Literacy for Learning Secondary School Festival of Science and Imagination

festival of science

Literacy for Learning is our flagship secondary school improvement programme, providing professional development and training for schools to support great teaching of literacy in all subject areas, including science.

Join us for a week of student and teacher events, which bring together a diverse range of voices to make exciting connections between literacy, science and imagination. Our aim is to galvanise existing interests and ignite new ones! Our student events explore literacy and communication skills in a variety of science contexts and careers. Our teacher CPDL events aim to appeal to a wide range of interests, from disciplinary literacy to neuroscience.

Teacher events

Monday 12 July, 4pm - 4.45pm

Disciplinary Literacy in Science: live webinar on writing to express scientific thinking

Develop your understanding of the language demands of science. The session will demonstrate how to help students plan, improve and develop their written answers through the use of a modelled reading-to-writing process.

Monday 12 July, 6pm - 7pm

Roundtable event: Literacy and STEM

The discussion will explore how literacy can be used to directly support STEM learning. The panel will also review how a more holistic approach to building up the STEM skills pipeline through the development of literacy skills could act as a conduit to achieve the government's "levelling up" objectives.

Tuesday 13 July, 4 - 4.45pm

Opportunities and limits of science and literacy in identity building

How far does knowledge or skill dictate who we are? What would happen if overnight you lost the ability to do something vital – to talk, read, or write? What would it mean to be “you” now that so much had changed, and what else is possible? Join survivors of brain injury from charity Headway East London as they lead you on a creative exercise exploring the opportunities and limits of science and literacy in identity building.

Tuesday 13 July, 6pm - 6.40pm

Author event: In conversation with Dr Henry Marsh CBE

Join us for this live author event when Dr. Kate Rumbold, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, will be in conversation with Dr Henry Marsh CBE, one of Britain’s foremost brain surgeons and author of Your Life in Their Hands and The English Surgeon.

Wednesday 14 July, 4pm - 4.45pm

The Linnean Society presents Special Species

In this session you'll be introduced to Special Species, created by The Linnean Society, an accessible educational tool for exploring life science topics as well as building language skills. Make sure you bring along paper and colouring materials!

Thursday 15 July, 4pm - 5pm

Literacy through videogames

Join Gabrielle Kent - videogame developer turned author – who will discuss the links between literacy and gaming. She will demonstrate Twine, a free, online tool to create branching story games. She will be joined by Irene Picton, National Literacy Trust Research Manager, and author of numerous reports exploring the impact of digital technology on children and young people’s literacy. More Information on our research can be found here

Student events

My Science Story, in collaboration with Swindon Stories

Swindon Stories

Join us for a series of live events aimed at inspiring and engaging young people in the world of science and careers, where science professionals tell their science story and how developing their literacy and communication skills has made a difference in their career.

Pre-recorded workshop: released on Monday 12th July

Ways of Listening: Birdsong in Science, Music and Poetry.

In this specially recorded session for the National Literacy Trust, Francesca Mackenney introduces the different 'ways' in which scientists, musicians and poets have listened to, and sought to understand the everyday mystery of birdsong. The session includes recordings of birdsong, poetry readings and commentary, along with creative learning activities and examples of how to be a citizen scientist. The session is based on a free educational podcast about birdsong for young people, available on the Ways of Listening website. The poems referred to are Coleridge’s “The Nightingale” and John Clare’s “The Progress of Rhyme”.

Monday 12 July, 9.10am - 9.40am

The making of a space mission

Join Melissa Lee from RAL Space to find out what it takes to make a successful space mission. Melissa will share her journey into the space industry and highlight the variety of space careers available, explaining why communication skills are important. She will demonstrate an origami activity to make a model of the large mirror on the Webb Telescope, so bring an A4 piece of paper and join in the challenge! Further resources from RAL can be found on their website .

Monday 12 July 14.10-14.40

Love Ssega: Storytelling through science, music and art

Join us for a live event with songwriter and artist Love Ssega (Ssegawa-Ssekintu Kiwanuka, PhD Cantab.) on using science, music and art to tell new exciting stories from climate activism to uplifting voices from underrepresented communities.

Tuesday 13 July, 9.10am - 9.40am

Get creative with cosmetic science!

Forensic cosmetic scientist Dr. Barbara Brockway will explore how personal care products are created using a combination of science and art. She will demonstrate the stages of making a shower gel in the lab, while also discussing the importance of literacy and communication in the creative sciences.

Thursday 15 July, 9.10am - 9.40am

Ahead of the festival, you can read all about how Dr Barbara Brockway got into a career in cosmetic science. Check out her blog here.

The chemistry of DNA

Biochemist and author Lisa Mullan will explore how we become experts in manipulating DNA and genetics, from the Black Death to COVID-19, to stay healthy and save lives. Schools taking part can print and fill in the discovery timeline during or after the session.

Science writer workshops


In collaboration with The Linnean Society, we have been working with science professionals on the Literacy for Learning Science Writers in secondary schools 2021 project, giving students across the country the opportunity to have a memorable experience with a science writer and stir their curiosity in science writing .

Tuesday 13 July, 2.10pm - 2.40pm

Instagramming science

Liv Gaskill has a background in psychology and neuroimaging. Her workshop, looking at the effects of sleep deprivation on the mind, will explore how we can relay complex scientific information in a visually engaging way through the medium of Instagram.

Wednesday 14 July, 9.10am - 9.40am

Making scientific research accessible

Siobhan Fairgreaves is a science communicator with a degree in Animal Behaviour. Accompanied by her assistant, Teddy the Labrador, she will explain how to write a scientific paper in a way we can all understand.

Wednesday 14 July, 2.10pm - 2.40pm

From scientific discovery to the newsroom

Dr Catrin Rutland is an Associate Professor of Anatomy and Developmental Genetics at University of Nottingham and has also written for Sky News. Her workshop will explore how to construct a news article to announce a new scientific discovery.

Thursday 15 July, 2.10pm - 2.40pm

From babbling brooks to baby scans

Dr Nikhil N Mistry is Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, and an acoustical engineer and specialist in underwater acoustics. His workshop will provide an introduction to the extraordinary world of bubble acoustics from the sea to surgery, babbling brooks to baby scans.

Friday 16 July, 9.10am - 9.40am

Science-themed creative writing competition

Birmingham hub banner school

Join the Birmingham Stories team for the exciting unveiling of their science-themed creative writing competition. An exciting line-up of speakers from a range of disciplines will demonstrate how science can inspire creative writing.

Friday 16 July, 2.10pm - 2.40pm

Temperature, Chocolate and Cats

Danny Stones likes finding the unusual science in everyday things – the weirder the better! His workshop will explore the bizarre links between heat, chocolate and cats and how students can make a short comic showcasing their own wacky facts. Find out what happens if you take a blow torch to a flake – it’s not what you think!

Cost and attendance

Attendance costs £45. One booking provides access to all events for all colleagues and students.

Payment is by credit or debit card, using the form below. If you would like to pay by invoice, or would like further information, please contact Marlene Vasquez-Cain.

Festival timetable