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05 Jul 2022

Dundalk Institute celebrate Cell Explorers 10-year anniversary

Dundalk Institute celebrate Cell Explorers 10-year anniversary

Payton Mason-Kenny and Lily Belle McKeon-Stowe

Lectures from Dundalk Institute of Technology said they were delighted to join their national colleagues and collaborators in NUIG Galway to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Cell EXPLORERS initiative which brings hands-on science to primary schools all over the country.

Cell EXPLORERS was started in Galway University as a pilot outreach project in February 2012 by Dr. Muriel Grenon, a research scientist in the School of Natural Sciences, in collaboration with Barry McGuire, a 5th class teacher at Galway Educate Together NS.

The initiative over the years has spread its wings from its initial inception in Galway and has grown to a national network with 15 partner institutes across Ireland.

The Cell EXPLORERS in DkIT team was one of the first partner institutes to join the network and was established in June 2016.

This team is coordinated by Dr. Suzanne Linnane and Dr. Caroline Gilleran Stephens from the Centre for Freshwater and Environmental Studies at DkIT.

The Cell EXPLORERS DkIT team is made up of both staff and enthusiastic undergraduate students from Environmental, Agriculture, Bioscience and Pharmaceutical Sciences courses in DkIT.

Their students have a passion for communicating their love of science to young children and are excited by the occasion to interact with primary school children and inspire the next generation of Irish scientists. In 2019, the programme received the Outstanding Contribution to Science Communication award by Science Foundation Ireland.

Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Prof. Philip Nolan said: "Thank you for making a real difference to our society and the growth of the research community in Ireland.

“By acting as authentic role models and sharing your excitement in research and innovation, you are helping to engage our young people, so that they maintain an interest in science and consider pursuing a career in research.”

Dr Caroline Gilleran said: "The students and I absolutely love being part of the Cell EXPLORERS initiative. It’s an amazing and fun opportunity to be able to bring science to primary school classrooms and to see how excited young children can be about science."

Paul Carolan, ICT Coordinator & Learning Support Teacher, Aston Village ETNS, Drogheda said: "In 2018 we were delighted to be invited by Caroline to attend the Cell Explorers DNA workshops at DKIT and then during Covid, we received the DNA in a Box kits which we used here ourselves to deliver the workshops to our 5th year classes.

"The kits were fantastic, down to the finest details of lesson planning and the prepared resources.

"Our students and teachers found the workshops to be a fantastic learning experience and great fun too.

"The experiences that opportunities such as this give to our young people, are invaluable and for many students, become one of the stand-out, memorable days of their early education.

"Providing them with access to real scientists, real equipment and tangible experiment results that they can take home to report on, not to mention the wonderful opportunity we had at the time to visit a 3rd level college and see what learning looks like in that context, is in effect, the 'planting of the seed' we aim to achieve as educators to encourage more students into the STEM disciplines of study and employment."

Last year, despite the challenges of a global pandemic the DkIT Cell Explorers team were able to provide 22 boxes to 13 schools in Louth, Cavan and Meath.

This gave 670 children the opportunity to extract DNA from bananas and to gain a glimpse into the life of a molecular biologist. If you would like a Cell Explorer Scientist to visit your primary school please get in touch. www.dkit.ie

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