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Balloon blow-up helps pupils learn climate science

Thousands of school pupils will learn about the link between microorganisms in cattle and greenhouse gases through a hands-on activity.

Five plastic bottles on a table, with balloons as lids, as part of the Big Balloon Blow-Up activity.
The Big Balloon Blow-Up activity explores the production of carbon dioxide.

More than 3,000 primary school children will be blowing up balloons in a hands-on science investigation that will teach them about the role of microorganisms in climate change.

The Big Balloon Blow-Up activity is designed to encourage pupils to explore the production of carbon dioxide, and relate this to research by Roslin scientists into gut microorganisms in cattle that produce greenhouse gases.

Three dozen schools across the Edinburgh city region were selected to take part in the activity, with priority given to those from areas of rural isolation, high socio-economic deprivation, or both.

Teachers received a free toolkit, online training and resources in time to coincide the activity in classrooms with COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow in November.

Schools that applied to take part but were not successful were invited to an online training session and will have access to digital versions of the activity materials.

Skill development

The activity, developed by a Roslin team in Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre (EBSOC), aims to support children to conduct hands-on science linked to research that can improve animal health, and to understand links between farming and climate change.

Children taking part are encouraged to be inquisitive and proactive, asking and investigating their own questions. They will learn to use the scientific method – carrying out experiments to test an idea – while developing their investigations.

Children will also improve their critical thinking skills through observing, analysing data, evaluating results and decision-making.

The activity has been translated into Gaelic to be used by Edinburgh’s Gaelic school and 14 schools in the Western Isles.

Supporting Scottish educators to improve scientific literacy, through active hands-on investigation, has never been more important. We are excited to see so many young people getting hands-on with real-life science and engaging with our research.

Jayne QuoianiEducation & Engagement Officer, Roslin Institute

We are so pleased to have been awarded COP26 engagement funding from the University of Edinburgh, enabling us to deliver our COP26 engagement project to more than 3,000 primary school learners and teachers in the Edinburgh City Region. We hope there are many future scientists and sustainability champions in their midst.

Dr Nicola StockPublic Engagement with Research Manager, Roslin Institute

Relevant links

Big Balloon Blow-Up school version

Big Balloon Blow-Up home version

Research helps lower emissions from animal farming