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08 February 2023

Using dinosaur teeth to widen access to higher education

A new FoDOCS-led project uses investigation of dinosaur teeth and evolution to inform and inspire awareness of study at university, STEM and healthcare subjects.

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L-R Student volunteers Nicole, Angela, Emily and Isara outside Chattenden Primary School

A new project to inform and inspire awareness of study at university, STEM and healthcare subjects was launched in January.

The new project, ‘Raising Oral/STEM Awareness Reaching low participation areas through investigation of dinosaur teeth and evolution’ (ROAR) is a collaboration between the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences and the King's Social Mobility & Widening Participation team to create an early-school intervention intended to widen access to higher education.

Some areas of the country are "cold spots" for university applications to study medicine, dentistry and the STEM subjects. Early interventions are required in these areas to increase children's awareness and interest in these subjects, prior to them making their GCSE choices which will then dictate future university options. Our FoDOCS student volunteers are making a fantastic difference - with the help of a few dinosaur fossil replicas!

Dr Jonathan Turner (FoDOCS Widening Participation Lead and a co-developer of the ROAR project)

The project held its first workshop with Year 6 children at Chattenden Primary School, Rochester towards the end of January 2023. Undergraduate student volunteers travelled to the school with a range of replica dinosaur fossils, including a Tyrannosaurus rex jaw, Megalosaurus jaw, and Tyrannosaurus rex tooth.

Further workshops are taking place throughout 2023 across Medway, South East England.

What better way to engage children with STEM than through dinosaurs and their teeth! At the sessions, their fascination for the subject is palpable and has been wonderful to see as a dental student.

Emily Swift, FoDOCS undergraduate student and ROAR workshop volunteer

ROAR focuses on the development of materials designed to inform and inspire awareness of study at university and STEM and healthcare subjects. Raising this awareness is performed through the lens of the diversity and evolution of teeth and includes a closer look at the teeth of iconic animals, including dinosaurs.

The target population for ROAR is school children living in specific areas of England that have been identified as having low participation in HEI and STEM subjects, together with high levels of oral health need and lower numbers of oral health professionals.

Dinosaurs never need an introduction when you bring their fossils into a classroom. As educators we should use them to excite young students and immerse them in the scientific process, critical thinking, and the thrill of discovery. That’s why we are using fossil teeth to teach students about palaeontology, science in general, and foundational concepts in dentistry.

Dr. Aaron LeBlanc (Lecturer in Dental Biosciences in FoDOCS and a co-developer of the ROAR project)

The project was funded by the King's College London Innovation Fund.

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FoDOCS Director of Admissions

Aaron LeBlanc Lecturer in Dental Biosciences

Lecturer in Dental Biosciences