A residential field weekend with a local Manchester school
As part of the Faculty’s Widening Participation and Public Outreach initiatives, every year Dr. Natalie Gardiner, Associate Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Professor Mahesh Nirmalan, Vice Dean for Social Responsibility, with staff and student volunteers from across FBMH lead a residential field trip for year 10 pupils from a local secondary school, Trinity High School.
After an overwhelmingly positive reception from pupils and teachers, and university volunteers over previous years, the trip is now in its 5th year. During the weekend, fifty pupils are given the opportunity to participate in exciting field and lab experiments, away from their usual urban environment, whilst engaging with researchers, clinicians, nurses, graduates and students from across FBMH.
This year’s trip took place at FSC (Field Studies Council) Rhyd-y-creuau, situated in a picturesque town in the North of Wales. The weekend was made most memorable by the kindness and enthusiasm of pupils, beautiful autumnal scenery and, rather surprisingly, some sunny weather.
Located very near to the University, Trinity High School is distinguished by its diverse population of motivated and aspirational students, as well as their hard-working and dedicated teachers. With the school being surrounded by urban landscapes and city towers, the annual field trip provides the perfect opportunity for students to swap the bustling city life for the beauty of the countryside. When asked what part of the weekend they enjoyed most, one student responded “the fieldwork, because it is so peaceful in the wild; another responded “it helped us see the weird things in nature that we rarely notice”.
The weekend kick-started on Friday evening with a speed networking event. Topics included exciting neuroscience research at Manchester, insights into careers in nursing, and the life of a doctor, as well as opportunities for students to ask any questions about university life and admissions.
The following day consisted of field and lab activities. Students explored the nearby woodland to conduct various field experiments, identifying different species of lichen and investigating how air pollution may affect their growth. Returning to the classroom, students conducted chromatography experiments, analysing the pigments present in different leaf species.
Ending the jam-packed day was Banji Adewumi MBE, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University. Banji spoke from her own experience, encouraging students to embrace their differences and turn their most unique qualities into their greatest strengths.
Under the clear, starry night, University members, schoolteachers and pupils alike gathered around a bonfire to reflect on the weekend so far (Most memorable thing? “… the open fire under a sky full of stars, with friends”). Many thanks and considerations were offered, with one pupil commenting how they had thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, allowing them to connect more deeply with their fellow peers and interact with others they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to.
On Sunday, waterproof-clad staff and students braved the rain to conduct river sampling experiments, and enjoy a stone-skimming completion.
Trips such as these highlight the importance of Widening Participation at the University, helping to break down barriers to higher education, raising awareness of the wide variety of options and career choices, and inspiring the next generation of researchers, scientists and healthcare professionals.
“This weekend aims to move science out of the classroom into beautiful countryside settings and enable an informal environment with sustained conversations between University volunteers and the students. As always, I returned from this weekend feeling inspired and enthused by the fantastic students and their teachers. I am grateful to be part of this, and for the Faculty support which enables us to run this event – students have used the experience to secure work experience placements, and for their personal statements. I’d also like to thank all the brilliant FBMH volunteers for joining us over the weekend and inspiring the next generation” Natalie Gardiner.