Never stop being curious!

We’ve been running a ground-breaking science project with Ignite Futures since April, for 0 to 18 year olds across Nottingham, so we thought we’d bring you up to date with what the project has achieved!

Our Curiosity project is part of a national ‘Curiosity’ programme funded by Wellcome and BBC Children in Need. The national programme aims to take science into informal youth settings to see how it can be used to address issues affecting young people, like confidence, communication skills and self-belief.

Here in Nottingham, we took science to children of all ages, working with everyone from play groups for little ones, to youth clubs for teenagers, to give young people across the city the chance to benefit from free, inspiring science activities chosen and led by them.

Watch little ones discovering science in this great clip from Notts TV

The project reached over 150 children with 110 enjoying ‘Curiosity’ activities week after week.

Ignite Futures worked with seven groups at seven venues around Nottingham including play groups at Edwards Lane Community Centre, Forest Fields Play Centre and Phoenix Adventure Day Nursery in Broxtowe, plus Tots Time at Bulwell Library, the SEND project at the Greenway Centre in Sneinton, the Notts Refugee Forum at St Ann’s Allotments and our very own Summer Camp at Brendon Lawrence Sports Centre.

Children and young people got the chance to explore everything from plants, bug hotels and caterpillars to microscopes, light and many, many different types of rocket. For example, over the summer holidays, Ignite Futures worked with families from Notts Refugee Forum at St Ann’s Allotments to explore science in the natural world, from fruit trees and bushes to insects such as wasps, spiders and ants. They also worked with children and young people at our Summer Camp at Brendon Lawrence Sports Centre, to see who could make the tallest constructions and the most accurate marble runs.

Watch the project in action at St Ann’s Allotments.

Overall, the project aimed to stimulate young people’s curiosity and confidence, encouraging them to ask questions and wonder about the world around them. And it’s certainly done that, as Megan from Ignite Futures says:

“Throughout this project we’ve seen young people of all ages become more confident in expressing their curiosity. From toddlers who can’t yet talk exploring shadows, to children with English as a second language presenting a video about the ripeness of blackberries, to teenagers using technical terms like ‘hypothesis’ to describe what they’re doing.”

Megan explains why it’s so important to nurture children’s curiosity from a young age, all the way up to adulthood and beyond:

“There are lots of barriers and stereotypes to break down around science and building relationships with young people is crucial, but through this project we’ve found no reason why informal science can’t be used to create change.

“We’d argue that children are innately curious, but they’re often denied the opportunity to explore what makes them curious – told their questions are ‘annoying’ or not stimulated to follow their ideas as they grow older.

“The curiosity of the 0-3 year olds we worked with was incredible. You only had to give them an object and they’d instantly try to work out what it was and what it was for – often by putting it in their mouths.

“Then, as children get older, you start to see the effects of it being ‘uncool’ to ask questions or being afraid of getting the answer wrong. We worked with children who already believe their questions and opinions aren’t important, and it took quite a few sessions before they got used to our approach and became comfortable with asking questions they didn’t already know the answer to.

“I think it’s really important that we nurture children’s natural curiosity at every age and support them to develop the confidence and tools that will help them throughout life – and even go on to become one of the world’s future scientists.”

What next?

Together with Ignite Futures, we’ll be sharing the success of the Nottingham Curiosity project with our funders, BBC Children in Need and Wellcome, and talking about how the project could be expanded to reach even more children and young people in the city. Watch this space!

To find out more please email Megan from Ignite Futures or Sarah from The Renewal Trust