As Halloween approaches people across the western world will be decorating their homes with a cavalcade of spooky creatures like spiders, bats and snakes. But does the apprehension towards these animals cause misunderstanding and fear?
On October 31st a group of Biologists from the University of Liverpool will bring both secondary and primary school students face-to-face with some of these beasts, with the hope of answering this question by introducing some fascinating science and perhaps even dispelling some myths around these creatures for a Halloween science day. Hopefully, this will just be the first of many such events.
Dr Jill Madine, a research fellow at the Institute of Integrative Biology, is the mastermind behind the event: “The aim is to engage with schools and to show the public the kind of research we do here at the University.
“We are using the Halloween theme to capture the imagination of the kids.”
The World Museum in Liverpool will also be joining the party bringing along both live and dead animals for the children to interact with.
Activities that children will partake in include examining creepy-crawlies such as spiders under microscopes, examining animal skulls to see the similarities between different species and even learning about how the human body reacts to fear.
The event will be divided into two sessions, the morning dedicated to Primary aged children and the afternoon to older children from around Merseyside. Whilst the youngsters will get a lighter experience, the older children will delve into more challenging subjects such as the evolutionary heritage of various animals and the decomposition process.
Dr Madine believes that animals such as spiders and bats have a bad reputation and that hopefully interacting with these creatures may persuade children that these creatures aren’t just something to be afraid of:
“It’s the fear of the unknown. We hope by getting the children to see these animals up-close they will see that they aren’t so different from us.”
The Halloween Science event, the first of its kind for the Institute of Integrative Biology, takes place in the University labs and is already fully booked with local schools bringing along groups of pupils.
Dr Madine also adds that events such are this provide great opportunities for children to get a taste of how the University experience works and hopes that the department can rerun similar events for both school children and home-schooled kids in the near future.
The sad truth is that children don’t often get to interact with the kind of equipment and technology available to University labs. Bringing them along to an event like this, Jill believes, may help them realise there is much more to science than textbooks and exams. That research can be exciting and rewarding.
This includes a series of free ‘Meet the Scientist’ events at the World Museum, William Brown Street, Liverpool. The first of which on 24th November, will focus on much smaller organisms, teaching children and their parents about viruses, bacteria and parasites.
“The ultimate aim is to inspire the children to take an interest in science, but also have some fun along the way.”