Name: Sarah Bearchell
Job: Science Communicator, founder of Sarah’s Adventures in Science
My career path to Science Communication has not been straightforward.
I did a BA, then an MSc, then practical horticulture training, then got a fantastic job at Royal Holloway. After a few years, I left the security of this fantastic job to do a full-time PhD.
It’s because I wanted to teach. I just love the moment when a student understands the idea you are trying to convey. I thought that getting a PhD would be my route to a lecturing career. But it wasn’t. Financial pressure meant I couldn’t wait for ages to find the right opportunity. So I got a ‘proper job’ in a very lovely office with a really brilliant team of people – while keeping an eye on academic opportunities.
When I got pregnant, my plans changed completely. Having children gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I really wanted to do. I realised I REALLY enjoyed teaching science, so I began volunteering in our village school. I am eternally grateful to Mrs Hill (the science coordinator) for encouraging me to “go professional”.
My family commitments meant that freelancing was the best option for me. It’s tough; if you are not working, you’re not earning. I gave myself a year to make it work; challenging myself to take every opportunity available, no matter how terrifying.
In September 2013, I made the rash decision to sign up for Science ShowOff which led to a high profile booking and Sarah’s Adventures in Science was born.
One of my favourite jobs was working with a local school for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). We explored themed activities each week, some working much better than others! As I got to know what would work, I had a flash of inspiration: DRY ICE.
The pupils responded amazingly as we used our senses to explore the clouds using the equipment I had made. We could challenge the most-able child, with talk of states of matter but also thrill the very youngest with cloud-filled bubbles. The head teacher described it is “awe and wonder” as he watched the delight on the children’s faces. In later sessions, not only could you see, touch and hear the process but you could also smell and taste it when we made fruity clouds.
The work led directly to me winning The Joshua Phillips Award for Innovation in Science Engagement (a.k.a. The Josh Award). As part of the prize, I delivered shows for Manchester Science Festival. You can read about my incredible experience here.
So, now my life consists of admin, grant applications, science writing, social media, running science clubs, judging science competitions, doing shows and workshops, occasional science cabaret, writing new material, honing demonstrations and sharing what I have learned with the wider science communication industry. In the last year, I’ve had some amazing opportunities; my favourite of which was the CBeebies festival.
No two days are the same, but always at the heart of it are the children I work with. The sessions we do must be hands-on, memorable AND packed with proper science. In a world where we often over-protect them, children are incredibly empowered by having control over their own experiments. My aim is to enthuse them all to engage with science, to question when they don’t understand and to investigate the world around them. All skills I hope they will use for the rest of their lives.