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Science through a fun outlook

Stuck for a visit that's relevant to the curriculum? Judy Mackie and, below, Raymond Ross have ideas for where to go

A rollicking ride on the roller coaster, a screaming splash down the waterslide, a bumper bash on the dodgems: all are unmistakable ingredients of a fantastic day out. In Aberdeen this summer, they will also form part of an exciting science package for primary and secondary schools.

It is the inspired move by the city's science centre, Satrosphere, to link several science providers and popular visitor attractions to offer schools the opportunity to experience applied science in a variety of environments.

The partnerships began with the Conoco Natural History Centre at the University of Aberdeen. It holds a collection of preserved birds, insects and animals from around the globe and its education officer already organises a range of workshops during term time and holidays.

Schools can book a day out which begins at Satrosphere with one of four interactive shows, such as Day and Night, Night and Day, which explains the science behind light and darkness. In the afternoon, the visit continues at the Conoco Centre with workshops that link natural history with the chosen theme.

Satrosphere has started four more linked visits this year, bringing the total offered to seven. The other alliances are with the Aberdeen Environmental Education Centre and Aberdeen harbour, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, the Development Education Centre, Codona Amusement Park, the Boardwalk 3D cinema and the Macduff Marine Aquarium.

"Teachers tell us what theme they would like to focus on and we tailor the day accordingly," says Judy Duncan, a seconded primary teacher whose three-year stint as education officer ends this year.

"They appreciate the fact that we provide a single point of contact and handle everything for them. They also find it cost-effective to visit two centres in one day, instead of having to hire a bus on two separate occasions."

Pupils benefit from seeing their class-based science work developed and enhanced at the hands-on science centre. Then they have the opportunity to see it applied at one of the partner venues, and fun is all part of the programme.

This year's new bowling and funfair package, which is scheduled to coincide with activities week in June, may not be obviously scientific but is firmly rooted in physics, says Mrs Duncan.

"At Satrosphere, we'll use a variety of fun props to look at the forces at play behind bowling, dodgems, roller coasters and water slides. Hopefully, the pupils will spare a passing thought for these principles while they're actually experiencing the activities at Codona Amusement Park."

Another experimental summer alliance focuses on colour and light. After watching Satrosphere's themed show, the visit will take on more meaning at the Boardwalk along Aberdeen Beach, where children will see a film in 3D while being rocked and pitched in their seats.

The latest year-round partnership is with Aberdeen Environmental Education Centre, which among its many inspirational teaching packages offers a harbour trail. This takes in different vessels and activities at Abourdeen harbour and considers how they have changed over the years, navigation past and present and waste management. The Satrosphere work centres on forces (partly illustrated by cranes) and transportation issues.

"The children are amazed at the sheer size of the vessels and equipment.

It's a very exciting experience," says Allan Paterson, the Environmental Education Centre's services co-ordinatorteacher.

"Our goal is to encourage children to get enthusiastic about finding out for themselves how the natural world works and Satrosphere, which offers a terrific environment for learning about science, supports this by helping to create that wonder and enthusiasm," he says.

Satrosphere's partnership with the Aberdeen Maritime Museum explores the impact of electricity on maritime navigation and communication.

The Development Education Centre's role-playing workshops on water issues in the developing world complement Satrosphere's water show; and a visit to the Macduff Marine Aquarium links in with a range of Satrosphere's themed activities.

"The joint visits are working very well and we're always looking for new places to link up with, particularly those outside Aberdeen that Aberdeenshire and Moray schools could visit on their way to or from Satrosphere," says Mrs Duncan.

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