Lab_13 Koli: Exploring Nature, Naturally

Hello everyone! I’m Joe and I am going to be the first Scientist in Residence for Lab_13 Koli, #pressure. With just 10 more sleeps to go until I fly out to Finland, I thought it was a good time to write our first blog post (though I expect the next ones may be written by some younger hands…).

As a quick personal debrief, my academic career took me to the exotic land of Sheffield where I studied for a Bachelors and Masters degree in Biomedical Science and Science Communication, respectively. Since then, I’ve been engaging young people in STEM and health-related issues in a variety of less exotic places, like the Abu Dhabi, Uganda and Ghana (*wink face*), before settling into a job in London running a variety STEM workshops for the capital’s young people at the Royal Institution.


Pondering whether it was a good idea to take my helmet off in deep space…

In mentioning Ghana, I must also mention that this isn’t my first Lab_13 rodeo; last year I was a SiR for Lab_13 Ghana for six months. Though I’d done my research on Lab_13 and understood its ethos, I hadn’t seen it in action. I hadn’t seen the impact that handing the reins of scientific exploration to students can have. In Ghana I saw students taking charge of their own education, asking great questions and finding out the answers through their own investigations. I’m so excited to be a part of broadening the Lab_13 family through this exciting opportunity in Finland.

Every Lab_13 works a little differently and I’m sure this new Lab_13 will too. We’re hoping to create a space within a local school and also work with the National Park’s Nature Centre to develop some form of curiosity space for the community.

I have titled this post ‘Exploring Nature, Naturally’ as it’s my vision for Lab_13 in Koli. Koli is well known for its national park and its stunning landscape which has inspired writers and artists as it transforms between lush summers and brilliantly cold winters; a true hub of biodiversity. Growing up in a place like this must give the community a real connection with nature (something that I often lust for while surrounded by London’s landscape of cranes and scaffolding). My aim for this short three week trip to Koli is to introduce the students and community to Lab_13 as a portal through which they can investigate the world around them in a way that feels natural. I want them to connect their cultural life with science and come up with their own solutions to issues that affect them, or at least find new ways to discuss them.

Finland is well known for its education system where, amongst many other things, teachers are allowed a higher level of freedom to teach their curriculum how they see fit and I believe that Lab_13 is the perfection companion to this system.

And on that note, let us give a big “Cheers!” to Lab_13 Koli or, as they say in Finland, “Kippis!”. Wish me luck (and send me a tweet every now and again @Lab_13Koli)

Lab_13 Koli Logo

Hope you like our logo!

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Launching Lab_13 Koli!

We are delighted to announce that we are setting up a new Lab_13 in Koli, Finland! The Lab_13 will be a community resource working across both the local school and the national park visitors’ centre.

Lake Pielinen

Lake Pielinen

The project will begin at the end of August, when the inaugural Scientist in Residence, Joe Burton, will be heading out to Koli to set up the Lab_13. Joe previously spent six months as a Scientist in Residence at Lab_13 Ghana, extending the reach and scope of the project in the Bosomtwe district, and now works for the Royal Institution. Joe said, ‘I truly believe in Lab_13 as a way for young people to naturally and eagerly develop a scientific understanding of the world around them. I hope that we can build something great for Lab_13 Koli’.


This latest Lab_13 has been inspired and supported by the village cultural committee, who have run Koli’s established Artist in Residence programme for the past 15 years. The aim of the Lab_13 is to establish the principle that science is part of the cultural life of the community, both for local people and tourist visitors. The Lab_13 will give pupils and the community the opportunity to raise the lines of inquiry and investigation that matter to them, using their own curiosity and imagination to find out the answers.

We look forward to learning from the Finnish children what investigations they wish to pursue. We hope to establish Lab_13 Koli as an opportunity for science communicators, educators and STEM practitioners to become guest Scientists in Residence. Keep an eye on the Ignite! twitter and website, as well as the Lab_13 blog for updates.

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Lab_13 Rosehill Celebration Day

Today was a day of celebration at Lab_13 Rosehill! To celebrate all the achievements the pupils have made this year at the Lab_13, there was a whole day of science.

Betti, the Scientist in Residence, ran activities about bubbles and pupils from each class came for sessions. Pupils tested out different ways of making bubbles from water and washing up liquid – blowing through straws, using their hands, blowing through a tube into a sock and blowing bubbles within bubbles! The staff were getting quite competitive with seeing how big they could blow their bubbles.


Rick and Megan from Ignite! came along to celebrate as well. Lab_13 Rosehill has had a great few terms; the pupils and staff have really enjoyed coming along and getting stuck in with science and many of the pupils have made excellent progress, discovering skills they didn’t realise they had.

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Gillespie News: Exclusive Interview!

Dr Cathy Roberts, our Mission Mosquito scientific supervisor, was kind enough to let Danny Krige (Y5) have an exclusive interview with her

Q: What made you want to do the mosquito project?

A: There were 2 things I heard from professor Sella & Amelia French about the amazing Lab_13 and they inspired me to work with you all

Q: What have you done so far?

A: We’ve been collecting samples of larvae from water sources and growing them into adults and we have also been collecting adults in our special adult traps. In addition, we have been photographing and cataloguing these samples.

Q: Where have you been keeping them and is it safe?

A: We’ve been keeping them in special cages in Lab_13 which the mosquitoes can’t escape from so yes it is safe for them and for us!

Q:  What results are you hoping to get?

A: We are hoping to find what types of mosquitoes like living in the cities and whether we have any coming from Europe.

If you haven’t read about this project before, please take a look at our previous blogs and check out the Lab_13 twitter


The Mosquito cage while being built


 Danny Y5

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June’s Magical Moments at Lab_13 Rosehill

June’s been a month full of magic moments so far, so here’s a selection!

Holly’s Marvellous Magnetism

Holly is a primary age student who had not been to Lab_13 before. We were exploring magnetism,  ‘fishing’ for metal objects, painting with paperclips and making patterns with iron filings.  Holly was unsure at first but after encouragement she continued to explore independently for around 15 mins. She especially loved the iron filings. The member of staff with us was really surprises since in class Holly usually has a short attention span!


Static Electricity Stuns Staff

Over the past few sessions in Lab_13, pupils have been exploring static electricity and the upper school in particular has been enjoying this topic. However, it was the staff engagement that really stole the day! What a video it would have made with crazed looking staff frantically rubbing balloons and plastic sheets in their hair. One member of staff who came to both the upper school sessions was boasting about being able to attend ‘double science’.


Lab_13 Rosehill Celebrations

Lab_13 Rosehill is looking forward to its celebration day on Tuesday 4th July. Scientist in Residence Betti will be there running sessions all week for pupils and staff, including a Big Bubble Day!


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Lab_13 Irchester turns 6!

Lab_13 Irchester has just turned 6! We’ve had a full two weeks of birthday celebrations, which we will tell you about in this blog. Foundation stage and Year 1 were amazed that the lab is older than them, and some year 6s can remember the lab starting when they were in Foundation!

The week before last we had an egg floating competition! We chose eggs because the chicks that we hatched from eggs were here for out birthday. What you had to do was pay one pound and then you could bring in a home-made boat or make one at lunch. You would have two chances to float a crème egg and if your boat successfully floated you won the crème egg! We had some great designs using lego, bottles, egg boxes, CDs and foam packing peanuts!

Then last week was the big celebration, we got the whole school involved! We decided to do lots and lots of different outdoors activities, each year got to pick three that they wanted to do. We interviewed some pupils from each year group to find out what we got up to!

A pupil in year 2 liked pond dipping, because they found lots and lots of different bugs, and some newts! They also went bug hunting on the field. Lots of classes from different years went pond dipping and bug hunting, we discovered that the pond is really full of life with newts, tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, whirligig beetles and lots of water hog louses!

A year 3 said their favourite activities were cloud identifying and elf house building. They imagined a tiny elf wanted to live in our field, as they were secretive and nature loving we wanted  to build natural hidden houses for them. We got lots of great imaginative elf houses, some were really well camouflaged.

A year 4 pupil said their favourite activity was measuring how tall the trees on the field were, by looking through their legs! They also found their tree twins by looking for matching patterns, and did a survey to see how healthy our trees are.

Year 6 looked at the weather, they used bubbles to measure how fast the wind was blowing, identified the clouds they could see, and even made their own thermometer using a bottle, a straw and coloured water. They’ve kept one in their classroom to see how it changes over the term!

And then on Friday afternoon, the committee iced 400 cupcakes, putting a number 6 on every cake. That was enough for one for each child and teacher! We then delivered ALL of the cakes to all the classes and sang happy birthday to the lab with each class!

By Brooke (year 5) and Charlotte (year 6)


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Gillespie news: Lab Helpers


Sorting the Lego

One of the newest roles in the Lab is the ‘Lab Helper’, it allows children who really want to be in the lab committee to prove themselves so they have a slight advantage to become a member of the committee next year. The helpers help prepare for lessons, help at science club, tidy up and sort out the lab. As an example today Adnan & Hamza sorted out the Lego in the lab and even prepared equipment for a lesson for Carole!


Materials prepared for Carole’s lesson on batteries

Written by Danny (Y5)

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