Lancaster University

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Budding Scientists Dish the Dirt

06/01/2004 16:03:12

Grubbing around in the dirt is set to take on new meaning for South Lakes primary pupils thanks to a science project spearheaded by Lancaster University.

With the help of University Scientist Dr John Quinton, children at Arnside National School will take part in an eight-week course of activities taking a closer look at soil and the mini beasts lurking within.

The senior lecturer in Environmental Science will be swapping his usual classes of university students for small groups of five to 11 year olds who will investigate soil at local beauty spot Arnside Knott, which is owned by the National Trust and lies within a designated Area of Outstanding National Beauty.

The Royal Society-funded project aims to give pupils the opportunity to discover how soil plays a crucial part in maintaining bio-diversity and is an essential part of our life support system on planet earth.

It is also hoped that budding biological scientists could be inspired by the hands-on experience, which will also see the school furnished with new science equipment from microscopes and magnifying glasses to Petri dishes and spades.

All 135 pupils at the school will be included in the £2,500 project, which will be taught at different levels to each year group.

Dr John Quinton said: “Soil gives an excellent opportunity to develop a sense of wonder in our students since it is often dismissed as dirt, yet it is full of life and is a vital part of the ecosystem. By working in a local nature reserve we hope that the pupils’ sense of discovery will be enhanced, especially as they may be able to teach their parents something about their local environment.”

Arnside National School Deputy Head teacher Pauline Blewitt said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for all the pupils to participate in a real scientific survey. Pupils will be able to experience the excitement of learning about the hidden world beneath our feet. The funding from the Royal Society has enabled us to resource this project fully and given us the rare opportunity to work with a scientist.”

Arnside National School PTA and the British Society of Soil Science have also backed the project.