Primary school pupils learn about language evolution and how the brain works at Midlothian Science Festival 2021
Hundreds of primary school pupils will learn about language evolution and how the brain processes information from the environment with our senses at Midlothian Science Festival Programme for Schools
The Lothian Birth Cohorts (LBC) team and the Centre for Language Evolution in PPLS are joining other research units around the University to deliver workshops for primary school children during the Midlothian Science Festival Schools Programme 2021.
Exploring our senses and how the brain works
Dr Judy Okely and Dr Barbora Skarabela from the Lothian Birth Cohorts team are running the ‘Brain Matters: Explore your Senses’ workshop, which will help children to learn about how the brain processes the information from the environment with our sense organs.
This year, the LBC team have redesigned the activities to be able to deliver the workshop online. To make this work, they will supplement their online presentation with teacher workbooks and activity worksheets and toolkits for the pupils created for each experiment, delivered to schools before the online sessions.
The workshop introduces pupils to how the brain processes information with our senses and also aims to support children’s development of scientific concepts and skills. The pupils will participate in five hands-on activities that, amongst other things, will help them investigate the reliability and limitations of the senses, using taste tests, limits of sound, optical illusions and blind-fold games.
Judy and Barbora, who have been involved in previous years, are excited to take part again this year:
I’m excited to be involved with the Brain Matters workshops again this year. The students get to test, first-hand, how their different senses interact and operate and it's really fun to help them explore that. I know from experience that they will keep me on my toes with interesting and unexpected questions and observations!
It’s exciting and rewarding to see how keen children are to learn about science and how much they enjoy scientific discovery! This year we will interact with over 170 pupils from four Midlothian schools on two days, October 27 and October 28. The demand for the workshop is far greater and has exceeded our capacity. We have been approached by more than 15 schools and are currently exploring a possibility of how to accommodate at least some of the remaining schools later in the term or early next year."
Introduction to language evolution
Dr Jenny Culbertson and Professor Kenny Smith from the Centre for Language Evolution are running their ‘Language Evolves!’ workshops, which will introduce children to the scientific study of language evolution through a series of fun activities and games.
With help from PhD students and postdocs, they have redesigned their activities to fit this year’s online format. The sessions consist of pre-recorded video-snippets from Edinburgh linguists and game packs with all the necessary materials for teachers to run the sessions.
The pupils will be introduced in a playful way to the study of language evolution. Through a drawing game similar to Telephone game, the pupils can see how information, like language, can change. In an alien naming game, the pupils can experience how frequent words are shorter than infrequent words in languages.
Jenny and Kenny, who have been running these sessions in previous years, are excited for this year’s iteration:
It's a lot of fun to interact with the kids and spread the word about linguistics and language evolution. Plus, we've got a diverse group of folks involved, so we get to show kids what researchers look and sound like.
Midlothian Science Festival
First run in 2012, the festival’s aim is to encourage students to explore the real-life applications of sciences and create a dialogue between the people of Midlothian and their scientists. This year’s iteration runs from 11 – 29 October and takes place completely online.
Interested in language evolution and what linguists do?
In the latest issue of Futurum you can learn more Jenny’s language evolution research and she also talks about her experience of becoming a linguist. Futurum is an online resource committed to introduce young people to academic disciplines.