Primary Science Cross-Institution Collaboration


Project Summary

Sharing public engagement experience and good practice across higher education institutions whilst enthusing young primary school children about science.

Project Partners

Dr Frank Mair, University of Manchester
School of Chemistry
Dr Chris Rego, Manchester Metroplitan University
Chemisty & Materials
Dr Steve Rossington, University of Salford
Chemsitry and School Liaison

Benefits & Impact

  • Approximately 300 inner city primary pupils were made aware of the higher education activity on their doorstep, and been enthused about science.
  • Around 40 adults were have been similarly engaged.
  • Two students have increased experience of presenting to non-expert audiences.
  • Knowledge of successful strategies within University of Manchester has been transferred to other institutions within Greater Manchester.
  • A forum for continued development exists with the establishment of the Royal Society of Chemistry Manchester Education committee.


“the pupils were extremely excited by the show and seemed to enjoy themselves a lot” (Teacher)

Lessons Learnt

  • A large research school is needed to generate useful stream of student outreach practitioners
  • Timely delivery of events is best achieved with the minimum number of partners
  • Adults can be a part of receptive audiences for these shows
  • Strong support from department leaders is necessary for new outreach efforts to take root in places where they did not exist previously.


This project aimed to address three problems common in outreach efforts.

Problem 1: how to get the maximum done while minimising impact on hard-pressed academics? Potential solution: use postgraduate presenters. This spreads the load, and allows more to be done, while at the same time developing the skills of the students, and providing role models closer in age and background to the audience.

Problem 2: How to get good practice in one university seeded in others? This project offered a means to try to encourage other university departments to follow the lead from a proven model in University of Manchester Chemistry.

Problem 3: how to reach out to the full community, and not just their children? The final idea was to time the shows close to children’s pick-up time, and encourage adults to join in when they would be there in any case to pick up children.

Aims & Objectives

We aimed to:

  • share good practice across all Manchester Higher Education Institutions
  • get enthusiasm for science going in local primary schools.
  • get the school audience to include adults as well as children.


Led by Dr Frank Mair, the representatives from the three universities met to discuss how to manage the project. It was agreed to run the ‘solids, liquids and gases’ chemistry demonstration lecture created by the University of Manchester at a primary school in Manchester and one in Salford. The scripts, prep notes and risk assessments were shared with the other two partner institutions.

At the school in Gorton, Manchester, the demonstration lecture was given by a postgraduate and undergraduate students from the University of Manchester to a composite audience of years 3, 4 and 5. The audience of around 100 children was accompanied by around 10 parents/carers, and 4 teachers. Dr Steve Rossington from the University of Salford gave same demonstration lecture to 75 Year 5s plus 5 teachers/assistants and 15 parents at a primary school in Salford. 

The feedback from the audiences was very positive so it was agreed to run further demonstrations with MMU.