Dec 20, 2018

Science Detectives

How do you get thirty-six 8-11yr olds excited about science in museums? Give them a ‘crime scene’ and skills to solve the crime.
Category: 2018
Posted by: Nicola
Science Detectives

Early one Saturday morning in August, we welcomed our budding scientist for a full day of forensic fun.  The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, the Polar Museum, the Sedgwick Museum, the Museum of Zoology and the Botanic Gardens all ran sessions that honed the children’s scientific skills in preparation for a forensic investigation at the Botanic Gardens in the afternoon.

Our aims were to show how different branches of science overlap, get children into our museums and most of all to make science fun.

The morning was packed with workshops on:plaster footprints

  • Things which are very small: looking at botanic samples using historic and modern microscopes
  • Things that are very big: mapping from lots of different angles
  • Things that you can’t see: acids and alkalis
  • Plaster casting footprints
  • The similarities of birds and dinosaurs
  • Footprint silhouettes
  • Looking at four different mammal skeletons
  • Game to match the bird to its footprint

After spending the morning at the Zoology museum, we walked to the Botanic Gardens for a quick lunch before heading in to the gardens to solve the mystery who poisoned Ali the Algae researcher after he announced his incredible new research in the field of botany and energy.

Using their newfound skills including pollen and footprint identification, satellite mapping and soil PH testing our young scientists did a great job of solving the mystery.

Did we meet out aims? All the staff involved worked hard to come up with engaging activities that used objects from across our collections. Feedback from the day told us that at least some of our young scientists had not been in to any of the museums before.

Did we make science fun? Feedback from parents and children was overwhelmingly positive and one of our 9yr olds said “ made me want to be a scientist’

Did we spend too much time late on Friday night finishing resources? Well yes, but it will be easier next time… right?

Check the museums web sites for more engaging science activities.

science detectives botanic gardens

Monday to Friday
10:00 to 13:00 & 14:00 to 17:00

10:00 to 16:00 


Aug 13, 2019

This summer, young visitors to some of our UCM museums have the opportunity to participate in an exciting artist-led treasure hunt. Hidden Tales: the Riddle of the White Sphinx, created by Mark Wells and Sorrel May, and illustrated by Jennifer Bell encourages families to explore our museums in a different way... Author Mark Wells tells all here.

Jul 12, 2019

Fifty years ago, Cambridge mineralogist, Dr Stuart Agrell was given VIP treatment and a police escort after flying into Heathrow from the USA because he was carrying a bag full of very precious rock material. The samples were amongst the most expensive ever collected as they had been retrieved from the moon by two of the American Apollo 11 mission astronauts. The programme of their investigation was a remarkable and unprecedented example of international scientific collaboration, which still continues.

Stuart Agrell on the underground with a carpet bag of rocks from the Apollo 11 missionGuess what I’ve got in my bag? 50 years ago, Cambridge mineralogist, Stuart Agrell nonchalantly carried some of the most valuable rocks ever collected back to Cambridge in his holdall. (© Mirrorpix, reproduced with permission)