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Schools project honoured with animal research award

Teaching toolkit recognised for supporting children to learn about science through research involving animals.

Animal Behaviour Toolkit Postcard

A project led by the Roslin Institute to support teachers in educating children about science has won a prize.

The toolkit, called Opening a Can of Worms, was recognised at the annual Openness Awards organised by Understanding Animal Research.

Created by the Roslin Institute Public Engagement team, the free toolkit is designed for teachers of pupils aged 9-14 years old to download and use in classrooms, with a series of simple, pupil-guided experiments with earthworms.

It has reached more than 1,000 local school pupils directly through the Great Science Share for Schools, and a further 12,000 people globally through a free-to-download version.

The award follows recognition of the University as a Leader in Openness by Understanding Animal Research, in light of the institution’s efforts to improve transparency around the use of animals in research.

Studying animal behaviour

Teachers can use the worms kit, which is linked the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, to encourage pupils to explore the scientific method – making discoveries through evidence from research.

It highlights the importance of studying animal behaviour, and gives teachers and pupils practical experience of designing animal behaviour investigation using earthworms.

Pupils are also encouraged to consider the use of animals in research, and the principles of reducing, refining and replacing animals in scientific studies, known as the 3Rs.

The 3Rs activity included in the pupil workbook was developed in collaboration with Understanding Animal Research. 

Learning in lockdown

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Roslin Institute Public Engagement team adapted the toolkit for use by families at home. 

The simplified toolkit, Wonder with Worms, encourages families to explore the question “Do worms prefer wet or dry places?” by using the scientific method and considering the welfare of the worms they use in their investigation.

It also includes the research fact file included with the original toolkit.  

Wonder with Worms has been downloaded for use with over 5,000 young people across the UK, and was part of the 2020 Great Science Share for Schools.  

Research involving animals represents a small but significant part of our world-leading research and is undertaken with serious regards to the surrounding issues. A large team of researchers, animal technicians and vets work with, and care for, our animals under tight legislative control. These awards recognise the commitment of staff and students across our University over a period of many years to make research involving animals transparent and better understood. This is a courageous and important endeavour aligned to our core value of being open about our work and the benefits that it brings for society as a whole.

Professor Peter MathiesonPrincipal of the University of Edinburgh

Related links

Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre

Opening a can of worms

Understanding Animal Research

Openness Awards