Scientists excel in their virtual lab

7 September 2020

Over the past year, The Ogden Trust has supported Lightyear Foundation with an initiative to deliver science-themed active learning workshops and lesson plans to help break down barriers and get more disabled people into STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine).

With topics planned around alien worlds, inventing and flight, the project was reaching out to hundreds of children and their families through outreach activities and schools. When COVID-19 hit, Lightyear Foundation adapted their work and turned it online, producing weekly movement classes, each with a STEMM theme, which have had well over 100,000 views!

With additional funding from the Trust, this summer, Lightyear Foundation launched a 'Virtual Lab' Summer Club working with five young disabled adults who entered the virtual lab and became science researchers.

“Our virtual lab was an incredible success!” enthuses CEO Katherine Sparkes. “We worked with five young people with a range of additional needs including autism, global development delay and ADHD, all of whom had shown an interest or passion for science.

Young scientists enjoy the virtual lab from Lightyear Foundation.

“Complete with a unique STEM-themed alias, they were assisted by their lab technician (parent/carer) and led through sessions by Lightyear Foundation’s STEM Lead, Dr Sarah Bearchell. Each researcher was sent an exciting box of science equipment including beakers, pipettes, measuring spoons and even their own lab coat (which many chose to decorate and personalise!),” concludes Katherine.

"It was an utter joy to see some new researchers take to the Lightyear Foundation Virtual Lab,” adds Sarah, who led the sessions.

Every week the researchers, their lab technicians and Sarah took part in a new experiment together, which focused on a different skill. They learnt how to use their new equipment, measured liquids and solids, investigated dissolving and evaporating, made predictions about bubbles and much more. Throughout the programme, the researchers grew in confidence, both socially and in using the equipment, and were very proud of the results of their experiments.

Feedback from the researchers:
“Can we send it to my teacher, I want to show her!”
“It was awesome. I liked it.”
“I enjoyed it, it was amazing!”
Young scientists enjoy the virtual lab from Lightyear Foundation.

And thoughts from the parents:
"The boys really enjoyed each and every session. It was a pleasure being part of this. It was very informative and tailored to all children. The team were absolutely fabulous. I know for sure my boys will miss it and so will I …”
“It was amazing, my child really enjoyed doing it [the experiment] and the end result”
“My child absolutely loved this - it was amazing!”

Visit the website for Lightyear Foundation to find out more about their mission and how they achieve it.

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