Science meets art – Volunteering with my digestion diagram at the S.T.E.A.M Big Draw.

Last Saturday as part of STEM outreach Nottingham (Student society dedicated to student led public engagement and outreach projects) I volunteered at Lakeside arts as part of The Big Draw 2016. The Big Draw is a country wide event and this years theme was S.T.E.A.M – Bringing together Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths.

All of us on the STEM Outreach team created science activities to teach the visitors on the ‘science station tables’. The Artist had then created a giant wicker sculpture representing the human body. The aim was to inspire the visitors to do some art to add to the sculpture by teaching them some science and then letting them get creative!

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My fellow nutrition student friend and I had set to work the weeks before thinking of an idea for a digestion/gut health table as we thought this would be a good topic! I made a digestion diagram with labels and descriptions of what happens in each organ. I then bought some play dough so I could represent the food changing at each step of the digestion process and make a visual representation to help people understand. I thought the play dough would also help engage the children and help them learn at least a small part of a complex process. My friend made a diagram and some paper bacteria in a lucky dip box for people to pick out and stick on the gut – some of which had gut related facts on. We also had a selection of healthy gut foods to tell people about.

This was my big diagram (I also had a mini one with out the description paragraphs). I really enjoyed making it and getting to be a bit creative! I think visual aids can be very useful for science communication.

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This was what our table looked like on the day!

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The other science tables from fellow STEM Outreach Nottingham students included activities relating to DNA and blood.

During the day we chatted to the visitors and explained and taught them about our table of information. We started by talking to them about the process of digestion, about gut bacteria and healthy gut foods. Plus we then discussed many areas and different topics relating to this that came up in conversation.

In the quieter times we also got involved in the art which we really enjoyed! I did a lot more art and creative activities when I was at school and it is something I don’t priorities any more but I should because I forget how relaxing it is. (I put this on the bowel section of the sculpture)

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We had so many great discussions with people about digestion/the gut/bacteria/good gut foods.

I ran through the play dough food breakdown diagram lots of times – adjusting it depending who the visitors were and using different levels of science for different age groups/interest levels. As there were lots of children just explaining it to them more briefly and squishing the playing dough to represent chewing/food breakdown in the stomach etc and then having more detailed discussions with the adults.

We met so many people who were interested in nutrition and knew a fair amount already or who were keen to learn which was great!

One man told us about all the books he’d read and films he’d watched about food – though I was a bit worried some of the sounded like more shock factor than real nutrition.

A lovely older man told us about his pancreas enzymes tablet as his pancreas doesn’t work properly so takes one every time he eats.

Another man said he read book when 18 and is so so so interested in nutrition and has been since then!

For the children the most basic level was you eat and then you poo and anything they picked in between was something new to them.

So many people could relate to what we were telling them and brought up many stories of tummy problems /cutting out foods (I wouldn’t advice this without professional help from a registered nutritionist/dietitian)/ onion issues etc.

Overall I think we can conclude that everyone can relate to nutrition/health. (One of the reason I love studying it)

People are very interested which is great!

It was a great day and I’d definitely do it again.

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This was the sculpture representing the human body with all the art work attached near the end of the day.

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http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/societies/society/stemoutreach

http://www.thebigdraw.org/the-big-draw-2016-festival-theme

http://www.lakesidearts.org.uk

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