Welcome back Wow!How?


We’re in the middle of National Science and Engineering Week (14 – 23 March), and Oxfordshire Science Festival (7 – 23 March), so it’s not surprising that the Museum has been packed with all sorts of exciting activities. But the big one for us is always our annual Wow!How? family science fair, which took place on Saturday 15 March. With the Museum closure in 2013, it’s had a short break, but the fair returned last weekend with a fizz, pop and a bang!

Volunteers on the What Big Teeth You Have object handling stall
Volunteers on the What Big Teeth You Have object handling stall

This might have been the tenth Wow!How?, but the set up for such an enormous event never gets any easier. 150 volunteers were involved, running around 40 stalls across the Museum of Natural History and through into the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Education staff Simone Dogherty and Caroline Cheeseman have been working with scientists, staff and volunteers for months to make sure logistics and the all important risk assessments were all under control.

Sally Le Page sets up the forensic science experiments on the Murder Mystery at the Museum stall
Sally Le Page sets up the forensic science experiments on the Murder Mystery at the Museum stall

The set up for the fair began a full 24 hours before the event, with most of the Museum’s staff helping to move exhibits and put up tables, gazebos or display stands. Then the scientists arrived with their myriad of exciting and bizarre demonstrations and experiments. From live maggots and rotting meat on the Murder Mystery at the Museum stall, to liquid nitrogen on the Oxford University Chemistry Department’s Supercool Show, or bowls full of custard, there was a lot to think about.

GB4WOW radio mast
GB4WOW radio mast

There was even a radio mast set up on the lawn, which communicated with radio enthusiasts across the world to tell them all about Wow!How?.

Dr Yan Wong of BBC TV’s Bang Goes the Theory popped up with Street Science – a collection of amazing demos using everyday objects, like setting a bowl full of wire wool on fire using just a battery!

Dr Yan Wong on the Museum lawn
Dr Yan Wong on the Museum lawn
The Cold Show in action
The Supercool Show in action
Facepaints and fingerprints
Facepaints and fingerprints
Earth Sciences Department's Disaster Zone
Earth Sciences Department’s Disaster Zone

On the day itself, 4500 visitors took part in this inspiring and engaging event. Now that the plaster, pipettes and plastic bottles have been put away for another year, Simone has had time to reflect on the success of the event:

Playing with custard is a great way to learn about non-Newtonian fluids

“Wow!How? is very different from the family events we normally run at the Museum of Natural History. Instead of devising and developing the ideas ourselves, we give the opportunity to anyone who is passionate and enthusiastic about science to come up with activities themselves. This means that not only do families get the chance to speak face to face with real scientists, experts and enthusiasts, but also it gives those who really love science the space to talk about what they love best.”

Here’s to next year’s extravaganza!

Rachel Parle, Interpretation and Education Officer

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More than a Dodo

I'm Public Engagement Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and I look after permanent displays and other interpretation. I do a bit of social media on the side, too.

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