A day in the life of a demonstrator on the CHaOS Summer Roadshow

We know that it might be hard to imagine what you've signed up for when you volunteer for the CHaOS Summer Roadshow, so we've got together a couple of "demonstrator blogs" to describe what it's like to be a demonstrator on a typical school visit.

These blogs mention some highlights of the CHaOS Summer Roadshow; lots of fun experiments, meeting kids and families, camping, BBQs and last but not least, wearing our stylish blue CHaOS T-shirts!

A day in a school, by Lia (a biologist)

Wake up time at our campsite! My alarm goes off about 7.15am- too early, but I want to grab a shower and some breakfast before we leave to drive to the school. It's a nice morning, so I don't mind too much!
Arriving at the school: It's about 8.15am now, and I had a nap in the back of the car while we drove to the school- coffee will wake me up soon! We set-up at the secondary school last night, and met some of the science teachers and the caretaker. I'm demonstrating our animal skulls experiment today, which is easy to set-up. I've had a look at the explanation the team gave me to look at last night, and have signed to say that I've read all of the safety instructions. I've even looked up some extra animal facts to tell the kids some cool stuff about the different bird skulls!
The first class arrives: There's about 60 kids in year 7 (so 11 years old) coming to this first session, and the committee member in charge (it's Mark today) is splitting them up into groups of four or five. I get to explain my experiment to the first group until I've ran out of things to say (about 10 minutes at this time in the morning!). I give Mark a wave, and he passes them on the spare demonstrator, then I get a minute to refresh my brain before the next group come. I've thought of something else that I can talk about for the skulls, so I'll add that it to the next group. Time flies, and after about 50 minutes the bell rings to say that it's the end of the lesson.
The second class arrives: This time it's year 8, you can tell they're a bit older as a few of them are almost as tall as me! The second group I have is really interested- I talk to them about the idea of a species for a while. Not sure how much of that they'll remember!
Tea break! The science teachers have bought us tea, coffee and biscuits- just what I need! One of the committee members has also raided our van to find a packet of jaffa cakes- which is good with me!
Lessons 3 and 4 whizz by: as I'm getting better at telling which of the skulls in the box are going to be exciting for the kids. We've got another class of year 7s, and the next class is year 6s from the primary school next door. They're so much smaller than the year 8s! I get them to sit down on the carpet, as they fidget less that way.
Lunchtime! We get to have a school dinner from the canteen- the last time I had one of these I was 10! It's okay though, as the food's much better than my school, and they give us adult size portions. We grab a few minutes outside in the sun before the last lesson.
Lesson 5: the last for the day. It's the rest of year 8- this time it's the top set, so they're really keen!
After the school day ends: we pack all the stuff away in boxes, and head over to the next school (which is just down the road). I'm doing a different experiment tomorrow (kiwi DNA, which is my new favourite), so I grab it out of the van and take it into the classroom.
BBQ time! We head back to the campsite and light the BBQ. Earlier it looked like it might rain, so we found a local pub that looked like it would serve good food, but luckily the sun came out again. I'm looking forward to an evening of chilling with the rest of the team before we head to the next school tomorrow.

CHaOS school blog

CHaOS school blog

CHaOS school blog

A day at a CHaOS public event, by Rosy (a chemist)

08:15 Alarm clock goes off (always too early), get out of the sleeping bag, roll out of the tent, collect a blue CHaOS t-shirt, and make for the showers.
08:35 Get back to the CHaOS camp, and hooray, someone's got the kettle on! Tea! Hmm, now, bread and jam? Or cereal?
09:00 Start to pack up the breakfast kit, make sure the food we're going to want for lunch hasn't been left in the tents.
09:15 The van's already set off to get to the venue first, hopefully they'll find the caretaker and get into the hall so that when we all arrive we can start getting set up straight away. Everyone gets into the MPV, decide a navigator, and we're off. The car's going to go to the supermarket and pick up some more cheese for lunch, and another punnet of kiwis because the last batch for the DNA experiment all got used yesterday.
10:00 Get to the day's venue. The van party have sorted out a way in and got the van parked ready. We start getting the kit out.. whilst we do it, someone's running round with a list of everyone's names and trying to work out which experiments we'll run today. I'm opting for the electrolysis of water, if we can find somewhere secure to tie it to... if not, maybe I'll do the UV experiment.
10:15 We've got a list of experiments and assignments, and a plan for where each should go, so we can start setting up. I've found a nice set of window bars to tether the electrolysis kit to, so I'm getting on with that. I need to make sure I've read and signed the risk assessment for the experiment, I've done it lots of times before, so I just need to scan over it to refresh my memory and make sure no-one's added anything important to it since last time.
10:45 I've got my experiment all set up. Some of the experiments we're going to use today are looking at light, and we need to set up our own darkroom. It's a little marquee with black walls, and we need six of us to take one leg each as it goes up.. so there's a bit of waiting until enough people are free.
11:00 Time to put some advertising out, we've got a banner that we can tie to the outside of the venue. Since a couple of us have got our experiments all ready to go now, we'll have a look at what would be the best place to put it up. Today's venue's really good, right on the main square, so we're really visible. A family goes past and stops to look at what we're doing, so I give them a flyer and suggest they come back at 12.
11:30 All the experiments are more-or-less set up now. Time for a sandwich before the event starts. One of the committee's done a quick safety assessment of the venue, and while we're all together eating we run through where all the fire exits are, and what sort of fire extinguishers we've got access to. There aren't many electrical sockets round the hall, so we've got a lot of extension cables running round the edge of the hall. Most of them are taped down, but we need to take care not to fall over them.
12:00 The event starts. Thirty people walk through the door almost immediately. Excellent, looks like the publicity's worked and one of the local schools has given the flyers out. One group of kids after another come and have a look at what I'm doing... electrolysing water, collecting the hydrogen and oxygen, mixing them together, sparking an explosion. There's lots to talk about, liquids, gases, energy, renewables, no two conversations go the same way.. some kids are older, or brighter, and know more about both chemistry and the world in general, some are quite little, but there's always something we can talk about.
14:45 We're busy, and I've run out of water in my drinks bottle. Fortunately someone's come to give me a break. Five minutes to grab some more water and a handful of haribo.. and then I'm switching experiments next, I'll spend the rest of the afternoon up to my wrists in lemon juice and sodium bicarb blowing the tops off film cannisters. Acids, bases, liquids, gases, forces and pressures. Oh, and bangs. All good stuff.
17:00 And that's the end of the event, next step is to pack all the kit back in the van as fast as possible... sometimes we need to clear very quickly, to get out before the hall's let for the evening, but today there might be time for a cup of tea and a biscuit whilst we clear up. I've got to wash up the tank I've been using, but that's OK, this hall's got a kitchen with a big sink and hot water, so I put the kettle on.
17:25 Once everyone's got all their kit back into the boxes and it's stacked up around the van in the carpark, the car sets off again. It's a nice day, so we're going to go back to the campsite and have a barbecue, so they've got more shopping to do!
17:30 While a few people are loading boxes into the back of the van, the rest of us have time for a drink and a biscuit, and a chat. A couple of new people arrived after dinner last night, so there's some getting to know people. Someone was asked a particularly hard question by one of the kids, so we all weigh in with our explanations.
17:45 The van's packed, and we're off back to the campsite. The MPV detours to buy some beers.. we can't buy booze on the sponsors' money, but quite often someone will get a box of cider, or a couple of bottles of wine.
18:30 Back at the campsite, the food's not here yet... but they're only 15 minutes or so from us, so we get the barbecue lit. The crockery got left dirty after breakfast, so a few of people head off with the washing-up liquid and tea towels.
19:15 The first sausages are on the barbecue, and the shopping party have brought us some salmon, too. Brilliant. The veggies are chopping mushrooms, onions and peppers, and hunting through the crockery box for the bamboo skewers.
19:45 Food! And a glass (well, a blue plastic mug) of wine! Bliss!

There's some planning to do for tomorrow, we've got a bit further to drive so we're sorting out the experiment assignment in advance. That way we can set up faster, so we don't have to get up too much earlier. Apart from that, not much else to do today, someone's going off running, the rest of us are lazing around the campsite talking about this and that. It gets dark, and we get the gas lamp out, and make some more hot drinks on the stove. Then, into the tents and some serious sleeping ready to do it all again tomorrow.