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Timmy The Turbine: Edinburgh International Science Festival

The Edinburgh International Science Festival launched its 2015 programme earlier this week. I’m really excited to say a science story I’ve written will be running every half an hour (for ages three plus) in the City Art Centre. Turn to page 7 of the programme, bottom right hand corner and you’ll see this:

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I wrote about the process of developing and piloting Timmy the Turbine for Vento Ludens here. I’m going to be training the Edinburgh International Science Festival Staff to run Timmy The Turbine soon – looking forward to that!

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Timmy the Turbine runs from the 4th to the 18th April (not Sundays) in The City Art Centre during the 2015 Edinburgh International Science Festival. If you know any children how enjoy science and stories, please do send them along. 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Education, Events, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Kick It Cameron!

Last week, people kept sending me links to a video of this bird:

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The video was of a dancing capercaillie attacking skiers! It went viral. That same week I got a couple of lovely letters about my much less violent capercaillie children’s book ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron‘. I wanted to share these things with you.

Firstly, I’m sure you’re dying to see the video:

It reminds me of how important it is to observe nature from a distance! Male capericallies dance during the mating season but they also dance in defense. Sometimes they dance so hard they drop down dead. No joke. And there’s only around 1000 of them left in the wild in Scotland. That’s why we humans shouldn’t get too close. If they waste their energy dancing for us it might just be their last dance.

If you do want to see the phenomena that is a dancing capericaillie you could watch one from inside a bird hide. That way you don’t disturb the bird causing any unnecessary dance moves. I’ve been to RSPB Loch Garten Caperwatch the last three years in a row to try to see a dancing capericaillie. I live tweeted my adventures and even made a wee video about it. Did I see a dancing bird? You can find out here.

Alternatively, to dance like a capericallie without harming any capericallies in the comfort of your own home or school, you could follow the dance moves in Can’t-Dance-Cameron!

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And now, on that lighter and much lovelier note – I’ve received a letter from a Dad and one from a Mum all about just that:

 xxxx had to give a talk in school this week about an object that summed up ‘Scottish identity’. So, he took along his signed copy of ‘Cameron’ and talked for two minutes in front of his P2 class. His teacher said he did really well, and she was delighted to discover the book through him. She read it to the class after his talk and it went down a storm, with all the kids doing the Cameron Boogie at the end. The teacher has ordered a few copies for the school (she said she was struggling to find new books for P2’s with accessible Scottish themes). So, if you are planning a promotional roadshow to local schools any time soon, please include xxxx PS in Musselburgh to the list – you already have an established fan base there!

I just wanted to let you know how much we loved your new book – My daughter was given a signed copy of ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ for Christmas and I will make sure its kept safe so she can treasure it forever . She loves the book and we read it often and do the dances , we both love the beautiful pictures and the story of the book is very apt for my little late bloomer who took her time to find her groove like Cameron. We can’t wait for other stories to follow x

Writing is sometimes a lonely job – you don’t get much feedback sat at a desk by yourself. So getting letters like these is really one of the loveliest things about being a writer. It’s so great to know you’re making a difference – thanks to the parents who took the time to write them – you totally made my day!

 Image Credit: Laurie Campbell

 
 

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Abu Dhabi Science Festival 2014

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I spent most of November in Abu Dhabi working as a Team Leader in the Abu Dhabi Science Festival. Here’s what that looks like via YouTube:

 

It was my first visit to the United Arab Emirates. I was training local students to be science communicators. Here are some of the wonderful students I worked with from Abu Dhabi University:

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And here are the awesome girls from Paris Sorbonne University. The V sign isn’t offensive in Abu Dhabi, it means peace:

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Power It Up

We were running ‘Power It Up‘, a workshop about electricity generation and nuclear power. We had a cloud chamber, one of the most expensive and wonderful pieces of equipment in the science festival. You don’t get much more magical than trails from cosmic particles. Obviously they’re not magic, they’re science but you know what I mean.

We had to reset 225 mouse traps with 225 ping-pong balls SEVERAL TIMES every day. It was well worth it though – no better (or safer way) to demonstrate a chain reaction. Apologies for the dinosaurs, they weren’t usually there. 

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The Edinburgh Connection

The Abu Dhabi Science Festival has been run by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee in partnership with The Edinburgh International Science Festival for the last four years. It includes hundreds of events over three sites.

Working 

Initially it was hard work with twelve-hour days of set-up and training. Here we are testing the equipment:

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As time went on it got easier for us as our students gained confidence – they were soon running the show. We worked more behind the scenes; making sure everyone got breaks, filling up hydrogen balloons and collecting dry ice. I loved encouraging our students. Seeing them grow in confidence as they presented larger chunks of the show was immensely satisfying. They were brilliant.

Exploring

We got a couple of days off too. I went on a desert safari. Here’s me on a camel, despite my posture, it was quite slow:

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Image Credit: Alex House

This is much faster ‘dune bashing’. It’s driving (or mostly sliding) down the dunes – very scary!

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We also went kayaking in the Mangroves:

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The mangroves are home to an amazing tree climbing crab. I’d been to a talk about this fascinating climate-change-reversing-super-creature a few years ago. I was so excited to see the real thing – I almost fell out of my kayak!:

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I visited the beautiful grand central mosque too, it was interesting to find out more about the faith my students shared. We gave them prayer breaks during the day – religion seemed to run smoothly alongside science in Abu Dhabi.

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And I fed a giraffe a carrot in Al Ain Zoo, one of our festival locations:

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Social

I loved the social side of the trip, far more than I expected. I’m a writer so I’m used to time alone – I must admit, I wasn’t sure how I’d find being with people all of the time. It’s quite daunting starting a new job with new people in a new country.

Within a day I’d met a professional acrobat, comedy script editor, park ranger and a community artist. That’s just a random sample of occupations but my point is, it was a great privilege to spend time with so many interesting, creative individuals. I shared my days off with lovely people, I was in a great workshop team, I even had a swimming buddy. I also managed to be on time every single day thanks to booking THREE daily wake up calls from the hotel. I don’t normally get up super early so I was paranoid I’d sleep through my alarm. It was nice to not feel super geeky either – you’re just normal if you like science when you’re with a group of science communicators.

I visited the bar in our hotel almost every night, some nights I just rocked up with a cup of tea but I was there. It was great to see people. One of my favourite nights was a sing-song – traditional Scottish music with a fiddle and guitar. I loved dancing with everyone at ladies nights too – dancing until 3am and not even noticing how late it was. This is one of these nights:

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Image Credit: Sian Rae

Many of the people on the team were from Edinburgh so I’ve had the pleasure with meeting up with some of them back in the UK – long may that continue.

Change is Good
This is definitely the most relaxed I’ve felt in months – I think it must be a combination of sunshine, good company, job satisfaction and being off social media. I came back to Book Week Scotland, for me that was nine events in five days all over the country starting the day after I’d arrived off the plane. I’d expected the volume of performances and logistics of touring to stress me but the relaxed inner Abu-Dhabi feeling continued. The good news is, it’s still with me. It’s made me think – perhaps just checking my phone once a day might actually be a better way to live.

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Image Credit: Sarah Bates

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Education, Events, Science

 

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Book Week Scotland 2014

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That’s me arrived back from the Abu Dhabi Science Festival, just in time for Book Week Scotland! Here’s what I’m up to for the rest of the week:

Wednesday 26th 

I’m taking ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron‘ to Gorebridge. First I’ll be in Gorebridge Library with local primary school children and then I’m visiting St Andrew’s RC Primary School Primary 1, Primary 2 and nursery classes. I’ll be sharing Cameron’s story along with football pine cones, science experiments, smells of the forest and funky dance moves as part of the Gorebridge Forest Families Project.

Thursday 27th (am)

In the morning I’m at the Read-a-Licious Children’s Book Festival in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. I’m working in partnership with the Puppet State Theatre Company. They’re performing their awesome show, The Man Who Planted Trees and I’m sharing Cameron’s story in two interactive woodland workshops.

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Workshops all fully booked.

Thursday 27th (pm)

In the evening I’m part of a panel at Dundee Central Library on ‘Writing for Children and Teens‘. This Publishing Scotland event includes Publisher/Chair – Keith Charters, author Kirkland Ciccone and agent – Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates. More info here.

Venue: Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee, Angus DD1 1DB
Time: 6 to 7.30pm
Tickets: Free. Email literarydundee@gmail.com to book a place.

Friday 28th

I’m taking Cameron to Fife. I’ll be at the beautiful Glen Pavillion in the park in Dunfermline at 10.30am and at Lochgelly Theatre, Lochgelly at 1.30pm. Here’s page 14 of the On Fife programme:

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Schools programme call 01592 583204 or email libraries.museums@onfife.com to book

Saturday 29th

I’m off to Wigtown in Dunfries and Galloway. It’s my first visit to Scotland’s national book town. I’ll be at Wigtown Primary School at 3pm. Book free tickets here.

Sunday 30th

I’m at Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh for their story session from 11am to 12 noon. I’ll be facilitating some Can’t-Dance-Cameron crafts too:

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They tweeted a lovely poster for the event:

And that’s it. Nine events in six local authorities in five days – phew!

Click ‘schools‘ to find out what to expect from my events, you can watch a video trailer and download a teacher information sheet.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Can’t Dance Cameron Second Edition

A big box arrived today, copies of the second edition of my first picture book, Can’t-Dance-Cameron:

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It felt good to hold it. I wanted to say a big thanks to everyone who’s been buying the book since the launch.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Education, nature, storytelling, Writing

 

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Memories of Maritime Leith

I’m really excited to be starting a new oral history project with Trinity House Maritime Museum and Historic Scotland. This is Trinity House:

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In Leith, just down from the Kirkgate Centre it holds a treasure trove of nautical objects, photos and records. Explore the amazing collection online here.

We’re going to be making digital stories with Leith locals to help capture and share some of Leith’s maritime memories. I’m facilitating workshops with museum learning and engagement consultant at Trinity House, Lucy Bull. We’re working to recruit participants in partnership with the Living Memory Association.

Find Out More

If you want to find out more there’s a drop in session at the Living Memory Association venue at Ocean Terminal tomorrow – 2pm with tea and cake (come in the main entrance and turn right, on the ground floor on your right. If you get to Waterstones you’ve gone too far). And we’re running a series of six workshops after that. By the end of the workshops you will have created your very own digital story.

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The workshops begin on the 3rd December, download a PDF poster for more information: Memories of Maritime Leith – A4 or see details below:

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What is a Digital Story?

A digital story is a two to three minute audio soundtrack with still images over the top. It’s a personal story, in first person and using the voice of the story maker. I’ve been working with the Govan Reminiscience Group and the Britain from Above Project during 2013 and 2014 to help create and share memories as digital stories. Here are two of the brilliant stories the workshop participants made about Govan.

The Plot by Bill Pritchard:

The Promised Land by Colin Quigley

Please pass this on to anyone you think has great stories to share about maritime Leith.

If your interested in Leith History, you might enjoy this post about Leith in 1907 with Millie Gray

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Education, Events, Media, storytelling, Writing

 

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Ada Lovelace Day

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The Lady Scientist Stitch and Bit*h is back! This time it’s at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh for Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace is widely held to be the first computer programmer – you can read more about her here. Here’s how the Royal Observatory describe tomorrow’s performance on their website:

Lady scientists have made valid scientific discoveries, but they also come together to knit and sew. Here’s a collection of stories: human, hilarious, and horrible that show what it’s like being a woman scientist at different times in history.

It starts on 14th October at 6.30pm and it’s free but ticketed. To book a space please email vis@roe.ac.uk. This event is for adults only.

Who is who?

We all took a scientist, researched them and wrote a monologue in character. The scientists and writers are

And I’ve written a spoken word piece as Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. Ada is being played tomorrow by Rebecca Douglas and the mad scientist behind the operation, that is the lady with the time machine who’s been stopping off at various points throughout history to collect us all – was written by Ariadne Cass-Maran and is being played tomorrow by Kaite Welsh.

Previous Performances

This Illicit Ink event began at last year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival. It sold out. I wrote about it here. Then we were asked to perform at Heriot Watt University for Woman in Engineering Day last month. I’m excited to be back on stage with my fellow lady scientists on a day that celebrates the achievements of women throughout history.

Men are totally welcome to come to this event too! 

Image Credit: Douglas McBride

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Education, Events, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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'by leaves we live'

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Taking Edinburgh Museums & Galleries out to you!

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