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Booking into science

Twenty or more primary and post-primary schools (including children from Primaries 5 and 6, Buick Memorial Primary School Cullybackey, pictured) will be participating this year in Project 500, a Queen’s University project.

Buick Memorial Primary School, Cullybackey

Project 500 (Schools), called after the library’s Dewey Decimal Classification for science, is an innovative programme which aims to encourage pupils to read science books for pleasure.

Inspired by the project, thousands of school children in Northern Ireland and England have been reading science books, and titles such as 'How to make a Universe with 92 Ingredients' and 'What makes you YOU' have been capturing their interest and imagination.

Project 500, a Queen's University Project co-ordinated from the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW) by Ruth Jarman and Joy Alexander and funded by the Ernest Cook Trust, has been running for several years. As well as the Project’s obvious contribution to STEM promotion, it also fosters reading development and library use. The children do not simply read the books - they take part in exciting activities designed by their teachers to develop creative engagement with science and with reading. Some have written and performed plays to inform and entertain their peers; some have constructed models to communicate the science they have learned to other people. On World Books Day, rather than dressing up as Gangsta Granny or the Wimpy Kid, they have dressed up as Marie Curie, super massive black holes or a host of other science-related personalities and phenomena. In one primary school class, each child chose a science book to take home for their parents or carers to read.

Young people participating in Project 500 have even scored success at the YAFTAs, that is the Youth and Future Talent Awards presented by the Newry, Mourne and Down Council. A group of girls from Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch won the 2016 'Innovation and Creativity' award for their 'original and inspired approach to promoting literacy and science' involving collaboration between the school's science and English departments and local primary schools. In what was described by the judges as 'a fantastic, unique and engaging initiative', the Project 500 team from the school was congratulated for their members' commitment to encouraging both reading and a love of science and for the promotion of careers in STEM subjects.

Children from Primaries 5 and 6, Buick Memorial Primary School Cullybackey, took part in 2017-18, and researched an aspect or prominent person of scientific interest, using ICT to present their findings through PowerPoint displays, posters and fact files. The school's project blasted off with a 'Science Bonanza', and children created costumes to reflect their learning (pictured above).