So it is the beginning of term, and we (as a collective: MA Cultural Research Group) are given our handbooks for the course and timetable for the course ahead. We spend a bit of time flicking casually through the pages, knowing that we have months to complete the course. Zoom forward 6 to 8 months, and little did we know that this time would literally fly! We were under the impression we had a long time to complete our essays let alone the blog-posts and podcasts and other things which we participate in as a fundamental part of the course. We are now about to enter the last teaching week, we have just completed our group podcast, so we thought we’d devote this post to a reflection upon an activity we both got involved with as part of the ‘public geographies’ portion of our course.
In this manner, this post is a joint one, written by the both of us regarding our participation on the 7th of March in the Royal Holloway Science Festival. For those who unaware of what the annual Science festival is, it has been running at RHUL for over 20 years and attracts usually around 4,000 visitors. The Festival is an invitation for schools and the public to come and get involved and (hopefully) be inspired by different aspects of science.
As part of the MA in Cultural Geography we are required to participate in either helping on the Festival, or get involved with Passenger Films; we decided to pick the Science Festival due to our interests in outreach. It is so important to inspire and encourage younger children to take part in days like this to help them understanding that learning is fun – not always the easiest thing to do! Our participation involved the creation a map with the help of Jenny Kynaston for an activity called ‘Where do these animals call home?’. Alongside the production of the map, we purchased some small model animals. This enabled us to make an interactive world – where children (and adults) had fun deciding where in the world each animal came from. There was quite some confusion over our ‘red panda’ – apparently it resembled a fox. Perhaps when it comes to writing the Amazon review on the animals that should be mentioned!
The biogeographical derivations of animals has endured as a research focus in the geographical discipline. It is a fascinating topic, encompassing discussions revolving around issues from evolution and climate change, to species diversity and ecological revolutions. There is an estimation of around 7 million species of animals living on earth today, which makes it an interesting topic not only for us academic scholarship, but also for school children too to consider too. Indeed, It was apparent that the animals captured the imaginations of the children, many of them reminiscing about experiences of zoos, or childrens television programs. Unsurprisingly, the model Giant Panda featured in many recreations of Kung Fu Panda throughout the day! Whilst this is not perhaps ‘our-kind-of-geography’ as cultural geographers, the visitor’s interests in geography was evident through their enjoyed participation in our activity. It was incredibly rewarding to see.
Overall, the day was a success, the sun was shining and everyone seemed to be having a great day, including us. We would most definitely recommend future undergraduate and postgraduate students participate in the annual science festival.