|Turner Contemporary, though a personal favourite, is of course far from being unique in its welcoming attitude towards children. In my own city and environs I can name several examples, including the idiosyncratic Powell-Cotton museum: a mock pith helmet, clip-board and friendly staff can turn a seven-year-old into a virtual explorer.|
|There’s nothing quite like seeing oneself on the big screen – even if it’s in an infra-red image.|
I’d love to be able to compare these with the long-standing and prestigious Christmas Lecture series at the Royal Institution (here) but they’re in a different league. I was to give the lecture twice, and was told to expect close to 100 people for each of the morning and afternoon sessions, and that they would mostly be Year 12/13 school students. How wrong can a set of predictions be … maybe a couple of dozen people attended each session, and whilst there were some adults present the majority of those present were younger than 10 years old and almost exclusively home-schooled. (Apparently, as I discovered when chatting to a few of the accompanying adults afterwards, my talk usefully constituted a sort of ‘field trip’ for their charges.) So, having turned up with a set of slides and a suitcase full of artefacts to go with them, I had to try as best I could to adapt. I’m not sure I succeeded terribly well, but it did flag up for me an area of weakness in what I can offer as public engagement talks. Ad hoc general science-based events with younger children seem to have worked well thus far, but a subject-specific talk is evidently a very different thing.