Can you imagine music, art and science all happening together in the same place? Well it did this summer, at the incredible Greenman Festival – and I played a part in it.
It all began in a Biomedical Science lecture, when my lecturer, Dr Andrew Thomas, asked for volunteers to help him present an interactive science stand at the Green Man Festival 2017. Little did I know that I’d be explaining science to children of all ages as well as adults, be interviewed by Welsh language TV channel S4C and get the chance to listen to some very cool live music!
To give you a bit of background, Green Man is a major music, arts and science festival held annually at Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons.
I was one of the 7-member Cardiff Met Science public engagement team presenting an interactive science exhibition stand called The Pollination Station. This took place in the dedicated science area called Einstein’s Garden.
We were there amongst 15 other universities including University College London and the Universities of Cambridge, Bristol, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Manchester and Liverpool.
The science activities were designed to engage people in natural science, particularly the process of plant pollination. It was also our intention to raise awareness about the importance of insects, especially bees, in the process of pollination and what we can do, as humans, to protect our native bee species. Being a Healthcare Science student and a nature enthusiast, this was something very close to my heart.
We wanted to make science as accessible as possible for everyone, and festival goers of all ages had the opportunity to use the microscopes to examine slides of plant and insect parts. They also created their very own microscope slides to observe pollen grains obtained from different native plants found at the festival.
I got a real buzz out of teaching people how to use the microscope to identify a variety of different pollen types and was amazed at the level of interest this generated amongst young and old. Even children as young as 3 years old were fascinated by the incredible images they saw down the microscope. We were able to convey the aesthetic form of different pollens using 3D printed pollen grains (made by The Fab Lab based at Cardiff Met) and also discuss the science of pollination with teenagers and undergraduates from other universities.
As well as looking at pollen some unexpected observations were made whilst looking at the natural biological samples. For example, I remember one little boy, aged 7, being utterly fascinated by the discovery of a “water bear”, or Tardigrade (a small worm-like creature) on his slide. When asked what his favourite part of the festival was, he excitedly announced “Water Bears!” It was moments like this that made the whole experience one to remember for a long time to come.
Another highlight was being interviewed by S4C and appearing on the Heno TV programme the same evening. I was completely out of my comfort zone and it was a pretty nerve-wracking experience but looking back I realise what a valuable opportunity it was.
After a full day of teaching hundreds of festival goers, I am glad to report that it wasn’t all work and no play! We had some time out at end of the day to chill, have some beers and watch some great bands.
The festival itself is pretty amazing with over 20,000 people attending. There’s a great vibe to the place being set in the grounds of a country house, surrounded by the Welsh mountains and full of people in weird and wonderful costumes. It’s like being transported to a fantasy world for 4 days where everything is good in the world – well apart from the odd spot of rain and a bit of festival mud!
I am grateful to my Andrew my lecturer for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an enthusiastic team. Science can be serious, but we laughed a lot over the 4 days. As an undergraduate, a lot of time is spent in lecture theatres and laboratories, but this was something completely different and unique. Seeing little faces light up when you showed them something new was pretty inspiring. For me personally, I am even thinking about a career in teaching, something I had never previously considered.
So would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!
Looking for more like this? Check out some of the other blogs written by our Health and Social Sciences students.