No idea can be too silly or bizarre. Just ask Wallace and Gromit

25th June 2010 at 01:00
`A World of Cracking Ideas' exhibition in Glasgow is showing pupils a different, fun side to science

Twelve-year-old Euan Macfall is designing a hat which enables a person to fly. A fan is attached to it.

"I would need to test it out, but I think business people would buy it to save getting the bus," he says. What would it look like? How could you make it safer? He ponders these thoughts while continuing with his illustration.

Frances Paton, 12, is making a money tree. She says: "You put chemicals in the money, plant them and it will grow money. Great."

The ideas may seem a bit mad but none are dismissed as being silly. After all, the simple light bulb must have seemed a bizarre concept at one point. They are all considered viable ideas and clipped to the Ideas Factory board at the Wallace and Gromit exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre.

A World of Cracking Ideas is an exhibition which arrived from the Science Museum in London and runs until November 30. It aims to stimulate a change in thinking about science in pupils, get them engaged and ultimately empower innovation and creativity.

Frances and Euan are with their classmates from Williamwood High in Clarkston. The exhibition is linked to Curriculum for Excellence topical science experiences and outcomes, focusing on inventions and their impact on society.

Wallace and Gromit's inventions may not have changed the world but they are an excellent way of illustrating that no idea is too silly. For pupils who have watched, fascinated as Wallace makes his morning toast, with his toaster and jam spreading device, there is a demonstration of how this can be replicated.

A walk around 62 West Wallaby Street, the home of Wallace and Gromit, gives a flavour of some of the pair's inventions, such as the Blend-o- Matic, including some that couldn't work, for example, a glass hammer. A variety of displays and demonstrations encourages pupils to examine science and technology, particularly science found in their own homes.

Thomas Ferns, principal teacher of science at Williamwood, says: "We want to raise the profile of science for when the pupils start to choose subjects. We are trying to engage them and get them to explore. We can't replicate these experiments in school. They are high-tech and expensive."

The visit started with a 45-minute interactive science show Imagine That!, which sets them thinking about the science behind household goods and how they were invented.

Only last year, Anne Glover, Scotland's chief scientific adviser, spoke of the need to enthuse pupils in science. The phrase "refractive properties" may not excite them, but when it is used to explain why a Pyrex dish becomes invisible in a bowl of vegetable oil, they suddenly sit up and take notice.

Bendy straw, Velcro, Dyson - all sorts of household goods are used to demonstrate the relevance of science, while Thomas Eddison is used as an example of someone who was an inventor, not an innovator. The importance of both is stressed.

The kids leave the room buzzing and excitedly run around the museum. Each room looks at different aspects of the thinking behind inventions - from inventing to innovating the invention, to protecting the idea.

For principal teacher Morag Munro, the relevance is important if pupils are to find science interesting. "The science here is very relevant and we try to make science relevant in class. It has been good for them to see the interactive displays.

"The inventions will have switched on a light in the heads of those who are really into science."

While Wallace and Gromit have captured their imagination, Mr Ferns has been impressed with the educational value of the trip. "It has been excellent," he says. "They have tailored the day to our needs. They have given us what we have been looking for and there has been a lot of flexibility. It is a fantastic facility.

"We will go back and discuss inventors. Pupils are coming through school with better research skills and this is the kind of thing they can go back and talk to their parents about."

Meanwhile, Euan is unlikely to see his flying hat appear on the shelves soon. So, instead, he has moved on to the clay section, here pupils can make clay figurines like Wallace and Gromit. R2D2 may be from the wrong movie, but it is impressive nevertheless.

To book a school trip for the autumn, linked to Wallace and Gromit, T 0141 420 5003


- July - Wash and Yo-Yo

Gromit doesn't like housework but he loves making contraptions to help him with his chores. Build a device from scratch to help him wash his windows.

- August - Total Ramp-age

Build your own car and launch it off the centre's Total Ramp-age ramp. The winning inventor is the one whose car travels the furthest distance.

- September - Amazing Marble Mazes

On your marks, get set - go slow! A reverse race where last over the finishing line wins. Can you make the world's most complicated marble machine ever? Get your marble from point A to point B in the slowest possible time.

- October - Diamond Heist

Become a master criminal and help Feathers McGraw steal the Science Centre's precious diamond. How do you steal a diamond you can't touch?

- Plus inventions challenge trails and animation workshops.

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