Some time ago, I read a piece in the Guardian about the Butlins Science Weekends, went on the internet to look up what it was all about… and ended up booking us in for the weekend; which is how we ended up being in Skegness last weekend. I’d never been to Butlins before. I didn’t think it was the sort of thing I’d enjoy. On the other hand, science themed activities are fun and I thought we might learn something.
It was brilliant. The kids got to help mix cornflower and water to make ‘custard’ and then they got to run along it. In case you haven’t come across it before, cornflour in water makes a non Newtonian fluid which goes solid (momentarily) on impact. This means that you can run along it, so long as you keep moving. If you stop, you sink. It’s quite tricky to get yourself out again because if you tug, the stuff goes solid around your foot. You have to ease it out very gently. See here for explanation: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/22880407
At one point, we went past the tent and there wasn’t a huge queue of kids waiting, so I had a go at running along the custard too. It felt like you were running along a slightly sticky rubber sheet.
We did a few workshops (chosen by DD1 who was itinerary monitor). We had a go at code breaking, in a session run by a chap from Bletchley Park. He let us have a go on real live Enigma machine! The session was fast paced and I managed to let the side down by transcribing a number wrong (in my defence, I was trying to pacify a very cross DD2 at the time and I HAD solved my puzzle correctly).
Later, we learned how to program a BBC microbit to play rock, paper, scissors (but not lizard or Spock).
I didn’t get to go to the Sound/Lighting workshop or the Brainiac’s show, but DD tells me they were good. She was especially taken with the Brainiacs… something to do with electric shocks (?!). People from Aardman did a show on the basics of stop frame animation, which was really good fun and had me wondering if I should have a go at making some brick films for book trailers…
The Science Museum had a set of stalls where you could try tabletop science experiments. There were loads of members of staff on hand to explain stuff and they were all very well briefed. I was mildly amused to see that the people wearing lab coats were Butlins staff and the people from the University of Plymouth were in plain clothes.
As I said, I never thought of Butlins as a holiday destination and I wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been for the science theme. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience and I might even consider going there without the sciencey stuff – although, I don’t think I’d last for much longer than a weekend.
So, am I glad I took a chance on the Butlins Science Weekend? Definitely.
Would I do it again? I rather think I might.