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Language of science is universal

The Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine, School of Basic & Medical Biosciences, was the stage for 30 Portuguese-British pupils aged 8 to 14 to take part in Portuguese science workshops.

On 8 and 9 June, the Centre hosted ‘Native Explorers’, which is an event designed to help universities engage with local communities and to encourage pupils to have a positive attitude towards science and multilingualism. Native Explorers is part of Native Scientists, an award-winning non-profit organisation that promotes diversity in STEM and tackles educational disadvantage by bringing together scientists and pupils who speak a common heritage language.  

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(Students taking part in Native Explorers at the Centre for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine) 

At the workshop, pupils discovered the science of skin regeneration, embryo development and DNA. Dr. Inês Sequeira, who leads the project at King’s College London, explains that ‘these hands-on workshops are an extremely valuable experience that engages and inspires the students in the wonders of science. As scientists, we have the responsibility to communicate our science with the public and for me doing it my mother tongue is at the same time a challenge and a pleasure’.

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(students learning about the potential uses of stem cells in regenerative medicine. In this case, using skin grown from stem cells to graft onto a patient with a burn)

Commenting about this initiative, Professor Fiona Watt, Head of the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine, said: ‘I am delighted to be hosting the Native Explorers at the Centre at King’s College London. Language is a tool for communication, so communicating the excitement of Science to school children in their native language is an excellent idea.’

The workshop results from a partnership between the Centre, Instituto Camões (Portuguese homolog to the British Council), Oval Learning Cluster (network of school located in the Oval area) and Native Scientist.

“To bring pupils this age and with a migrant background to King’s is a very special opportunity that connects them with role models and opens their horizons, helping them feel that speaking another language is an asset, not a handicap, and that becoming a scientist is a real viable option” says Dr Joana Moscoso, from Native Scientist.   

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(students being introduced to embryology by observing a chicken embryo under a microscope and identifying developing structures)

The last round of ‘Native Explorers’ workshops in this series will happen on the 15 June when another 10 pupils will discover the wonders of stem cells. This event is also part of a research study aimed to understand the outcomes for attitudes towards languages and sciences and conducted in partnership with Dr Patrick Rebuschat at Lancaster University.

This project is funded by The Wellcome Trust. For more information, please contact Dr Joana Moscoso or Dr Ines Sequeira.