The Royal Society Young Person’s Book Prize

The shortlisted books, and a very special guest
The Royal Society Young Person’s Book Prize is a prestigious yearly award that is voted for by groups of young people from across the UK. Each year, a group of experts meet to shortlist six books, which are then distributed to a select number of judging panels, made up of 8-14 year olds, across the UK. This year the MMU Engage team were delighted to be selected to run one of these judging panels, and in conjunction with the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and Reddish Vale High School in Stockport we had a great time in selecting a winner!

Rather than just give the students the books and ask them to decide upon a winner, we thought that it would be great to include some science in the process! One of the shortlisted books, 365 Science Activities by Usborne, described a number of really interesting science experiments that were easy and fun to conduct. Using these experiments, we began the review process by running a session with about twenty of the year-7 science students, where they got to make slime and paper helicopters, whilst also finding out about the Bernoulli effect, non-Newtonian liquids and the production of carbon dioxide.

Finding out about how a helicopter works.
Whilst conducting these experiments, the students were asked to make detailed notes of what they did and found, and later on other groups of students had to use their notes to conduct the same experiments. The students quickly learnt about how important it was to accurately record what they were doing! We used this as a springboard for a discussion of what made a good book review, and at the end of the session, the students were split into groups and a rota was drawn up between them, to ensure that they would all have had the opportunity to read and review the book by the time of the next session, two weeks later.
When we next visited the students, they read out their book reviews, and were then allocated a set amount of time to go and discuss the other books, and to try and convince the other students why their favourite book should be the one to win. Each of the different groups then discussed amongst themselves an aggregate score for the book(s) that they had reviewed, and then presented these results as well as a final statement to the rest of the class. After the hustings, each of the students were given two votes (which they had to use on two separate books), and a winner was decided, with Professor Robert Winston’s Utterly Amazing Science being the clear favourite. It also received an aggregate score of 100%, so there was not too much dissent from the champions of the other books!

 

We have a winner!
This was a really fabulous experience, and a great way of connecting up science and literature. During the first session, we also read some of the poems from Let in the Stars, which the students seemed to love, especially ‘lol’ by Heather F. Reid. This then inspired the students to bring along some of their favourite poetry to the second session, where the also got some time to create some of their own, with some particularly creative haikus being amongst the most impressive. We are looking forward to teaming up with the MCBF and the Royal Society again next year to continue this scientific exploration into the fabulous world of children’s literature.
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