MANNA participation during the Explorathon event, which took place at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and involved several teams from the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, was truly a success.
The event is part of the European Researchers’ Night initiative, organised every year on the last Friday of September by the European Commission, with the aim of engaging with the public and stimulate interest in research in adults and most importantly children.
The stand activities, very much appreciated by the visitors, were organised by the ESRs and Professors based at University of Glasgow: Jorge Peinado (ESR 4), Francesca Riva (ESR 3), Dr. Mark McLaughlin and Prof. David Eckersall. Moreover, a valuable contribution for the material preparation came from Ruben Riosa (ESR 5) and Rafaela Furioso Ferreira (ESR 6).
Our stand, “MANNA: good bugs bad bugs”, was active during the Explorathon event which took place on Friday, 27th during the afternoon. Jorge, Ruben and Mark spent the day explaining to children and adults the basic concepts and objectives of the MANNA programme form, what we do and why research in animal science is important.
In order to explain these topics in a very clear and fun way, we have organised three different activities, that generated an interactive engagement with the all the visitors to our stand.
THE MANNA MAP
This activity was very helpful for our visitors to understand the European network within the 18 leading groups that MANNA has created. A series of sticky labels, representing the ESRs, the Universities and the non-academic partners were created, and children and adults (with our help) needed to position them in the correct place guided by the positioning of model animals (chicken, cattle and pigs) that are studied in the MANNA programme. This activity demonstrated the importance of networking in science and also emphasised the fact that science is not only made of experiment in one single lab, but comes from collaboration of many people and it could require lots of travelling and it could definitely be fun!
Now, let’s get down to science with our chicken microbiota prototype . To do that, we had a model chicken used in anatomy teaching which allowed visitors to see the arrangement of the digestive system. A tube was attached down which a coloured water was poured to simulate the passage of the feed during the digestion. At the end of our tube, we put a beaker in which there were some simulated microbes (bugs), made from a pill capsule containing metal tacks and varnished to prevent them dissolving. They were decorated to indicate “good” or “bad” ones.
A magnet (which actually represented the Mass Spec, a fundamental tool when working on OMICs techniques) was given to the children to pick up all the microbes they could and then divide the microbes into the “good” and the “bad” ones, according to the examples they found on the table.
This stimulated great excitement and it was the perfect way to easily explain them that feeding different diets to animals could massively alter their microbiomes. Thus, we explained that the target of the MANNA project is to improve the health of the animals via studying different diets, additives, or other natural anti-oxidant, aiming to improve the animal health and welfare also via the reduction of the use of antibiotics.
This activity was not only appreciated by the children, but also their parents found it very interesting. Moreover, it was the perfect occasion to answer to some questions and to dispel some inaccurate concepts held in by the layperson, mostly regarding the topic of animal welfare and use of antibiotics.
The chicken image shown in the picture below, made from cartoon boxes and feathers, was a particularly attractive activity for the young children. In fact, they could have worn it and their parents were able to take a photo of their happy children and later share the photo on the social medias – making sure to tag and to mention the MANNA social pages, which were indicated on a business card created specifically for this event.
This was a fun way to conclude the visit to our stand.
Overall, the event was very positive, and during the afternoon in which we were active we counted a presence of approximately one hundred visitors (mostly families) who actively participated and were involved in all our activities. Moreover, the MANNA delegation who took part in this event certainly had fun in preparing the material and in explaining the activities to children and adults.
Through the Explorathon event we were able to increase our visibility not only in the scientific world, but also to a wider public. This was just the first public engagement and during the next years we will continue to be active and to spread our researches.
So, make sure to follow us in order not to miss any of our future activities!
Written by Ruben Riosa, Jorge Peinado, Rafaela Furioso Ferreira and Francesca Riva