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Blog: Re-opening our doors to students as LifeLab goes ‘on tour’

LifeLab teaching fellow Lisa Bagust talks about why it’s great to have young people back at LifeLablisab

We got back to our roots last week when we opened our doors to students again for the first time in 21 months.

Getting hands-on with learning and allowing young people to discover for themselves the impact of their choices on their own health through immersive experiences just wasn’t possible as we lived through the toughest restrictions that COVID-19 brought.

As we gradually gained our freedoms conversations began around how we could restart LifeLab in a safe way. Our natural home at University Hospital Southampton was always going to be our biggest challenge as the epicentre of where the impact of the pandemic was being most keenly felt.

Our attention then turned to creating a temporary base away from the hospital so that young people could be welcomed back to our labs. So here we are, on tour at the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus.Students enjoying our pop up LifeLab at the University of Southampton

Our temporary base is now the Maths and Science Learning Centre where we have been made to feel incredibly welcome as we have repurposed the learning space to accommodate our wet and dry lab spaces for students to carry out their investigations and experiments.

We packed all our teaching resources and practical equipment including 8 gel electrophoresis kits, DNA samples, a UV box, along with few anatomical models  and a whole health circus into a fight case which was safely delivered by courier to our new base, we even have a handy portal ultrasound machine so we can still check out those arteries!

>>> BOOK YOUR PLACE FOR 2022 or find out more about the EACH-B research programme by emailing lifelab@soton.ac.uk<<< 

It was a big challenge but with good old-fashioned teamwork and a can do attitude we were ready in time to welcome our first students back. Last week 80 students from Cantell school became the first to enjoy ‘LifeLab on tour’, and it was great to have them back.

We came up with some really creative solutions to enable us to continue to deliver LifeLab programmes virtually through the pandemic, but nothing beats face to face teaching.

Great to see young people getting hands on with science
Great to see young people getting hands on with science

You can see the moment a young person discovers something amazing for the first time or when what you are saying just ‘clicks’ with them. Being alongside them to help them craft their health pledges and enjoying the banter of being in the class again is priceless.

Last week the students had the benefit of hearing from Rachel Owen who wowed them with her research around Tasmanian Devils in our ‘Meet the Scientist’ session. Being inspired with people like her who can demonstrate how science can take you to some weird and wonderful places is such a key part of what we do.

Although not our long-term base, our LifeLab camp will undoubtedly be a lovely home from home. Restarting our LifeLab days as part of our EACH-B research programme feels like an important step for me personally towards getting back to where we want to be in terms of our everyday lives.

It was wonderful to have the young people back with us and we are looking forward to seeing many more of you in our new home and one day back at LifeLab HQ.

Southampton teenagers are first in the country to become Young Health Champions in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Young people from Southampton have become the first to receive a Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) qualification, recognising their efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using funding from Southampton City Council (SCC) COVID-19 Innovations Grant, members of the Youth Ambassadors Group at Southampton Children’s Hospital, worked with film makers to create a series of short films. The aim was to create messaging aimed at their peer group to either support public health advice to help contain the virus, or convey the impact of the pandemic on young people and their mental health.

Creating the films formed part of the RSPH COVID-19 Young Health Champion Level 2 qualification, a brand new award that recognises the role that young people play in public health messaging.

For the qualification, young people had to first investigate a public health issue – in this case COVID-19 – before devising a way of communicating it in the form of a public health campaign and then finally reflecting on the success of their work by evaluating impact and areas for improvement.

The qualification was gained through the University of Southampton LifeLab Programme, an accredited centre of excellence for delivering RSPH qualifications. The first cohort of newly-qualified health champions gathered for a presentation ceremony at Southampton City Council Civic Centre.

RSPH COVID-19 award winners received their qualification
RSPH COVID-19 award winners received their qualification

Ipsa Dash, 16, was one of those to gain the qualification. She said: “I was really grateful for the opportunity to take part in this project and really pleased to have received this award. It has been a great experience and also a valuable one because of the focus on young people creating these messages for other young people. I am very proud to have been a part of it.”

Sallie White, Community Engagement Officer at SCC, said: “These films were a great opportunity for young people to raise awareness with their peers about how they could keep themselves safe and follow the guidance at the time’’

Lisa Bagust, LifeLab teaching fellow, said: “We are particularly proud to have developed this brand new syllabus dedicated to COVID-19 in partnership with RSPH and with funding from the Department for Health and Social Care. It is fantastic to see young people recognised for the part they have played in the pandemic response.”

Aaron Mansfield, Education Manager at RSPH, said “We are delighted to have collaborated with the University of Southampton and LifeLab on this fantastic project. It is vital that young people are given every opportunity to shape the public health messages that affect their lives, as well as the recognition they deserve for the contributions that they make.”

Sarah Shameti, youth worker for the Youth Ambassadors Group which is made up of young people who have a connection to the children’s hospital, said: “We were delighted to see the outcome of the hard work the young people had put in. Not only has it been great to see the impact the films had, the project has led to members of the group gaining a recognised qualification.”

The films were published earlier this year on themes that encouraged young people to either follow guidance to protect others or highlight mental health impact and support available.

The films can be viewed here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOOZWWiBdAhKSYYgntO9I0sQ5E8gwgokw

Exciting new climate change project combining theatre with science

If you have been inspired by COP26 to play your part in tackling climate change, our exciting new partnership could be just for you.

We are looking to work with young people aged 14-21 year olds living in Hampshire, and are particularly keen to engage with young people with long term health and mental health conditions, siblings and young carers.

This opportunity involves working with scientists and teachers at LifeLab  and local theatre company Theatre for Life to explore the impact of climate change in our communities.

Equipped with the science behind climate change, you will then have the opportunity to apply your knowledge and understanding in three outdoor locations:

New Forest National Park

Weston Shore beach

City of Southampton

Working with Theatre for Life and environmentalists in each location, you will work as a theatre company to devise, write and perform impactful theatre around the imminent climate crisis.

During the May Half term you will perform your devised plays through site specific theatre in the forest, beach and the City of Southampton to demonstrate how communities can work together to take action and protect our planet.

***Please note all activities will take place on a Saturday morning from 10.30 am – 12.30 pm, our introductory day 27 November will be longer from 10.30am – 1.30pm ***

We will book indoor spaces to support the outdoor exploratory and creative work as a weather contingency and for toilet facilities / access needs.

We can provide travel bursaries upon request, for further information please email

michelle.smith@theatreforlife.co.uk

BOOK NOW:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/climate-change-science-theatre-project-tickets-195185915327

‘Fact-cination’ leaflet to help support rollout of COVID-19 vaccination programme amongst teens

LifeLab is about enabling young people to understand the health messages they receive through their own scientific discovery. The COVID-19 vaccination is now available to young people aged 12 to 15 and to help them make a decision that is right for them, the LifeLab team has produced this fact sheet.

The guide has been produced to help point young people and their parents to reliable sources of information regarding the COVID-19 vaccination now it is being offered to secondary school pupils. The guide is free to download and share with anyone who thinks it might be a useful resource to help make their decision.

The team has taken information from organisations like the NHS and scientific and medial authorities on vaccination programs. The leaflet also includes helpful hints on checking where information has come from to ensure the decision you make around having the vaccine is not based on false or misleading content.

Download the guide here:

Click here to download the factsheet

Latest Blog: LifeLab’s Summer School goes global

From improving communication skills to gaining an insight into what life is really like as a medic, young people who took part in LifeLab’s Virtual Summer School 2021 have been telling us how much they valued the event.

After last year’s successful transfer of delivering the experience online, the team once again devised a virtual two-day programme aimed at students in years 9-13 considering a career in medicine.

Historically, students came into University Hospital Southampton for the experience where they would normally be involved in a series of hands-on workshops and tutorials along with shadowing doctors and healthcare professionals.

With the on-going uncertainty around in-person events, and in light of how successful last year’s event was, the LifeLab team once again hosted the experience virtually with a series of interactive and self-directed modules, tasks and discussion sessions, covering a host of subjects related to working in medicine.

Support from the Widening Participation and Social Mobility team at the University meant that there was a team of 10 fabulous student ambassadors from the Faculty of Medicine, who acted as mentors to the younger students over the two days.

LifeLab's online summer school was accessed by students across the world
LifeLab’s online summer school was accessed by students across the world

Like last year, the move to a virtual experience also enabled the summer school to be accessed internationally. More than 85 students enjoyed the programme from across the UK and Europe and as far afield as Canada, Malaysia and China.

At the end of the event, students were asked to give their feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive.

Students commented:

“The chance to speak to doctors taught me about both the advantages and disadvantages to studying medicine because everyone was really honest about their experiences. No one pretended that being a doctor wasn’t a job that is both mentally and physically hard, but they also spoke so passionately about how rewarding their job is, which gave me a great insight into the realities of medicine.”

 

“I’ve definitely gained a deeper understanding into what it actually takes to be a good doctor, especially from the word cloud, for example compassion, communication and empathy. This has encouraged me to take part in activities which help me build these skills even more, for example volunteering for the local charity shop!”

 

“I’ve learnt that teamwork is very key, almost every speaker in the speed networking talked about how they work with a variety of different healthcare professionals, this was further reiterated in the trauma simulation where the emergency response teams worked together and updated each other during the simulation, linking to how communication is also a very important key skill.”

 

Students also appreciated the opportunity to take part, recognising the challenges that young people have had this year in gaining work experience:

 

“With the lack of work experiences available, this was extremely helpful to me and I honestly learn so so much! :)”

 

Another added: “Had it not been online I wouldn’t have been able to be part of this invaluable experience.”

Parents were also asked for their reflections on the programme:

“I think it has made her more motivated to study medicine.”

“The summer school has definitely made her more excited about the possibility of medicine as well as more eager to follow through with it.”

“Thank you so much for this opportunity for my daughter, especially in this time when it is so hard for students to get any kind of work experience, it is invaluable”

The team aims to build on the virtual summer school with more virtual events planned. For more details keep an eye on our social media accounts >>> link<<< or email lifelab@soton.ac.uk to be kept informed about future opportunities.

LATEST BLOG: Why we’re giving school leavers a helping hand into the world of work

After a tough year of lockdown, isolations and virtual everything, putting yourself out in the big wide world for volunteering and work experience might feel a bit daunting for many young people.

As we ease out of some of the toughest restrictions brought on by the pandemic, navigating their way into the world of work could also be a bit tricky for some.

That’s why the LifeLab team has come up with a pack pulling together a load of opportunities open to young people who want to dip their toe into the world of work or volunteering.

Packed full of hints, tips, suggestions and recommendations, the free pack is a one-stop shop for everything young people need to get them started.

Along with listing some great virtual and in-person opportunities, the team has also spoken to young people who have been there and done it; getting their take on why it worked for them.

We have also spoken to employers and recruiters to get their views on how valuable work experience and volunteering is to future career prospects.

kate123
Kate Bartlett, developing talent lead LifeLab

>>>> Download the pack here<<<<

LifeLab’s developing young talent lead Kate Bartlett, said the idea for the pack was that it would help young people who might be unsure how to apply for experiences outside of school.

She said: “When we thought of pulling this resource together we had in mind school leavers who might have just signed off from secondary school and who have a long summer ahead of them.

“With lots of time already spent in lockdown and possibly isolation, we know young people are desperate to get back to normal life and start making the most of the opportunities that are out there.

“This pack gives young people the tools and tips they need to make their summer count, by engaging in work experience and volunteering opportunities. It was also great to speak to students who have already been involved in those opportunities so they could pass their insight on. We really hope young people will enjoy using the pack and would love to hear any feedback from those who do.”

Along with the pack, the LifeLab team will be sharing work experience and volunteering opportunities on their social media channels.

The team can be found on Instagram lifelab_soton, Twitter @LifelabSoton and Facebook @lifelabsouthampton . Get in touch with your feedback on email lifelab@soton.ac.uk.

Get a head start with work experience and volunteering with free ‘how to’ guide – #MAKEYOURSUMMERCOUNT

After signing off from school or college for the summer holidays, the weeks ahead could be the perfect time to get a taste of work experience or volunteering.

Download the #FOROURFUTURE work experience and volunteering pack by clicking on the link
Download the #FOROURFUTURE work experience and volunteering pack by clicking on the link

We know how hard it can be to find opportunities for young people to get access to volunteering and work experience, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so we have created a new booklet as part of our #FOROURFUTURE work to help get you started with some ideas and inspiration around how you can make those opportunities happen.

>>>> DOWNLOAD THE PACK HERE<<<<

Along with practical tips and suggestions, the booklet looks at how to manage work experience safely as we ease our way out of lockdown and how you can make the most of your experiences when applying for a job or further education opportunity.

We hope you find it useful, and would love to hear what you think of it or how we can improve or add to it.

Over the summer we will continue to advertise opportunities we hear about using the #MAKEYOURSUMMERCOUNT, so follow us on social media – see where you can find us on page 15 of the booklet.

We hope this pack gives you some useful pointers on how to get started, but we would love to hear what you think of it, email us at lifelab@soton.ac.uk with your thoughts.

Innovative transition programme linking food choices to personal and environmental health

Thinking about the lifestyle choices we make and discovering the impact those decisions can have on our future health and that of generations to come, is the essence of LifeLab’s work.

Before the pandemic we had begun to broaden our work with secondary school students, looking at how their food choices not only impact their own health but that of the planet too.

Through the Cultivate! project, led by Dr Lucy Green and Dr Mark Chapman and funded by the

Growing tower in place at Cantell secondary school
Growing tower in place at Cantell secondary school

University of Southampton Public Engagement with Research unit, young people had the opportunity to take part in hands-on activities including escape room style lessons, a visit to the plant laboratories at the University of Southampton and considering what changes they could make to their own lifestyles after exploring some of the impacts of food production on the environment.

Using an extension to the Cultivate! Funding, we created an opportunity for primary school students building on Early LifeLab work, which introduces those same themes.

This brand new programme was developed by our primary educator specialists building on resources from Rethink Food – a not for profit company that works to achieve food security for life by changing the way we think about food. This programme aims to encourage primary children to think about their food choices as they transition to secondary school, considering the health factors and sustainability of what they eat.

Using another of LifeLab’s core foundations of allowing young people to make their own choices by self-discovery and hands-on experiences, our new programme is centred around a hydroponic growing tower gardening system provided by Rethink Food. This innovative system, allows schools to grow plants indoors without soil. LifeLab has delivered these novel towers into participating schools to enable them to have an immersive learning experience.

Year 6 students in two Southampton primary schools, Mansbridge Primary and Basset Green Primary

Student at Mansbridge Primary school with a growing tower
Student at Mansbridge Primary school with a growing tower

and Cantell secondary school to which most students will transition in September have each been provided with a growing tower and a range of seedlings. The brief is for them to grow their own food to create a meal which they will hopefully be able to share together before the end of the school year.

Alongside the towers, the LifeLab team has developed supporting education sessions that focus on themes of understanding what a healthy diet looks like, how choices are going to change as the young people move up to secondary schools and touching on the sustainability of our food choices, linking to climate change. This is intended to support their transition to secondary school and provide skills which will help students to make informed food choices once they gain the freedom that secondary school gives them.

Alison Von Landau, Year 6 teacher and English lead, said: “We have loved having the growing towers at school as they are a great way of engaging children in the themes of healthy eating and the impact on the environment. Using this topic as part f their transition journey has also been a really useful tool as they look forward to more independence over their food choices.”

Comments from the pupils include: “Healthy eating’s really important, so I hope our vegetables grow. I want to try them.”

The programme also includes introducing pupils to their new school environment with a video tour of the canteen and feedback from current secondary students so they will feel confident and excited about moving schools in September.

Rachel Gagen and Natasha Green have been developing the programme for Early LifeLab. Rachel said: “We have built on the themes that underpin LifeLab in allowing young people to explore the lifestyle choices they make through scientific discovery, and this project really continues that idea alongside the wider considerations of the planet and sustainable food themes. Year 6 seemed like a good year to introduce this programme given the transition up to secondary so it has the added benefit of helping with familiarising them with what they school experience will be like in the years ahead.”

Natasha added: “The growing towers are a great hands-on and visual way of engaging the students in these themes around sustainable eating and growing your own produce. The towers are a fun and effective way to grow produce using just 10 per cent of the water normally used, and growing three times as fast which really helps with engagement in the programme in a school setting.”

Making research count

We were delighted to feature in the latest edition of the University of Southampton’s  Re:action publication, which this week celebrated the submission of the REF, in which our work was also highlighted.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national assessment of the research taking place across UK universities. Every six or seven years, institutions are asked to submit examples of their best research to be assessed by panels of academics and industry experts. Each of 34 subject areas is awarded up to four stars. The process is designed to ensure that public money is spent effectively.

LifeLab's Dr Kath Woods-Townsend facilitates an online session
LifeLab’s Dr Kath Woods-Townsend facilitates an online session

We were thrilled to be given the opportunity to include LifeLab’s work and talk about how we have reinvented our offer to young people whilst continuing to empower them to make good decisions about their own health.

>>>> READ THE ARTICLE HERE<<<<<

In the Re:action magazine, our programme lead Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend gives an overview of how the programme has had to pivot from its usual hands-on interactive approach, to a operating in a virtual world.

“We had to pause our hands-on practical activities in March 2020, but we weren’t going to let that stop us helping young people,” said Dr Woods-Townsend. “We are committed to giving them a voice and a chance to explain what they are feeling about the pandemic, its impact on their lives and how they felt they could be better supported during lockdown.”

The article was also a chance for the team to reflect on what they had achieved over the past year, and look forward to how we will use the lessons learned to shape our future.

Budding young film makers urge their communities not to let down their guard as restrictions ease

Young people across the south have turned their hand to creating films in an effort to urge their peers to continue keeping themselves and their communities safe from the spread of COVID-19.

As the further easing of restrictions are eased (MAR 29) the films are being released on social media to encourage young people to keep following the guidance, particularly over the Easter break.

Organisations including LifeLab and Southampton Children’s Hospital at University Hospital Southampton, were awarded funding for the film projects through the Southampton City Council COVID-19 Innovations Grant.various-twitter-posts

They then worked with young people in schools, colleges and youth groups to produce short films with the help of professional production companies.

LifeLab, a University of Southampton education programme for young people discovering the science behind health messages, teamed up young people with filmmakers. Together they co-created a range of films with messaging around the importance of sticking to the guidance and reflecting on life in lockdown in a range of different styles.

Young actors from Richard Taunton Sixth Form College and Itchen College participated in the films that were produced by Robin Creative Media with the help of students from Toynbee School in Eastleigh. Separately students at Cantell School in Southampton created a video with clips submitted by students to demonstrate how young people were making a difference with support from Southpoint Films.

>>>The films will now be released on social media and are available to watch here. Please use the #bepartofthesolution when sharing on social channels<<<

The Southampton Children’s Hospital Youth Ambassador Group (YAG) used their funding to produce a collection of three films with education and development film makers, In Focus. The films give a young person’s view on the impact of COVID-19 and cover topics including public health messaging and wellbeing through poetry and animation.

YAG is made up of young people aged 11 to 17 from across the South who have a connection to the hospital either as a patient or relative and who want to get involved and improve services for young people.

Ipsa Dash, a youth ambassador, said: “During these unprecedented times, it felt like nothing was in our control what with the never ending uncertainty but I believe this project made me realise we really could make a difference. I am really pleased with the outcome.”

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend, programme lead for LifeLab, said: “These projects were about giving young people ownership of messaging that affects them. This was a great opportunity for them to shape the sort of communications they want to see when it comes to their own health and that of their community.”

Louisa Green, divisional head of nursing and professions for SCH, said: “These videos are a wonderful example of how committed our young ambassadors are in making a difference to the health and wellbeing of their communities. The films have some really strong messaging around the impact Covid on young people but also their commitment to keep going with following the guidance as restrictions ease.

“Projects like these really help us towards our goal of our COVID ZERO campaign, having no transmission of the virus within our hospitals, and the community have a vital part of play in that.”

The COVID-19 Innovations Grant supports projects that target groups in which prevalence of COVID-19 is highest or may increase, and groups which otherwise might not be reached.

Debbie Chase Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council said: “My thanks to all the young people involved in developing these films. They are both creative and powerful in their messaging. We know that how a message is conveyed, and the way it makes us feel, is important in shaping safe and healthy attitudes and behaviours. These films have been created by young people for young people and form part of a selection of videos created by members of Southampton communities for our communities. We all have a responsibility to stay safe as restrictions ease and it’s also important that we help our families, peers, work colleagues and local communities to do the same.”