Centre for Inflammation Research

IRR Science Festival group builds vaccines with families at the Edinburgh Science Festival

April 2022: Two years after planning a workshop about vaccines, the IRR Science Festival Subcommittee was finally able to deliver their hands-on activity face-to-face with families at the 2022 Edinburgh Science Festival.

On 12 & 13 April, 12 members of the IRR Science Festival subcommittee delivered family workshops about vaccines at the National Museum of Scotland.

The group engaged with 64 children and 40 accompanying adults in four sold-out workshops over the course of two days.

Workshop attendees played an interactive memory game to introduce the concept of immune memory. They then asked questions and learned about the different ingredients in vaccines before being tasked with creating a new "vaccine" to combat a dangerous new strain of "bunny virus." Children were divided into groups and then had to work together to find the correct ingedients for their new vaccines, represented by custom 3D-printed puzzle pieces.  After finding all of the right ingredients for their vaccines, the children were able to "vaccinate" their bunnies and test their effectiveness against viral particles of bunny virus.

The workshop was initially conceived of in 2019, when a team of researchers from the Centre for Inflammation Research applied for funding from the British Society for Immunology to develop an interactive family workshop about vaccines. After successfully receiving funding, the face-to-face engagement project was unfortunately stalled for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ In 2019 we started putting together our Amazing Immunology workshop called “Be a scientist: Build a vaccine!”. We wanted to open up a dialogue with kids about vaccines in a fun and informative way. We didn’t know at the time that the Covid-19 pandemic would hit us and that our workshop, delivered in 2022, would be even more important than what we imagined would be.”

Dr Samanta MarianiLeukaemia UK John Goldman Fellow,  Chancellor’s Fellow, and IRR Science Festival Lead

The newly invigorated Institute for Reneration and Repair (IRR) Science Festival Subcommittee group finished development of the family workshop in 2022, after trialling the activities with children from local Niddrie Mill Primary School in Edinburgh.

Children and their carers attended workshops at the National Museum of Scotland over their Easter school holidays. They enjoyed the hour-long workshop, improving knowledge and understanding of what vaccines are and how they are developed. Children and adults alike had fun and learned something new. They enjoyed the chance to engage with active research scientists from IRR.

The kids (and their carers) had a lot of fun learning about immunology, vaccine components and “sick bunnies” and we had the chance to learn a lot from their questions. We are happy to have received great feedback and to have helped some of the kids understand and approach their anti-SARS-Cov2 vaccines in a more relaxed way.

We can’t wait to deliver the workshop again soon! I want to thank all of the IRR Science Festival subcommittee for the amazing job done, we are really lucky to have a great group of volunteers!

Dr Samanta Mariani

Child comments included:

  • "I learned that vaccines prevent other people that can't have vaccines from getting sick" (age 11)
  • "I learned that vaccines are safe. Thank you, I know more about vaccines now." (age 12)
  • "I learned that vaccines are are actually mostly water" (age 10)
  • "I learned that if nobody got vaccinated viruses would spread way more" (age 12)
  • "I learned that vaccines are like personal trainers for the T cells" (age 10)
  • "I learned what T cells and B cells are" (age 8)
  • "I learned about T cells. I also learned that vaccines are mainly water. I enjoyed learning about all of the different parts of a vaccine and about where the word "vaccine" comes from (cows and cowpox)" (age 12)
  • "I learned that it's harder for the virus to spread if more people are vaccinated" (age 8)

Parent/carer comments included:

  • "A great introduction to immunology! I learned the names of a few kind of cells" (grandparent)
  • "Very informative and enjoyable" (age 70+)
  • "Great fun, interactive learning, kept my 3 boys engaged while educating - thanks!" (parent)
  • "I loved seeing my grandaughters having so much fun" (grandparent)
  • "Well presented and aimed at the age group" (grandparent)
  • "Very engaging and welcoming - well done! :)" (parent)
  • "Overall the workshop was very well structured and entertaining, keeping the kids engaged and keen to involve in the whole process. Also very easy to follow instructions. Well done to the whole team!"  (parent)
  • "I loved seeing my children so excited about science!" (parent)


Video: IRR at Edinburgh Science Festival 2022 - with text
On 13 & 13 April 2022, 12 volunteers from the Institute for Regeneration and Repair delivered workshops about vaccines at the National Museum of Scotland as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival.


These workshops were funded by the British Society for Immunology.

Logo for the British Society for Immunology