of important changes we could make to help the environment, some of which would have a positive effect on all areas of our lives. The workshops reinforce lessons children are already learning at school, but while teaching the younger generation about their impact on the world is no bad thing, Robinson doesn’t want the burden to fall solely on them.

‘Children are very receptive to information about climate change and they do a lot of good by bringing those messages home to their parents,’ he says. ‘But I don’t want to delegate responsibility to them – it’s definitely us grown-ups that need to sort this out now. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for children to grow up and sort it out.’

Edinburgh International Science Festival, Tue 25 Mar–Sat 5 Apr. See www.sciencefestival.co.uk for full programme details or view our listings.

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