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Charity ‘on song’ to educate kids

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | News

8 July 2002

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Cancer Research UK has this month launched its biggest ever initiative to get more than a quarter of a million children to take an interest in science and health.

Research from the Government’s Science Year programme indicates that many pupils lose interest in science in the early years of secondary schools and yet the need for scientists has never been greater.

So Cancer Research UK is using an innovative musical roadshow, with its very own six-strong pop band and has enlisted the help of an interactive space capsule and science information robot to help put its messages across to the next generation.

The futuristic all-singing and dancing roadshow, which also includes animation techniques, videos and interactive touch screens, highlights important factors in the charity’s mission to overcome cancer, namely, education, fundraising, recruitment, lifestyle and research. The band will be touring the country with the Tomorrow’s World Roadshow in July, visiting Birmingham, London, Cardiff and Glasgow.

Peter Foss-Clarke, a teacher at Seven Sisters School in London, was among the first to see the show and said “The children thoroughly enjoyed the show and were very enthusiastic about the science of cancer research and the role they could play in this in the future. The pop band was a unique and effective way of getting across science and health messages without appearing to lecture the children. It was great to have the opportunity to see it first.”

Cancer Research UK’s Chairman, Baroness Hayman, says: “Young people hold the key to the hopes and aspirations of our organisation and we need them to continue the work of today’s cancer researchers. We must persuade them that science, and particularly cancer science, is a worthy profession.”

Getting children enthused about science is a priority for the Government, who have designated 2002 as the Year of Science. In his speech ‘Science Matters’, delivered to The Royal Society in May of this year, Prime Minister Tony Blair said “We need to ensure our bright young people share our excitement about the potential of science and the role they can play. We particularly need to reverse the decline in maths, physics and engineering, and make science a career to aspire to, for girls as well as boys”.

But, as well as making science more attractive to children, the tour provides an excellent opportunity for Cancer Research UK experts to find out more about children’s attitudes. The kids will take part in a survey to find out how much they already know about living a healthy life.

Teenagers’ lifestyles are crucially important when it comes to preventing cancer, as it is then that habits in diet, smoking and sun safety are formed. Professor Jane Wardle, Director of Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Unit says “We know that children aged11 to 16 are actively making decisions that will influence their future health. It’s vital that we get in early to inform these kids and encourage them to form healthy habits for life”.

The survey also aims to discover whether teenagers feel they can make a difference by becoming the cancer doctors, scientists and nurses of tomorrow. In a pilot study, involving children from London’s Seven Sisters Primary School, 60 per cent of the pupils questioned were excited about science and an encouraging 92 per cent thought there were still important discoveries to be made. But only 6 per cent were interested in pursuing a career as a scientist and worryingly only 6 per cent were thinking of becoming a teacher.

Dr Lesley Walker, the Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK adds: “It’s very easy to presume that we know how kids feel. We believe that we have a lot to learn about children’s attitudes and their aspirations for the future and the more we understand, the easier it will be for us to help.”