The RMS at ASE
The ASE Annual Conference is for everyone involved in science education; teachers, trainees, technicians or advisors, or people just interested in science education. It is open to members and non-members. It is a magnet for all those passionate about science teaching and learning, and always features new and exciting topics.
In 2013, we were there primarily to promote our newly revamped Microscope Activity Kits and advertise that we were increasing the number of Kits we loan out from 10 to 50 in time for the new school year in September. Also on display was our prototype RMS-Approved Secondary School Microscope, which enables students to view a sample using both Bright Field and Dark Field and also to use Polarised Light. To entice delegates to our stand we had daphnia and rotifers to view, they fascinated both young and old alike.
Many of the teachers who visited our stand were mildly intrigued by the array of microscopes on display but would comment that they didn’t teach biology, that microscopy wasn’t on the curriculum or that they didn’t teach secondary students. All these teachers left the stand fascinated by watching polyethylene oxide crystallising before their very eyes and having learnt how a microscope can enhance the teaching of a science topic, even if it is not strictly on the curriculum. The primary school teachers of course left with a flyer for the Microscope Activity Kits, amazed at how much they could get for no cost at all.
Some of the teachers who approached our stand were keen to use microscopes that they had tucked away in a cupboard at their school but weren’t sure what to do with them and we were more than happy to give them ideas and suggestions.
All in all, our presence at ASE 2013 was a great success. We were able to help and advise those who were already using or willing to use microscopes in the classroom and also engage with those who seemed more reluctant to use microscopy.
In January 2012, the RMS attended the Association for Science Education's Annual Conference which was held in Liverpool. This is always a very large event, attended by hundreds if not thousands of keen science teachers from all levels (primary, secondary and university), as well as student teachers.
We demonstrated a range of our recommended microscopes together with the contents of our Microscope Activity Kits. We asked delegates to look at samples such as poppy seeds, the almost universal response was "wow!", and they generally agreed with us that children are particularly impressed by seeing objects directly through microscopes, uncomplicated by technology, rather than on a screen, and by being able to see their own specimens immediately and manipulate them.
In addition to these simple demonstrations, we showed polarised light phenomena, how to achieve dark-ground images, using a compact digital camera, mobile phone or webcam to record images, and generally discuss anything concerning microscopy. We believe that our stand, with its hands-on equipment and live demonstrations, engaged and inspired the attendees and opened their eyes to the opportunities that microscopy can bring to their classrooms.
The centre-piece of the Society's stand in 2011 was the protoype for the new RMS Microscope Activity Kit. It generated a great deal of interest and, as a result, the Kits were fully-booked from Easter 2011 and we haven't had a quiet term since!
Thanks go to Susan Anderson (RMS Honorary Secretary for Education an Outreach), Peter Evennett, Chris Hammond, Pippa Howard, Andrew Scott and Tony Brain. They manned the stand on the three days of the Conference and answered no end of questions from the 2,000 teachers that attended!