Chopping up eyes and saving lives: Science Week in Sedgefield!

sedgeLast week was National Science week and schools around the country were doing things a little differently. Showing kids the “cool” side of science and what potential careers a degree in science can lead to. My mate/father of my Goddaughter/the groom to my “best man wedding service”, Mr Ridgeway asked me back in October if I could help out at his high school, Sedgefield Community College in Stockton-On-Tees. The answer was eventually yes…

So for Science week, I prepared two different activities based on ability and age range.

Saving lives – reviving the Sunscreen Challenge!

Me doing my best Sir David Attenborough

For those in Year 7 and 8 (aged 11-13), we taught the students about the dangers of UV radiation with our award winning Sunscreen Challenge. This was particularly useful for the kids as they had recently just learnt about the different wavelengths of the light spectra. We also went through the different types of UV radiation (UV A, B and C), and the dangers associated with each wavelength. After a quick 10-15 minute lesson, I then let the kids and teachers (see Mr Ridgeway and Mr Harrison below) have a go at the Sunscreen Challenge. I also set up some slides containing SCC and normal skin to show how skin cancer can affect the organisation of the cells.

From the 7 sessions I did of this, both the kids and the teachers seemed to really enjoy it, regardless of their ability range, with classes 8B3 and 7B1 in particular being some of my favourite groups to teach (and not just because I managed to get the teachers to pose for the above pics)! It was also the closest I have ever come to taking in part in anything physics related. Never again!

Chopping Eyes? Putting my Dissection Skills to the test!

For students in Year 9 (13/14 years old), I prepared a lesson about the cells of the eye, in particular focussing on the cells in the cornea, retina and lens, which luckily the kids had learned about the week before my arrival!

I gave a quick 10-15 minute talk about the different parts of the eye, and what cells were involved in the function of the retina and cornea, before showing the kids some videos of corneal epithelial cell wound healing assays, to demonstrate we investigate the healing efficiency of the cells.


After the quick talk, we got into the real meat and potato pie of the lesson, the eye dissections (as learnt in Durham)!

It took a while to convince all the kids to have a go, but after seeing how much fun the braver students were having, they soon wanted to join in! In addition to the dissections I also took some of the materials being developed in our department for implantation into the eye, which showed the kids how knowing about the different cells in the eye could be useful in the real world!

A proud student with his lens dissection
eye 3
Doing the dirty work …turning a porcine eye inside out, ready for cornea dissections!
Theres no eye in team! A team of students extract the iris!
A student from class 9Y, with his proud cornea extraction!


The take home

Overall, my experience at Sedgefield Community College was utterly brilliant, with all the kids, regardless of age or ability showing a  keen interest in the science that was there for them to play with. It was a really rewarding experience, especially working in a school of many different backgrounds, and learning to adjust how I talk about science depending on my audience, even if a lot of kids were just amazed to meet their first ever Scouser!

Above all else, it was nice to just put a smile on the kids’ faces, with one girl even telling me when wanted to be an ophthalmological surgeon after the dissection. #Scicomm rocks


Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 19.50.32Liam is a PhD student funded by the BBSRC. His work focuses (pun intended) on the lens basement membrane and a disorder called Pierson syndrome. When he is not cutting up eyes, culturing cells, or teaching others how to do it, he can often be found playing table tennis or in popworld. Ideally both at once.

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