School children UniverSilly Challenged by top TV scientists

St Benedict's pupils take part in UniverSilly Challenged quiz

TWO well-known TV scientists entertained thousands of Cumbrian school children as they asked which pupils were the most UniverSilly Challenged.

TV presenter and author Simon Watt and self described science ‘troubadour’ Jonny Berliner teamed up to host The React Foundation Big Quiz of the Year – UniverSilly Challenged event, in which secondary school pupils across West Cumbria battled it out to be top of the class.

The React Foundation, established in 2004 to raise the aspirations of young people and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, hosted the lively virtual quiz in place of Live Science Shows, which were adapted for pupils aged 11-13 due to coronavirus restrictions. 

The two days of online quizzes Simon and Jonny pulled together were informative and interactive, with plenty of humour featuring throughout, which kept the school children engaged and entertained.

Cockermouth School was one of the schools which joined in with the fun, and Rik Smith, Head of Key Stage 4, said the pupils loved every minute of it.

He said: “A great time was had by all involved in the UniverSilly Challenged quiz. The buzz in the classrooms as the students scrambled to respond to the questions was almost as exciting for the staff as it was for the pupils.

“The highs and lows as the scores were released after each question fuelled the competition between the teams to a frenzy.

“Nearly 700 students from Cockermouth School took part in the quiz, and being able to return to work with React Foundation as we emerge from the pandemic was a delight.”

Each year, thousands of children in secondary schools across West Cumbria get involved in React Foundation’s annual shows, and volunteers at the organisation were delighted to be able to host an event, albeit virtually, building on the back of the success of the Live Primary Schows which returned to action earlier in the academic year.

Kayleigh Daniels, a trustee of The React Foundation, said: “The Big Quiz of the Year was really refreshing, and most importantly the children loved taking part in something that was such a good laugh.

“One of the main goals of the React Foundation is to provide unique and inspirational experiences, showing the vast possibilities that can be achieved through engaging with the sciences. We want to make this accessible to as many young people as possible, and events such as this certainly help us achieve that.

“Simon and Jonny brought so much comedy and at times absurdity, we had a hard job trying to stop our volunteers wanting to jump in and play along.

“The feedback from the schools which participated was overwhelmingly positive, and it’s rewarding when you hear that the pupils take away so much from the activity and want to expand their learning.”

Simon, who is best known for bringing humour to science through educational TV programmes and his book Ugly Animals: We Can’t All Be Pandas, brought his hugely popular Ready Steady Science Show to Cumbria last September as part of React Foundation’s annual science and engineers shows aimed at local primary schools. The Live Science Shows were a great success with thousands of primary schoolchildren taking part over the three days of activities.

The React Foundation Live Science Shows for secondary schools will return in full, physical format in September 2022 after an absence of two years due to Covid. 

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