Asking children how they think you go to the loo in space, making rockets out of old film canisters and inventing ‘space ice-cream’ are just some of the ways that the space scientist says she gets young children interested in science.
Dr Aderin-Pocock was first up in the masterclass ‘How children learn: inspiring, supporting and teaching’, in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at the two-day Nursery World Show at the Business Design Centre in London.
Best known as the presenter of the longest running television programme in the world BBC’s Sky at Night, and children’s programme Cbeebies Stargazing, she also talked about her latest project the animation Interstellar Ella, which she described as ‘cosmology for early learning’.
Dr Aderin-Pocock spoke about her mission to encourage more girls to study science.
Women are under-represented in the physical sciences and less than 20 per cent of women study engineering, she said.
In her role as a science educator Dr Aderin-Pocock said she has taken her mission to educate children about science to more than 250,000 children on her visits to schools.
The lack of visible role models for women means that the stereotypical image of a scientist is ‘white, male and very serious’ or the ‘mad scientist’, she said, saying that she shows school children her wedding photo to try and break the stereotype and show them what a scientist really looks like.
She talked about tapping into children’s inquisitiveness. ‘There’s a scientist in each and every one of us but that’s really very strong in children’s early years. We need to tap into that and break those stereotypes and show that anyone can be a scientist.’
Dr Aderin-Pocock's interest in the stars and science was sparked at an early age, fuelled by a love of Star Trek and The Clangers, and dreams of becoming an astronaut.
Growing up in 1970s UK and undiagnosed with dyslexia as a child, she was ‘shunted into the remedial class and all these dreams seemed very far away.’
She moved schools 13 times, and it wasn’t until one day when she realised she knew the answer to the teacher’s question, ‘If 1 litre of water weighs 1 kilogram, what does one cubic centimetre of water weigh?’ that everything clicked.
‘Star Trek played a major role in my life’, she said, talking of how she had recently fulfilled a lifetime ambition to meet Lieutenant Uhru - the actor Nichelle Nichols – and The Clangers on the same day with her young daughter.
Both her husband and seven-year-old daughter are also dyslexic. But Dr Aderin-Pocock said her daughter sees ‘Dyslexia as a badge of honour…My daughter’s seeing the upside of it. And that’s what we need, we need for every child to see the positive things in their lives.’
BLOB For a round-up and photos from the Nursery World Show, see next week’s issue of Nursery World out on Monday.