When studying a Chemistry degree, you develop many skills: subject knowledge, analytical thinking, teamwork but there are some things that it doesn’t prepare you for. This summer, I volunteered with the Royal Society of Chemistry, and had the opportunity to represent them at the Three Counties Show in Great Malvern. This was masses of fun; we spent the day carrying out chemistry demos for crowds of children, all of whom where satisfyingly impressed. Having enjoyed this so much, I sought a permanent position doing something similar. After some research I secured myself an interview with Hands On Science, a company based in Barnt Green, who run a variety of science activities for children. With very limited experience, I was a little apprehensive. I was asked to prepare my own short workshop, so I headed off to the interview clutching a bag filled with baking powder, vinegar and some hastily scribbled notes.
Sixth months down the line, and I have just passed my assessment, making me a qualified Science Workshop Leader. It has been challenging but thoroughly enjoyable, and the skills I have developed are sure to be useful wherever my career ends up.
When I began working for Hands On Science, it was obvious to everyone that I did not know how to manage a classroom full of children. Had it been just my co-workers who noticed my ineptitude it wouldn’t have been so bad, but when a group of eight-year-olds realise you don’t know what you’re doing, they are prone to take advantage of it. It took me weeks to build up a rapport with my classes. Now, though, I’ve learned how to project my voice, explain things clearly and engage my audience. These skills are invaluable, and not only with Hands On Science; I have found that as a result I speak up more confidently at student committee meetings, and job interviews are a lot less intimidating.
I have also learned the importance of preparation. Every week I receive my lesson plans, and it didn’t take me long to realise that the more I read through them, the easier it would be to lead the class. The lessons are sometimes on subjects I’m unfamiliar with – for example, last week I lead a workshop on the formation of black holes. Being able to assimilate knowledge across the varied programme that Hands On Science covers is a skill I am glad to be developing, as I’m sure it will be of use to me in the future. There are also numerous health and safety factors that must be considered each session, which it is important to identify and control. Again, issues like these crop up in most workplaces, so it all makes for good practice.
I really enjoy working with Hands On Science, and value the experience I’m gaining. It hasn’t made me want to become a teacher – although I have a new found respect for anyone who teaches – but it has helped me to develop some important skills. All this and every week I get to play with Bunsen burners and bake cookies!