Leicester experts work with aspiring scientists from Girlguiding Leicestershire to bring science to life

When the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology at our University celebrated International Women’s Day, they didn’t know they would end up helping local girls to find out what a baby ladybird looks like up close.

As part of their celebrations, the Genetics Equality and Diversity Initiative (GEDI) organised a cake and book sale to raise funds for WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), the official charity of International Women’s Day. 

Rather than donate to the international WAGGGS organisation, they asked local Guide Leaders Dr Alex Woodacre and Dr Ruth Barber (both former members of the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology) how best to help local Guiding directly. 

Alex and Ruth suggested the purchase of a set of lab coats and safety goggles in child sizes that would help to bring science alive for the girls and young women in Guiding.

The lab coats and goggles will make up part of a Science Box available for use by all members of Girlguiding Leicestershire and these resources will make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities more accessible for leaders without any science background or training, encouraging more participation in science by the girls and women of Leicestershire. 

Alex said: “It’s great to see the University taking such a hands-on approach to promoting gender equality in science, and Guiding is ideal for this because it is a safe girl-only space for girls to be themselves and explore new things through fun activities.”

Associate Professor Dr Nicola Royle and Finance Manager Michael Jordan from the department’s GEDI committee visited Alex and Ruth’s unit at the 5th Leicester St Thomas More Guides to see the girls in action.  The Guides were really excited to try on the coats and goggles with Emily (10) saying: “The glasses are so cool!” 

The girls searched for interesting objects in the school field and used the microscopes from the Science Box to investigate how they looked close up.  Their favourites were lichen on twigs and their own fingertips.

Girlguiding incorporates STEM activities in all their programs for ages 5-25 and Anise (11) said: “I did my Guide Science badge and it was really fun, we made our own sweets and did chemical reactions.”

Michael commented: “My two daughters are in the Guides as well and it’s fantastic the range of things they get involved in, they love the camps and get to have so many wonderful experiences.” 

Nicola got involved with showing the Guides how the microscopes worked and said: “If the activities the Guides do means even one or two of these girls are inspired to go on and study science then I think the fundraising will have been worth it”. 

Professor Alison Goodall, the Head of the Genetics and Genome Biology Department said: “As an ex Girl Guide, Queen’s Guide and Brownie/Guide/Cub leader I was very supportive of this fundraising initiative and am delighted we have been able to provide this support to encourage girls to see science as something for them to enjoy and explore.”

  • Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK. Thanks to the dedication and support of 100,000 amazing volunteers, we are active in every part of the UK, giving girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and their communities. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good.  Girlguiding Leicestershire is open to all girls and women aged 5 + and has over 8,500 members
  • The Department of Genetics and Genome Biology at the University of Leicester is renowned for the discovery of genetic fingerprinting by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and the identification of the mortal remains of King Richard III by Professor Turi King.  Our research investigates the role of DNA in evolution, diversity, disease and development of a wide range of organisms from bacteria to humans.  Within the Department we have a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (GENIE) developed from the synergy between our world-class research and our teaching and learning in genetics.  In 2016, the department was awarded the Athena Swan (Charter for Women in Science) Bronze Award.