Thursday 30 June is a red letter day in the diary of many Sixth Form students at Cokethorpe, as they will go in front of the public to share their recent scientific research. The Science and Research Evening will be held at Tingewick Hall in the John Radcliffe Hospital and all are welcome to attend from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. Many of the students involved are hoping to go on to a career in science, and their hand hygiene experiments have provided them with an inspiring insight into real world microbiology.
Over the past academic year, Cokethorpe has been collaborating with the Modernising Medical Microbiology Group (‘ModMedMicro’) to improve hand hygiene education. As part of this initiative, Sixth Form students visited the microbiology labs at the JR, to swab their hands and environment, and see what resulting bacteria grew up on agar plates. The plates were transported to the School, where multi-coloured bacterial colonies were examined under the microscope by students in the Real World Science and Nanotechnology AOB group. Pupils endeavoured to identify the bacteria using the widespread lab technique known as ‘gram staining’.
Full of enthusiasm for their scientific experience, the Sixth Form students then gave a presentation in Assembly to the Junior School. In doing so, they gained valuable experience of science communication, adapting and tailoring their knowledge for a younger audience. The chain reaction continued as Junior School children were inspired to take part in a handwashing poster competition. The competition pitted pupils from across Oxfordshire against each other in an attempt to produce posters which would promote handwashing in hospitals.
Pupils from across the School created amazing artworks for this competition, with designs ranging from vibrant bacteria to a slightly leftfield Darth Vader. The entries were so well-received by ModMedMicro that the art was blown up and displayed on the walls at four major Oxfordshire hospitals to promote WHO International Hand Hygiene Day. Cokethorpe pupils were particularly successful, with six winners who were presented with prizes of giant microbe toys from the Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust.
The Cokethorpe-ModMedMicro collaboration was spearheaded by Dr Dona Foster at Oxford University and Dr Flaherty, Head of Science at the School. Dr Foster used the School to investigate whether hand hygiene education could have an impact on children’s days of absence and an abstract of this research has been submitted for publication. Dr Flaherty and Dr Foster hoping to build on this research in the coming academic year to inspire and improve the skills of the next generation of Sixth Form students.