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Science brought to life for South West students

Published: 18 March 2019

Devon-based Links to a Life has once again been touring Devon and Somerset schools with support from The Ogden Trust, inspiring young minds to embrace science. This year, they have visited 10 schools with their Meitner Day Tour, using theatre and storytelling to bring physics and maths to life for more than 300 students.

Meitner Day is designed to inspire budding physicists as they learn about the trailblazing physics phenomenon that is Lise Meitner. Austrian born Meitner, was the first woman in Germany to become a professor in physics and worked alongside the best scientists of the day at the cutting edge of atomic physics and nuclear fission. Albert Einstein called her ‘our Marie Curie’ but it was her colleague and collaborator Otto Hahn who was rewarded with the Nobel prize in 1944, and her brilliance was never truly recognised during her lifetime.

“I wish I had experienced the Meitner Day when I was at school. The brilliantly performed high intensity drama, which is woven into a day of nuclear physics teaching, really brings to life the story of Lise Meitner and is inspirational.
Sally Fulford, Ogden regional rep for the South West who watched the play when it was launched at Exeter University

The Meitner Day tour spotlights this unsung hero of science in an effort to encourage more young people across the UK to consider studying physics and STEM subjects at A-Level and beyond. Links to a Life delivers Meitner’s story through a combination of the arts and the sciences, engaging and inspiring the physicists of the future.

Sarah White playing Lise Meitner and Dan Ball playing Otto Hahn
Meitner Day tour 2019: Sarah White playing Lise Meitner and Dan Ball playing Otto Hahn

“Our Meitner Day tour aims to inspire more girls, and boys, to take up physics at A-Level through an interactive and innovative look at Lise Meitner’s life,” explains tour producer and Links to a Life director, Rae Hoole.

“Meitner was a remarkable person, who overcame many obstacles; students have really embraced her story and we hope been inspired to consider the sciences at university and in their careers.”

“It was an amazing day. We loved the play, I for one found it quite emotional. I always forget how intense an experience live performance is compared to a film. It was not just the play though, the whole day was really well produced, placed and balanced. Luke’s teaching segments and the group work were very good, and the girls particularly impressed me with their contribution in the discussion section in the afternoon.”
Park School, Barnstaple

Meitner Day at Uffculme School
Meitner Day at Uffculme school

Science teacher Luke Graham, who also lectures at the University of Exeter, leads the teaching on the Meitner Day tour, aided by playwright Vince Miles. Sarah White plays Lise Meitner; Tony Lidington and Dan Ball playing noted scientists Max Planck, Ludvig Boltzman, Otto Hahn and Otto Robert Frisch.

“The use of drama was such a powerful way of getting over the story and ideas/concepts and gave the science the human side that is so often overlooked. The drama hooks them and draws them in like no other method can. My overriding impression of the day was seeing the confidence of the girls growing throughout the day.

“Another highlight was the afternoon session when the groups discussed some of Luke’s “big questions”. They really appreciated the opportunity to contribute to some deep, meaningful discussions and present their ideas to a non-judgemental audience.”
Huish Academy

Support and funding for the tour has come from a range of local and national bodies including Babcock Devon Education Fund, University of Exeter, The Ogden Trust, Institute of Physics, Farringdon House School Trust, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Arts Council England and the South West Nuclear Hub at Bristol University.

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