The general consensus is that the activity day The Nuclear Journey: Keeping it Clean at MSI Manchester went really well. We had great attendance and the visitors seemed to be really engaged and had fun too!
Visitors were greeted by our top banana Luke and the welcoming team and directed to the different activities. There was no mistaking where the activities were with a Passport to guide them and our bright yellow t shirts illuminating the way.
First stop: Radioactive or not! Although the kids may have been a little young to fully understand the concept of radioactivity, they seemed to have fun and the adults learned a lot too. Many thought that electronics were radioactive1 and I’m sure the radioactivity of bananas2 came as a surprise. Testing real objects with a Geiger counter showed how radioactivity can be useful.
Now we’ve learned about radioactivity, anyone for the Reactor Game? Again the children were younger than expected so some of the rules went out of the window but who cares about pretend nuclear safety when you’re having fun? The aim was to refuel our nuclear reactor as quickly as possible! This action packed game seemed to be a favourite to some! Parents took this opportunity to talk ask their own questions about nuclear energy and radioactive waste.
This is where it all gets messy. Ellis spent a lot of his time on PVA glue duty, trying to make sure at least some stayed in the bottle. Visitors of all ages crafted a box to protect a balloon from impact. There were some great conversations about the train crash video we had playing in the background which went with this activity³.
The mess continued with filling waste containers and putting them in a geological disposal facility. The gloveboxes has mixed reviews, some visitors got really excited about using them whereas others found it very difficult and didn’t like the sweaty horrible gloves (I don’t blame them). Most seemed to enjoy getting dressed up in safety equipment and doing a science experiment.
Finally we had a look at how we can use science to protect nuclear waste from entering drinking water by keeping it wrapped in clay. Children loved to join in with this interactive demonstration and successfully stopped the nuclear waste dissolving into the water.
With the nuclear journey completed, it was time to get a prize: Starburst!
Unfortunately the visitors walked all over the feedback, literally. This was probably the worst thought through part of our whole display and very little feedback was left this way. We did have some great verbal feedback though. The general feeling was that the activities were well put together and everyone learned a lot. The visitors liked to interact with scientists and the children had so much fun, some want to be scientists when they’re older.
I think most of us enjoyed the day even if it was tiring. I don’t envy the MSI staff who had to get salt dough off the floor and I think they’ll be finding gravel in their Platform for Investigation for months.
1 Electronics such as phones do not contain radioactive isotopes but may emit radiation such as x-rays.
2 Bananas contain high amounts of potassium (which I think is one of those things you should eat but I’m no biologist), which is around 0.012% potassium-40 which is radioactive.
³ See below for the train crash test.