EXPRESS & ECHO Saturday 4th September 2010, report
Mike gets excited about the appliance of science
IF YOU see a grown man in Heavitree Park setting off water rockets,
don't be alarmed — it is just Mike Coles trying out some experiments
ahead of the launch of the Westgate Science Club this Friday. Mike, who
runs a travel agency in Exeter, has decided to use his lifelong love of
science and astronomy to, as he describes it, "make science cool for
kids". Aimed at primary school children from seven to 11, he aims to
combine enthusiasm with participation to get children interested in the
fun aspects of science.
A member of the Norman Lockyer Observatory complex in Sidmouth, he has
developed "Journey Into Deep Space", a multimedia presentation, and it
was a chance discussion at one presentation last autumn that his idea
for a science club was sparked. "I asked friends at the church what
they thought of the idea and got lots of positive feedback. A friend
who is a teacher told me that the problem is for her that they don't
get the time to do hands-on practical experiments in school so I
thought I would give it a go.
"I have always been interested in science and astronomy — I was very
proud to be introduced to Patrick Moore at the age of 12 — so when I
was asked again this spring when I was going to set a club up, off I
went. We are going to have lots of mess," he says, with a note of
excitement in his voice. "Most of the experiments we have been testing
out at home — there needs to be lots of practical work for the kids to
do. I have spent hours researching and testing things."
Mike's enthusiasm is contagious — even I start getting excited at the
prospect of making a kitchen volcano and getting electricity from an
orange. "I have got a computerised microscope, so they will be able to
magnify the skin on their arm 200 times and we will project it on to
the wall. Participation by the kids is so important," he says. "It is
all simple stuff that they can do at home, but we will also have a
couple of demonstrations each time which are not safe for them to do at
home, but will be great fun for them to watch and see the possibilities
The science club will run once a month for four months in the Lower
Hall at Westgate Church in Bartholomew Street West, plus there will be
astronomy evenings where Mike will set up telescopes for the children
and parents to observe the stars. The cost is just £10 for the whole
course and children will also get worksheets with fun quizzes, facts
and things to try at home to take away.
"A friend is a senior scientist at the Met Office, so there will be a
field trip for kids and parents there. I have got a room full of things
to experiment with that I have been collecting and people have brought
me chemistry sets and microscopes when they have heard I am setting
this club up," he says with a smile. "I have also been asked about a
club for older children, so watch this space."
He admits that he will enjoy the club as much as the children and there
is perhaps a part of him that has never grown up. "I don't like the
phrase but it's true," he laughs. "You have got to be like that. Me and
my wife have worked with kids for years — we used to run a youth club.
"You have got to identify what they react to, what makes them
enthusiastic — you can't just stand there like stewed prunes and teach
them science — you have got to be excited with them. I am 60 now, but
this is payback time — people spent time with me as a kid doing stuff
like this and I really enjoyed it, so now it is my turn to be able to
do that for someone else."
For more information, see www.westgatescienceclub.org. uk or telephone 01392 253064.
END OF REPORT