March 1, 2019, by Lexi Earl
The Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity
Last week the Future Food Beacon participated in the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity. The Festival (FOSAC for short) is a yearly celebration of all things science, in and around the city. The main festival day is the Saturday, and there are also activities taking place in schools the week before, and in libraries the week after. This year, we took two activities to the Saturday festival. We were based in Central Library, right in the heart of the city, and our two tables were located amongst other research groups from the University of Nottingham.
One of our activities showcased our LEGO sequencer. This contraption is a LEGO version of a DNA sequencer, like that used by our scientists in their labs to read DNA sequences of individuals – be it plants, people or anything really – which gives us insight into how individuals differ from each other. In the Future Food we use this in many ways, such as sequencing varieties of plants that prosper under different conditions to predict how their offspring might perform; finding the DNA sequence of our herd animals to drive breeding programs; or sequencing the soil itself to discover what microbes are present in it that we never knew about and how those microbes help plants to grow! The multicoloured LEGO units are pulled through the sequencer, which we can show on a computer screen as it happens. The units are then decoded by the computer to form a word, in this case, hello! We had many young people come by to try out the sequencer. This is also coming to Science in the Park on March 9th if you want to have a go!
We also brought one of our new activities to both the event on Saturday, and the events that happened in libraries over half term last week. This activity is called Food Tales! Food Tales encourages young people to write or draw stories, using food as a medium to do so. Food experiences define and shape our lives, and we are interested in how we might get young people to explore their own lives through their food experiences. Developing vocabulary around food is important because language allows us to express thoughts, feelings, desires, and choices. The more we know about food, the more we need to be able to express our knowledge.
Food Tales provides pens, coloured pencils and post-it notes and asks young people: ‘can you tell me a story about food?’ This story can be fictional or real, can be drawn, written or told verbally. At Meadows Library last Monday, we also had some kitchen objects from the library’s play kitchen. This included plastic pots, plates, cups, tea pots, and food stuffs. We had herbs from an allotment and kitchen whisks and wooden spoons. Stories were often told verbally as young people were drawing or writing, or, in the case of very young children, were created through the objects we had. For example, the picture below is of one story about cake, rosemary and strawberries, all mixed together.
Other stories were about how disgusting something was, or the people children ate lunch with. Oftentimes the stories and drawings were about favourite foods (pepperoni pizza seems to be a universal winner).
We loved being able to interact with the local communities, talking to them about their lives and food stories! We will certainly be back for this festival next year!