Guide to working with young people

If you don't have experience of dealing with 11-14 year olds you may be concerned about the best way to communicate with them. In truth, you will only be doing a version of what you do in your day-to-day job; that is, explaining science to all sorts of different people with varying degrees of interest and background knowledge. The only aspect that you may choose to change is the vocabulary that you use. In principle, the less 'jargon' we use, the better.

Our aim is to provide young people with a sense of how scientific experimentation is practiced by professional scientists and engineers and to encourage them to adopt that approach in their own learning - the key is inquiry, recognising that what might look like a wrong answer is really an opportunity to question and learn. The best approach is to be yourself and talk to students as 'fellow scientists' - allow their curiosity to shape the direction discussions take. Don't worry about getting them to a destination, focus on the journey. Adopting this approach will make it clear that you are not there to tell them exactly what to do; rather, you are there to help, but that it's up to them to take the experiments in various directions. Each experiment is designed to allow multiple lines of inquiry.

Young people of this age are less easily enthused than primary school children and are often quite self-conscious about being seen to be keen in any academic subject, particularly science. A good icebreaker is to briefly tell them about your life as a scientist, where you work, what you do and why you chose science as a career