How physics shapes our lives in West Ardnamurchan


Project aims:

The aim of the project was to provide the adults of West Ardnamurchan with the opportunity to explore physics and physical concepts through the medium of the unique local environment, with skilled guidance.


At the end of the project, the participants would:

1. Be aware of the basic concepts underlying light, optics, gravity, forces, and astrophysics

2. Have had the opportunity to participate in simple experiments demonstrating some of these concepts in action

3. Have contributed to discussions on these topics with fellow participants and understood some of their implications for West Ardnamurchan

4. Consider setting up an informal group to continue to meet regularly and discuss scientific topics with input from relevant speakers

Summary of activity:

The project introduced the following topics:
1. Optics and the nature of light
2. Tides, gravity and forces
3. CERN and the Higgs Boson
4. Astrophysics

The approach was a combination of practical activities and experiments, discussion and lectures. The workshops were led by a qualified secondary school science teacher and 3 out of the 4 took place out of doors – tides on the beach, optics at the lighthouse and astrophysics outside on a dark night

Evaluation approach:

It was evaluated in 3 ways:

1. A graffiti board for participants' comments

2. IOP evaluation forms

3. An evaluation session at the end of the project to which all participants were invited

What went well:

1. Although not originally planned, the balance between indoor and outdoor sessions and the use of both practical and theoretical approaches to learning drew in a wider audience than would have been achieved had we limited ourselves to one type of delivery

2. Linking physical concepts to the wonderful environment of West Ardnamurchan, encouraged lots of people to take part when they would not have come into a classroom setting to do the same things

3. Practical learning generated more interaction, and encouraged people to ask questions they would have felt “stupid” asking in a more formal atmosphere

4. Preparation before the more formal sessions ensured the participants had sufficient confidence to ask questions when they needed clarification

What was learned:

1 To bear in mind that for older members of the community some outdoor locations will be inaccessible, so choose wisely and make special arrangements for access if necessary

2. Not to overload the sessions with too much input, as people learn more through interaction than just being told

3. To take lots of midge repellent if you have a group of people outdoors on a summer evening on the west coast of Scotland!

Top tips and advice for others




About this project



Project type:


Started (approximately):

January 2012

Ended: (approximately)

December 2012

Tags for this project:

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About the contributor

Pat Glenday
West Highland College UHI - Kilchoan Learning Centre

As a learning centre manager in a small (population:150) and very remote (travel time to nearest supermarket/college/etc:2.5 hours) community in the West Highlands of Scotland, my job is to meet the …

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