Half term begins with inspiration and experiments at Norwich Science Festival

Ben Garrod at the Norwich Science Festival

Ben Garrod at the Norwich Science Festival - Credit: Archant

Some children set off on a secret mission to save the planet while others got marvelled at virtual reality or live experiments during the bumper weekend offering around the city.

The Physics event at the Norwich Science Festival at the Forum. Vince Chung, three, with one of the

The Physics event at the Norwich Science Festival at the Forum. Vince Chung, three, with one of the mechanical toys. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

And with headline speakers including Ben Garrod and Maddie Moate drawing crowds, hundreds got involved with the first weekend of the inaugural city-wide Norwich Science Festival. Evolutionary biologist Mr Garrod delivered his talk hours after assisting with the dissection of the rare fin whale that washed up at Holkham beach.

And it is the history of Norfolk which fascinates him, he said, with his talk, Footprints in the Sand, reminiscent of the Happisburgh footprints. 'I am fascinated by the fact that we always look abroad for the big nature documentaries, and we sent presenters to Africa for human evolution, but Norfolk is the only place in the UK that has evidence of four distinct species of human,' he said.

'We go back a million years in Norfolk and from that we can look at the settlements they left behind and how they were living. We can go back further, to the West Runton mammoth, when we had lions and monkeys wandering around in Norfolk. At the same time we had different species of human.

'I also love the fact that the furthest back we can go is thanks to 50 footprints at Happisburgh which appeared for just two weeks. At that time Norfolk was on the forefront of huge glaciation, and if you stood on the north coast you would see glaciers standing hundreds of metres high. These people were living right at the edge and there is so much more we can learn about them.'

Mr Garrod added keeping a focus locally helped engage young people with the world around them. 'Why would children care about conservation in the Amazon if they don't care what is outside their own doorstep?' he said.

'Empowering them to care about natural history allows them to become stewards of their own area. Suddenly then we are able to look further and in more detail, and I think it helps if we give them a sense the area they are from is quite special and unique.'

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Throughout the weekend The Forum also hosted puppet making workshops, the physics of a circus show and interactive experiments.

Jane McGibbon, of Pebble Gorge Theatre Company, helped create the You're Getting Warmer app which has been touring for three years and ran through the day on Saturday.

'The whole show is about climate change, and each clue they have to find is about a different aspect of climate change in the UK,' she explained.

'The children are sent off as secret agents and sent off to find the genetic code of the marsh warbler bird, which is the UK's most endangered species from climate change. To do that they have to solve four different clues. One of the codes they have to find id the fact that 35,000 hectares of land will be flooded in the UK by 2020.

'It is trying to make it fun, not to be too preachy and trying to demonstrate collectively we can we can make a difference even if individually there isn't much. We are giving them small bits of information without making it seem too catastrophic. It is fun without being terrifying, which was the challenge for us.'

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