By Anna Woolman, Engagement Manager, British Science Association

COVID-19 placed science firmly in the public conscious. It also profoundly affected how we interact with each other. Community organisations across the country have been resourceful in responding to their user’s immediate needs. The British Science Association (BSA) recognises the huge value that they have in their local areas.

To aid further innovation and recovery for community groups/organisations as we emerged from the initial shock of the pandemic, we partnered with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to provide grants up to £2,000 for them to run activities and projects between 1 September – 30 November 2020.

The mission of the grant scheme was to support community groups to explore and trial new, alternative ways of running science-related activities for audiences underrepresented in science in the wake of COVID-19. We received a huge number of worthwhile applications and it was extremely difficult to decide who to fund.

Successful projects demonstrated they would use the funding to trial new approaches to engage their audiences with science-related activities, which would otherwise not have been possible. They also showed evidence of having existing relationships with a specific audience, who the activities were tailored to, and provided clear contingency details should the pandemic cause further restrictions.

To coincide with the British Science Week (BSW) 2021 Community Grants opening, we will be sharing blogs written by the ‘COVID-19 Community Innovation Grant’ recipient cohort, which you can find here. Encompassing motivations, learnings and aspirations, we hope they serve as inspiration for prospective BSW 2021 grant applicants in how community science projects can be developed and delivered despite uncertainty.

Watch out for these blogs throughout September and October, but in the meantime find out more about the funded groups and projects:

  • LPF Kiddies Club C.I.C (Greenwich and surrounding areas, London) - Holiday club for African and Caribbean children aged 5 to 14 years old.

Over the course of a week children, predominantly girls aged 9-14, will take part in daily Zoom workshops themed around hair and skincare. Through a combination of taught and practical activities, they will learn about the anatomy and physiology of skin and hair, its care, the history of African hair and adornment and related cultural practices, the design process of Ankara fabric and more.

A hands-on, socially distanced, family learning workshop will celebrate creativity, science and curiosity through the lens of the first black astronaut, Mae C. Jemison. Family groups will be invited to follow simple space-themed experiments using simple products easily found at home, as well as plan, design, and execute their own ideas. “Look Up” by Nathan Bryon, a picture book about a space-obsessed young girl will also be given out.

  • Stephens and George Charitable Trust (Merthyr Tydfil, Wales) – Supports local people who face disadvantages in terms of income and education to develop their own ideas and passions to leave their own legacies within the community.

Dowlais Community Centre Youth Forum members will design an outdoor science area for other young people at the Dowlais Community Centre. This project has been developed in response to their youth forum wanting to see science embedded in their local community and as a part of everyday life in Merthyr Tydfil. Throughout the project, they will create an online science club, a youth-designed outdoor science area and youth-led nature walks. 

  • Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Housing Consortium (Wolverhampton, West Midlands) – Work in partnership with local minority ethnic communities, service users, carers, vulnerable individuals and independent adults so that their housing, health and social care needs can be identified, prioritised and appropriate projects and services developed.

“SARS WARS” family activity packs will be created and delivered to people’s homes. These packs will provide information about the science of COVID-19 through a wide range of creative virus-related activities, puzzles and “making” and “learning” experiences. The aim is to raise greater awareness and understanding of the ‘real’ science of COVID-19, challenging misinformation amongst minority ethnic communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

  • Moray Food Plus (Moray, Scotland) - Provides crisis provision to those in need across Moray.

 While Moray is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, many local children have not had opportunities to spend time in in the woods or beaches. To enable them to do so, a series of half-day nature walks for primary aged children will be delivered by ‘Wild Things!’, an environmental education charity. Participants will be provided with a snack and a nature pack containing items such as a bug magnifier, nature diary, and activity sheets to encourage learning after the event.

Embedded within the local landscape and its community, their activities will celebrate the area and help people view it through a scientific lens. Their project will involve a community-contributed virtual exhibition, scientist-led outdoor youth club activities, a community-wide scavenger hunt exploring local science and Zoom science activities for older residents. The programme will culminate with the unveiling of the virtual museum and a community Zoom science quiz evening, with many of the questions contributed by participants in the preceding activities.

  • Future Directions CIC (Greater Manchester, North West) - Social care provider that delivers personalised Supported Living, Domiciliary Care and Registered Care Home (without Nursing) services for people with learning disabilities and complex needs, including autism, physical disabilities, acquired brain injury and dementia.

A sci-fi club will be created for Future Directions’ ‘Friends for Life’ group, a friendship group for people with learning disabilities and complex needs. They will create and distribute science-themed activity packs including arts and crafts materials for people to enjoy at home. Participants will then be invited to a sci-fi Zoom party to virtually meet up with each other and share what they have been doing.

  • Black Girls Hike (North West, Midlands and South East) - Founded in 2019 the group provides a safe space for Black women to explore the outdoors.

A series of geographer and ecologist-led nature walks will provide an in-depth look at the landscape. Activities will include plant identification, wildlife spotting, foraging and identifying geographical features to help with navigation. The main objective is to educate participants on the environment and deepen their connection with it, encouraging them to think more about protecting the environment and sustainability. It also promotes the mental and physical benefits of being out in nature.

  • Flower Power York (The Groves, York, Yorkshire and Humberside) - Provides community-based growing projects and activities to engage individuals and groups in York in environmental issues.

This project will trial a new way of working in the wake of COVID-19 and actively involve the community to increase new green spaces for growing in the Groves, one of the most deprived parts of York. Outdoor workshops will provide flower growing starter packs for Groves residents to sow seeds. Residents will also be supported remotely via social media and Zoom sessions to develop their knowledge of germinating and nurturing plants. Window boxes, empty beds, neglected walls and scruffy planters in public areas will be turned into celebrated green spaces by the community to become much-loved features of the Groves.

  • Creating Connections (Belfast, Northern Ireland) - A group for and by adults with learning disabilities who have been meeting weekly since 2012.

A series of weekly science exploration sessions, mostly through Zoom with some outdoor events dependent on social distancing, will take place. Designed by the group, this will include nature walks with scientists, a small ‘citizen science’ project looking at the biodiversity on their doorsteps, and at-home experiments led by ‘Scientific Sue’ on Zoom. The aim is to provide an opportunity for participants to discover new things while simultaneously decreasing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • Kakou CIC (Chesterfield, East Midlands) – A social enterprise which designs new technologies enabling people with disabilities to participate in mainstream music, creative arts and wellbeing activities.

A virtual music group will be created involving choir, instrumental, percussion and sign language to compose a cover version of ‘I wish I knew how it feels to be free’. Through Zoom music sessions, participants will collaborate with local musicians to sing and make the music using both traditional and non-traditional instruments, culminating in a final Zoom performance. They will use these activities to explore math concepts through basic music theory, acoustics/design and basic coding to make electronic instruments.

Apply for British Science Week 2021 Community funding!
Applications for British Science Week 2021 Community Grants are NOW OPEN- offering £500 to £2,000 grants for community groups that work directly with audiences who are traditionally under-represented and currently not engaged in science activity. The deadline for applications is 5 pm, Monday 9 November 2020.