BGS 'Geohazard day' for British Science Week... by John Stevenson

British Science Week logo
Briitish science week is a ten-day celebration
 of science technology, engineering and maths. 

How do you make a four-day British Science Week event, which already includes over 700 primary school children and 1000 members of the public, even easier? Just add another day and 70 secondary school children.

The BGS has participated in British Science Week (BSW), or National Science and Engineering Week as it was previously known, since it began in 1994. In previous years, our schools event has been aimed at KS2 children in years 5 and 6. This year we added a ‘geohazard day’ aimed at year 9 and 10 children from three local secondary schools. Split into groups, the students each took part in four, one-hour sessions, on volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides and tsunami disaster response mapping.

A volcano is about to erupt and you are responsible
for evacuating an island community, what would you do?

Called Seconds from catastrophe? Living with an active volcano, this exercise is based on real events that took place on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Students were asked to role-play a part in groups of local residents, including the government, scientists, and business community. The groups had to decide: Will there be an eruption? When? Do we close transport infrastructure and evacuate? Where do we evacuate to? The groups discussed what to do before the ‘government’ made a final decision. Then the students compared their decision with what really happened. A prize was awarded to the school group that lost the fewest lives, which turned out to be zero for the winners.

Drop, cover and hold on to a slinky?

Here, we asked students to produce a short film that looked at the fundamentals of earthquake hazard and risk. The students’ videos introduced the concept of risk and how risk could be reduced by performing earthquake drills and building safer structures. Each of the four groups produced a 15 second clip that was edited to produce a one-minute film at the end of the session. The final results demonstrated some strong presentation skills from the students combined with some interesting film techniques to create a very realistic sense of shake and panic.

Making disaster response maps with the British Cartographic Society,
aided by expert GIS staff from the 

Based on real events of the Japan tsunami of 11 March 2011, working in teams, the students created a series of maps that could be used by relief agencies – military, humanitarian, medical or search and rescue. Focusing on the human side of the disaster, students had to make sure that data was shown correctly on the map so that authorities could send helicopters, medics or military as appropriate. This activity was produced and led by the British Cartographic Society and is part of the Restless Earth Workshops programme that over 100 schools have attended.

Measuring the angle of slope failure with our home-made clinometer.

In this session the students learned how and why the BGS survey and monitor landslides around the UK. Using an exercise 'borrowed' from Earth Learning Idea, students were asked to model how rock cliffs and slopes can collapse by conducting several experiments using an inclined board and a pack of playing cards. Students used a variety of clinometers to measure the angle of ‘slope failure’; from home-made ‘cardboard box protractor’ and plumb line, to phone apps and professional equipment.

British Science Week 2017

Thanks to everyone who took part in the event, in particular the BGS staff and British Cartographic staff whose enthusiasm helped make the event such a success.  We hope that we can repeat the event for British Science Week 2017.