The Day My Inner Thrill Peaked

Candid reflections of a PE volunteer from the day of his school visit

I woke up very early in the morning with so many concerns and questions in my head. Will it go as a planned? Will they like it and be enthusiastic or I will be busted? And I started feeling my heart rate go up. Right in the morning? I hoped that my first public engagement event would not give me a heart attack! I quickly sat upright in my bed and went to bathroom to splash a handful of water right in my face to relieve myself.  Then, I pop down to kitchen to have breakfast. After breakfast, I quickly checked over all instruments that I needed in my workshop. Everything looked perfect and ready. Oh, no. I had forgotten to buy Bounty chocolate that I will give the pupils who finished the competition first. It is typical me! Procrastination to last minute! Anyway, I right away put my jacket on and went to the shop to buy some. Now, I am all set for my first public engagement event. I checked my watch and realized that I have 2 hours left. Pretty much time for me to arrive half an hour before.

I made sure that all that I needed was set up in the classroom. Now it is time to put my memory stick to transport my presentation to the desktop. With confidence of doing everything on time, I approached the computer and integrated memory stick to PC. I moved cursor across the screen to select my files. What? There is no presentation. I quickly bent down to check if I integrated the right memory stick. It was a relief, because I had inserted the wrong one. Then, I quickly dived my hand into my pocket to find right one. Yes, that is it, found it! Now, everything is ready! As seconds tick by, I felt the tension go up. I was advising myself “Okay Yavuz, now, take a deep breath and calm down. Everything will be as planned. The only thing you need to do right now is keep calm and stay sharp”. It looked like it worked.  

Exactly at 10 am, all pupils took their places and their teacher signalled for me to get started, and so I began, with every single one of the pupils’ eyes on me. I already knew that they would get bored in the introduction section. So, I had discussed with my lovely friends from Public Engagement group about how I could make pupils more interactive in introduction section. My friends then suggested me to keep them interactive by asking questions. As soon as I realized that pupils are getting bored as I pass slides, I fired first question and waited. No response! I put myself together and fired again. No response again! Come on guys, please say something! I quickly revised the question over my mind. Yes, it was not very complicated question. I thought I have to carry on at whatever cost. I quickly passed the introduction section and came to building the DNA model using play-dough. I instructed them on how to build a DNA model using sheet that I already handed to them. And, I moved to next slide where famous football player Mesut Ozil`s picture was integrated. Then, I told them “whoever first managed to build DNA model of Mesut Ozil, they will be awarded by Bounty Chocolate”. Immediately, everyone got excited and cheered up and started building DNA to reach their target to win the bounty chocolate. Then, I thought to myself “Yes, it is working” with a big smile. Every group was working very hard and asking questions when they were stuck. I was kind of running from one group to another to answer their questions. And, I heard a voice from the back side saying “we finished, we finished”. I headed up, walked to the group and checked if their DNA models are correct. Yes, that is correct, I said. They started to celebrate with each other after I headed to take their prize and give them as an award.

It looked like they really liked the first hands-on activity. Now it was time for the experiment called “DNA extraction from your saliva”. I asked students to spit their saliva to the experiment tubes I provided. Male students started laughing and filling the experiment tubes with their excessive saliva. Females were a bit shy at first glance. But, they too were convinced to spit. Then, I instructed them to use real genetics Labaratory instruments to extract their DNA. I could see excitement, proudness and the feeling of being privileged in their eyes for using real genetic laboratory instruments for the first time.

We were approaching to the end of the presentation. Their teacher kindly requested me to answer pupils’ questions and I agreed. They asked so many questions. After the question section, I realized that they were very much impressed and in fact inspired by my first public engagement event.

Yes, there were inspired! This was the aim, was it not? Yes, I can be proud of myself because I inspired a group of pupils by doing science.

25 May 2016