Paul Nurse visits smallest school in Britain

Paul Nurse at Papa Westray school

Students from Papa Westray School – the smallest school in the UK – have been discussing genetics, the solar system and cell biology with the Crick’s director, Paul Nurse, as part of a school visit that coincided with the 17th annual Orkney International Science Festival.

“The pupils really loved being visited by a Nobel prize winner; they felt totally privileged, as did the staff and community,” said Mrs Branscombe, Headteacher at Papa Westray School. “He was warm, friendly and very inspiring, we can't believe how lucky we have been!”

Papa Westray is a small remote island with 70 inhabitants in Orkney a group of islands off the north coast of Scotland. The island’s community school has just six primary-aged students aged five to 12.

Paul captured the imagination of the children by sharing his experience of what it’s like to be a scientist, and talking them through some of the greatest scientific discoveries in history. The hand-held microscopes he shared with the school proved popular among the students and provided the perfect introduction to him describing cell division using Lego. Maria Ocampo-Hafalla from the Crick's Education team greatly helped Paul prepare for his visit.

Orkney trip

The school has since been inspired to learn more about genetics and heredity, by breeding ‘Reebops’ – imaginary animals made from marshmallows – and thinking about the genetic origins of the school's small flock of sheep, with possible genes from North Ronaldsay, Shetland, Holmie and Texel sheep.

“One of our top priorities at the Crick is creating future science leaders and what better way to inspire future generations than encouraging them to think like scientists from an early age,” says Paul. “Thank you to the staff and students of Papa Westray for making me feel so welcome in this beautiful corner of the UK!” 

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