Our planet – Our future

Project aims:

The SCU's Karen Bultitude and long-time collaborator Laura Grant were invited to present the prestigious IoP Schools Lecture for which they devised Our Planet – Our Future, an entertaining and exciting 1 hour show which focused on the topics of climate change and sustainability. The show primarily targeted 11-16 year olds. Our Planet – Our Future sought to answer such questions in an inspiring and educational science lecture. The show looked at the ways in which physics and engineering are helping us to understand the impact that human life has had on the planet. The show incorporated: Exciting demonstrations; Cutting-edge research and technology; Audience voting ; Interactive ‘choose your own lecture’ format.


The Institute of Physics organises an annual touring lecture aimed at inspiring 11-16 year olds in physics.

Summary of activity:

The broad theme of Our Planet – Our Future was ‘Sustainability’ – meeting the needs of the present without detrimentally affecting the resources or biological systems of the planet. The lecture included demonstrations, images, videos and animations, and used an innovative ‘choose-your-own lecture’ format that gave the audience control over which scientific topics were covered in their particular lecture. The audience voted for their choice using an electronic voting system, which was also used to capture audience opinions on sustainability issues, and for evaluation.The official lecture tour included 37 venues over 38 days between January and November 2005. It reached a total audience of 10,800, comprising students, teachers and members of the public. A number of lectures were also delivered in addition to the official tour.

Evaluation approach:

The lecture was evaluated using electronic voting questions for students (n>3000) and paper questionnaires for teachers (n=118).

What went well:

The lecture achieved many successes. These are summarised below.

• The response to the presentation from students, teachers and colleagues was overwhelmingly positive.

• The target audience number of 10,000 was exceeded despite the cancelled performances.

• The tour included a wide range of institutions and audiences, both geographically and demographically.

• A considerable number of extra performances have been given in addition to the official tour.

• The show was popular with individuals from all of the 11-16 age groups.

• The demonstrations developed for the lecture have provided inspiration to teachers and communicators around the UK. In many cases, demonstrations have been replicated, enabling further dissemination.

• The thorough pre-research and formative evaluation conducted during the lecture development was integral to its overall success.

• The high level of support from the IoP (at both central and branch levels) was an important factor in the lecture tour’s success.

What was learned:


The 2005 lecture tour presented a number of challenges that are described in greater detail in the main body of this report. They are summarised below.

• Many venues experienced difficulty in recruiting audiences, leading to some lecture cancellations and lower audience numbers than originally anticipated.

• Staff changeover at the etb was detrimental to the website and level of publicity generated, especially for the second half of the tour.

• Lecture preparation and resourcing materials for the demonstrations took longer than anticipated.

• The 11-16 age group is a wide one, comprising students from both KS3 and KS4. This was addressed partly through the choose-your-own lecture format.

• The choose-your-own-lecture format and electronic voting system meant that a large amount of equipment and setup time was required.

Top tips and advice for others

A number of aspects of successful venues were also identified, which should be considered during the organisation of future tours of this nature. These included:

• The presence of a local coordinator helped with organisation.

• Venue facilities (such as AV) allowed audiences to fully enjoy the lecture.

• Effective outreach ensured large audience sizes.

• Support from local staff contributed greatly to the setup and delivery of the show.

• Teacher support in maintaining student discipline was valuable.

• Flexibility allowed lecture times/venues to be adjusted to maximise audience sizes.

• Including the lecture in a larger programme of activities added value to the students’ experience.

• Targeting the right audience and appropriate publicity was important.

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