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

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

10:00 to 16:00 


Elliott Cowie has chatted to Museum Administrator Sarah Hammond about his love of fossils and how his diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder plays a part in his day while volunteering at the Museum.

Exhibitions Coordinator Rob Theodore, talks to model maker and student Emily Manning about her experience working with the Museum on her latest model, the Jurassic plesiosaur Cryptoclidus eurymerus.

Sarah Wallace-Johnson, the Museum’s Conservator, updates us on progress with the Forbes Building at West Cambridge.



'Tools of the Trade'
Available to purchase in the Sedgwick Museum shop

Tools of the Trade

Agostino Scilla's
'Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense'
English translation available to download.

Agostino Scilla download

Studying Earth Sciences at Cambridge University

Did you know?
The University of Cambridge is listed at the top of The Complete University's Guide 2016 for geology.

Discover more about studying Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge in this video featuring Museum Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology Professor Marian Holness and Sir David Attenborough