Reel Life Science Video Competition for Schools

Reel Life Science Video Competition for Schools

Schools, children, parents, teachers… listen up! There is a great competition (by Reel Life Science) running at the moment where pupils from both primary and secondary schools are invited to make a three minute science video with a chance to win €1000 for their school.

The competition is a wonderful way to get pupils, their schools, and families interested in Science from a new perspective… from behind the video lens. Launched last year in Galway the competition was so successful it has now gone nationwide!




The competition is broken down into a number of different categories so there is a lot of scope to develop and document your own favourite scientific topic.



  • ‘The Power of Science’
  • ‘The Food we Eat’
  • ‘Science in the Garden’
  • ‘Our Marine World’
  • ‘The Science of Exercise’



  • ‘Science Heroes’
  • ‘Exploring the Cell’
  • ‘Medicines’
  • ‘Physics in Real Life’
  • ‘Vision’ in partnership with VISICORT

If you need some inspiration there have been a number of guest posts from professionals in each area sharing some of their research or opinions on each topic. You can check them out here.

There is even a post from Dr. How’s Science Wows to help inspire you on the topic of Science in the Garden. However, I enlisted the help of some resident “experts” so you may find it more humorous than inspiring. Check it out here if you want to see what happens when you combine “mischief” and science!

This is a fantastic opportunity and is a very unique competition in Ireland, so please spread the word and get your school or classroom involved.


You can check out the Reel Life Science website for tips, advice and guidelines or follow them on twitter and facebook to keep up to date!

A simple slice of science – why does your voice sound different on the radio?

A simple slice of science – why does your voice sound different on the radio?

Dr. Simple is back with another really cool question. This one comes in from Jill, who can often be found here, when she is not pondering such questions as….

why does your voice sound different on the radio?


So if, like me, you cringe when hearing your voice from any recording then sit back, tune in and check out what Dr. Simple has to say on the matter…





Autumn, Equinox and resharing

Autumn, Equinox and resharing

Happy Autumn Equinox! With all this lovely weather we have been having it was easy to forget it. I thought it was apt that the weather became more chilly today as it is the official Autumn Equinox, marking, for many, the start of Autumn.

I have written before of how we Irish like to define the seasons in our own bizarre ways. The same post also describes what an equinox is, if you want the nitty, gritty detail. Personally, I judge the seasons more by the cues in Nature and I certainly have noticed the birds starting to gather for their migration, the days beginning to shorten and the leaves on the trees beginning to change colour. I always thing the colour display of Autumn is worth the colder nights and darker days.

Did you ever wonder why and how the leaves change colour? Well it turns out I wrote about that too, in my first ever blog post. Today I get to share it with you again while joining in a blog linky by lovely fellow Galway blogger, Aedin, over at Minis and Mum, as she invites people to share their first ever post in celebration of her lovely blog’s three year anniversary.

So here is a repost of mine…



It’s funny how Autumn comes around every year and I realise how much I love this time of year…. it’s as though I seem to forget I like it all throughout the other seasons.  Of course we have had a particularly nice Autumn this year in the West of Ireland and maybe that has re-enforced my happy memories of the season.  The days have been bright and crisp showing off all the beautiful colours in all their glory and splendour.

photo credit: Stellas mom via photopin cc
photo credit: Stellas mom via photopin cc

I grew up in Co. Wicklow surrounded by some beautiful deciduous woods and forests and this Autumn has really brought my childhood memories flooding back.  My mother brought us often to the woods as children and we would hunt around for hidden treasures and delights to bring home and turn into some “masterful” collage in homage to the season.  There was also the foraging, a distinctive primordial instinct in us all, there is nothing as pleasing as returning home with your bounty… be it blackberries or sweet horse chestnuts- to be turned into jams and tarts or painstakingly peeled off all nasty layers to reveal  the divinely sweet, fruity, nutty delight beneath.  In fact the joy that came with eating the nut always made it suddenly worth your while to start the arduous task of peeling all over again!

…and I hope that I will never outgrow the delight of running, kicking, shuffling through a crisp new crop of fallen leaves!

As many people know, the lovely green of most leaves is caused by the pigment chlorophyll… green in colour (obviously) and capable of using sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into energy (sugar) for the plant.  However, when the sunlight hours fade coming into winter so too does the chlorophyll in the leaves of trees, or, to be more precise, the pigment begins to degrade and is not replaced.  Once the green colour is gone other pigments that are often present in the leaf come into view… carotenoids are pigments responsible for the yellow/orange colour of leaves, anthocyanins are responsible for the redder colour of leaves and tannins are responsible for the brown colour of leaves.  There is, within this pigmented system, a sense of hierarchy, at least in part.  But did you ever wonder about the science behind those wonderful colours?  I did… why the green suddenly disappears, where does it go and how do the other colours get there in its place? So, if like me, you ever wondered about these things… here is some insight into the why and what of Autumn!


photo credit: looseends via photopin cc
photo credit: looseends via photopin cc

Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for the orange colour of carrots. If carotenoids are present their colour tends to dominate leaving the leaves yellowy and orange.

In the absence of carotenoid, anthocyanin is the dominant pigment. Anthocyanin (the same pigment found in red onions, red grapes, red apples and red cabbage) is a natural pH indicator, meaning that it can change colour depending on the levels of acids or bases/alkali in its environment.  In fact one of my favourite experiments that I often do with children is to demonstrate this colour changing using anthocyanin extracted from red cabbage (but that’s a whole other blog in itself).  At the beginning of Autumn the levels of sugar in the leaves tends to be quite high, increasing the acid levels in the leaves, this strengthens the red colour of Anthocyanin if it is present in the leaves.

At the end of Autumn the leaves die off and the levels of carotenoids and anthocynins die off too, leaving another pigment to dominate… and this is the brown pigment of tannin, the same pigment that give a cup of tea it’s colour!

So there you have it… next time you are crunching through those leaves you may wonder why you are suddenly thinking of carrots and cabbages and cups of tea!!!


There are lots of lovely “first steps” posts to read in this linky, just click on the image below to find some more.

Minis and Mon - First Steps Liny
Minis and Mum – First Steps Linky


Fun Friday – the teabag rocket

We have come over a little healthy of late in the Science Wows household, the adults anyway! #Freefrom this and #freefrom that and of course caffeine is out. Which means herbal teas are in; and the best thing about herbal teas is that you can do this with the teabag…


Seriously, if you were only ever to do one experiment from this blog,  make it this one!!!




I have been focusing on a few negatives lately. Not a good idea and I don’t think I do it often but I did succumb to the stresses and strains of life for the last few days. This morning my husband suggested I try living in the moment a little, take it as it comes and stop worrying about what may never happen. But how often do we take such sound advice? Especially from those nearest and dearest. I nodded and dismissed and went on my worrisome way. And then this happened…

… some simple moments of my day.


The sun came out and the sky was blue.

I walked a slow mile home from school with my three children.

I watched the camaraderie between my oldest two as they discussed such topics as “would the horror movie chucky really alter your brain if you watched it? Even as an adult?”

I watched as one got entangled in a wayward briar and the other tried to free them, only to get caught up in it themselves. And so it went for a while, with one getting free and the other getting trapped and they laughed gently together – sharing the moment.

I saw the beautiful gift these two have, the gift of sibling love and companionship; not something any parent can give or even orchestrate but oh so wonderful when it arrives as a natural course.

Hazelnuts and smiles
Hazelnuts and smiles

And they share it with their younger brother who today preferred to fill my pockets with the hazelnuts he found, and fill my ears with his tales of school and the general ramblings of a four year old’s day.

And when I stopped to listen those rambling words enchanted with their melody.

For that short walk home time slowed down and I suddenly realised that I was living in the moment, and what a beautiful moment it was.

Moments of nothing in particular and yet full of everything that life requires.

Moments that were fuel for the soul and tonic for the heart.

I wondered, as I watched, could others who passed us see what was there? As they drove by in their car did they get to feel the glow of our moments too?  Did it make them stop and live a moment of their own?

Slowly we moved through our moments with each foot fall upon the road until finally we were turning the key in our front door.

I arrived home with a face warm from the September sun and a hand glowing from the touch of a young boy’s hand that reached often and comfortably for mine on that long walk home.

Finally I understood that a moment is not just a short burst of time, moments like these are eternity, for that is how long they stay with you.

Education Matters

Education Matters

Does Education really matter?


How is the back to school phase going for you? Have you started complaining about making lunches yet (tiresome isn’t it?) How about the homework? We have only one day done so far and I have managed not to loose my patience or mutter complaints under my breath. So far so good. There is a lot of stress and strain involved in going back to school and I have a tendency to take it badly and moan and groan about the little things. I often forget to see the bigger picture…

…my three children are getting an education!

Education! We take it for granted, don’t we? We take it as our entitlement within this country and yes, it is an entitlement, but it is one that is not always available!

Focus Ireland has teamed up with Aviva Healthcare to run a wonderful campaign highlighting one important factor often connected with homelessness – the importance of Education. This Education Matters Programme aims to help vulnerable children finish their education or at least stay in school longer than they otherwise would. Lack of education is not the only cause of homelessness, but it is one contributing factor. Did you know, for example that…

…25% of adults experiencing homelessness didn’t progress beyond primary education,50% didn’t complete their secondary education and 8% had no formal education at all*


The campaign kicks off with this short, witty video… featuring a few faces you might know 😉 …



photo credit: Diana Parkhouse via photopin cc
photo credit: Diana Parkhouse via photopin cc


I came across this quote recently…

The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” (Sydney J. Harris);

Wouldn’t it be nice if education could also add walls, a roof and a warm, safe place to sleep!



Does Education Matter? Yes it does!


Please help to shine a light on this issue by sharing the information or video on social media or anyway you can, you can use the hashtag #EducationMatters 


*Credit: Census 2011



Silent Snaps – Blackberry picking and jam making

Silent Snaps – Blackberry picking and jam making

A perfect way to spend a balmy September afternoon…

A busy week and forgotten birthdays

A busy week and forgotten birthdays

Last week was a busy week here in the Science Wows household, as I am sure it was in many homes across Ireland. We had the back to school for the older two children and the “starting school” for our youngest. It went really well for him, he practically ran in the door without a backwards glance, but let’s just say his parents needed a lot of extra TLC!

In fact it was such a busy week that other little milestones were completely forgotten. One was Science Wow’s 3rd Birthday! I can’t believe it has been three years already. I have learned so much in those three years and still have much to learn! Each year as I renew my work Insurance and order another set of children’s lab coats I like to reflect on how the year has gone and plan what I would like to achieve for the year ahead.

Dr. How's Science Wows is three years old
Dr. How’s Science Wows is three years old


I love how the last year has gone for Science Wows. Some highlights for me have included...

…being asked back to do birthday parties for the same families (it is a lovely affirmation for me as well as the pleasure to get to know the family a little more and the fun of preparing new experiments to excite and entertain the children)

…working with Cell Explorers on a new project called “Little Cells” , bringing cell biology into classrooms for children as young as four

… working with The Galway Science and Technology Festival which saw Science Wows bring “The Science of Sound workshop” into 16 different primary schools during the two week festival

… joining in the Galway Food Festival with an interactive workshop with lots of food related experiments; the workshop was scheduled for 10 am on Good Friday (Easter) so we were unsure if anyone would turn up. I was delighted when families after family arrived to join in the fun

…. bringing science to children in Summer Camps this Summer; I particularly enjoyed a recent trip to Birr to join the children of SPEAK Ireland; their enthusiasm was infectious, their knowledge impressive, their energy inspiring (I would have happily stayed all day)


I have many aspirations and ideas for the next year for Science Wows… and I am always open to new ideas and suggestions!


It would seem that this three year anniversary was not the only milestone I over looked this week; I just realised that I posted my 200th blog post last Monday. A small milestone but a significant one non the less. The blog is not three years old yet but it  is certainly a project that I hold dear. It has provided me with a platform to develop, explore and express my love of science communication in the written and visual form. The blog too has some highlights for me, this year in particular, so, while I am in a reflective and sentimental mood, I thought I would share a few.

Some of my blog highlight for this year are…

…in February I finally took the plunge and merged my blog and website to a brand new site on word press. It was an exciting and creative project but certainly came with lots of glitches and problems. Some of which I am still ironing out. It has taken me a while to get used to this but finally I can say that I am glad I made the move and love how much I have learned and all I still have to learn.

… I have stopped some regular slots on the blog (Such as the weekly Mystery Creature post) and started some new ones. I have to say, one that I particularly love is the Simple Slice of Science series. I have had great fun creating the graphic side of Dr. Simple and really love the questions from the young and the “not so young” that have come pouring in. The response to the series has been uplifting and I plan to keep writing and developing the series for a long time to come.

… one of the reasons I set up the blog was to create a portfolio of writing and communication and I was delighted that this extended to features on other platforms such as The Journal and even an interview on the radio discussing an article I wrote on “Our earliest memories”

… another highlight of the blog in recent months is finding out that I was nominated in three categories in the Blog Awards Ireland 2014 (Science and Technology, SME and Education) and that I was short listed in all three categories after the first round of judging. Fingers crossed for the next round


All in all I think it has been a great year for Dr. How and my brain is churning in overdrive at the moment planning lots of new projects, ideas, experiments and milestones for the next year ahead.

 Thank you all for your support in so many ways, from reading these blog posts, to sharing your comments, ideas and feedback and of course, for inviting Dr. How to feature at your party, school or event.


For those of you who only know me through the blog, I leave you with a little insight into what else Dr. How’s Science Wows is all about!

Dr. How's Science Wows
Dr. How’s Science Wows




Three of our favourite Science Experiments – the messy play edition

Three of our favourite Science Experiments – the messy play edition

There is a lovely linky running over on the Mama Courage blog. It invites bloggers to get over any hang ups they may have and let the kids get… well messy. Messy play is great for children as a fun, tactile, interactive activity. We are all for it in this house. I thought the linky would be a great wayto share some of our favourite messy experiments with you all.

I hope that these entice you to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in to some messy play science, just don’t look at me when it comes time to clean up!

Here are three of our favourite “messy” science experiments…

1. Making Slime


Of course this is top of the list… messy and slime are interchangeable really, aren’t they?

This is one of our popular slime recipes…

You will need… two bowls (or cups), borax powder (you can buy this in pharmacists throughout Ireland), water, PVA glue, some stirrers and food colouring of your choice (optional)


What to do…

Add one cup of water to the first bowl and mix in a teaspoon of borax powder until it is all dissolved.

Add a cup of PVA clue to the second bowl; add a cup of water and mix well.

If you would like to colour the slime add a few drops of your chosen food colouring to the glue mixture and mix thoroughly.

Add the borax solution to the glue mixture and start to stir immediately… you will notice that the glue turned to slime almost straight away.

The slime can be stored in an airtight container and will last for years once it is not allowed to dry out.


Time for slime
Time for slime

What is happening?…

Congratulation… you have just made a polymer!! In simple terms a polymer is a substance made up of lots of molecules arranged in long chains.  If you imagine that the glue is like cooked spaghetti, it slides and slips around the place quite easily.  When we add the borax to the glue it causes some of the molecules in the glue to stick together making the glue more rubbery and less liquid!  Imagine if you took those strands of spaghetti and tied them together in places, the strands would not be able to slip and slide around nearly as much! The borax and glue mixture is just like your knotted spaghetti!


2. Making goo (otherwise called Ooblecks)


Messy but fun
Messy but fun

This stuff is very messy but oh so much fun. Not just for the kids either, once adults get their hands on this goo their is no stopping them. It makes a great stress reliever… honestly, have a go!


You will need… A large bowl, cornflour, water, a large spoon to mix and food colouring (optional)


What to do…

Mix the cornflour and water together in the bowl (approximately one cup of cornflour to two cups of water). Add a few drops of food colouring if you wish. Once it is well mixed it’s time to get stuck in. First place your hands into the goo and slowly lift them, watching how it runs through your fingers. Now try punching the surface of the ooblecks with your fist, you may be surprised with the result.


Here is an demo from an enthusiastic member of the Science Wows team:


I left him play while I was making dinner but had to take one more video to show how much fun he was having (you’ve got to watch this one)…


What is happening?… 

Ooblecks is what we call a Non Newtonian Fluid… meaning that it does not follow the laws of Netonian Physics.  When left to rest it looks just like a regular liquid.  However when disturbed by strong hitting, shaking or pulling it acts more like a solid.  It is a phenomenon worth studying and although still a bit of an enigma, scientists think that the material normally acts as a liquid but can produce a sudden, local reaction to rapid impact and stress, reinforcing the area and briefly solidifying the suspension.
Ooblecks takes it’s name from the green slime that fell from the skies in the Dr Seuss booh “Bartholomew and the Oobleck“.


3. Our version of the ‘Coke and Mentos’ experiment


You have probably all seen the coke and mentos experiment, maybe you have even tried it yourself. The basic idea is that you want to get as many mentos as possible into a bottle of coke as quickly as you can.

Last year I found myself minding two boys who were off “sick” from school. As the day went on it was obvious that they were getting a little less sick and a little more bored. So I decided to give them a challenge (you can read the original post here);

I gave them these …

The props
The props

… and told them to devise their own version of the coke and mentos experiment.

This is what they came up with…. (notice the poor teddies that were strapped onto the front of the skateboard!)

So what is happening?...

Firstly, this is not thought to be a chemical reaction between the coke and the mentos.  It is most likely a physical reaction known as nucleation;  The coke is full of carbon dioxide gas, to give it its fizz;  the mentos are full of tiny little craters on the surface of the sweet, the carbon dioxide gas is able to form bubbles in these “craters” producings thousands of tiny bubbles all at once; these bubbles of gas are under a lot of pressure within the bottle of coke and so come shooting out the mouth of the bottle.  If anyone knows anything about Newton and his laws they will know that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s third law of motion)… so the coke comes shooting out of the bottle in one direction and the force of this propels the skate board forward in the opposite direction.  PRETTY COOL!

 These are just some of our favourite messy play experiments. Check out what others are getting up to in Mama Courage’s Messy Play Project linky.