Category Archives: SciCom activities

Cell Cookies


Some of the fantastic creations courtecy of the Science Specacular visitors

Up until now you may have thought the main function of digestive biscuits, giant chocolate buttons and jelly beans was to act as delicious treats. You were wrong. Together, they actually make a fantastic cell model. Who knew?

The premise of the activity is fairly simple. Digestive biscuits act as the base for animal cells and square crackers are plant cells. You can then add icing sugar, which acts as the cytoplasm that the sweetie organelles are attached to. Here’s the sweets I used for organelles;

Nucleus – Giant Chocolate Button

Mitochondria – Mini Jelly Beans

Cell Membrane – Red Laces (Only if you’re using larger biscuits)

Vesicles – Sugar balls (cake decorations)

Endoplasmic Reticulum – Jelly Snake

Golgi apparatus – Jelly Squirms

Chloroplasts – Chopped up green wine gums (left over from DNA sweets)

Cell Wall – Green fizzy lace.

We realised that the activity works really well at events aimed at families because the younger children tend to be interested in the cookies, and the parents are interested in what’s inside cells. I think this could be a good as a group activity for children (or adults) of all ages as the amount of details you include can be adjusted. Also, if you were going to do this as an activity for AS level students it might be worth buying bigger biscuits to ensure you can get all the organelles on – maybe a water biscuit.

I’ve uploaded the instruction sheets I used on the here and as I haven’t had time to write about research yet (which is cell biology) this link provides some great info on cells.

Activity courtesy of Liz Granger @Bio_fluff

The Ups and Downs of sleep and circadian Biology: Chronobiology/sleep activity.

In early 2014 as part of the international ‘Pint of Science Festival’ we developed an activity to run down’t pub alongside talks on sleep and circadian biology. This simple activity, designed to teach people more about their chronotype, is pretty easy to replicate and turned out to be great fun too. Here I’ve included all necessary explanations and kit for you to give it a go yourself – so what are you waiting for.

The Experiment

We all know at least one morning person, someone who inexplicably manages to sound chipper and look presentable before their first cup of coffee. The science of chronobiology is now helping us understand how our genetics can predispose us to being morning loving larks, night owls or indecisive hummingbirds. This test aims to find how our chronotype affects our reaction times and is best performed either early in the morning or late in the evening.


  • Each participant takes the attached questionnaire to find their chronotype (see below).
  • Everyone gets into pairs and performs the classic ruler drop reaction time test – making a note of their result (an explanation of this test can be found here)
  • Results are collected – each participant provides both their chronotype and average reaction time.
  • Experimenters collate scores and work out which chronotype showed the fastest reaction times. (see below for an example graph layout)

Example graph – note these are not real results

  • Discussion: Research suggests that your reaction time should depend on both the time of day and your personal chronotype – with owls outperforming larks in the evenings, larks outperforming owls in the morning and hummingbirds sitting somewhere in the middle (this can be seen graphically on the hand out sheet below). Amazingly, our results on the night actually supported this trend, but (like most scientific experiments) results are likely to be variable. – Note that this is a great chance to discuss scientific variability, experimental design and confounding factors (we had an interesting discussion about the effect of alcohol and caffeine on reaction times and how this could skew results).

Equipment list and resources:


  • Lots of Rulers
  • Pens
  •  Printed explanation of chronotype – Pdf
  • Printed chronotype questionnaires – Pdf1 Pdf2
  • A computer running excel and someone with a head for statistics.

Post by: Sarah Fox – for more details or advice drop us a line on

Our previous work

To give you a taster of what BSA Manchester are all about here is a brief overview of some of our past projects!

3 minute science


3 minute science is a competition run across schools and colleges in and around Greater Manchester, where students are asked to create their own 3 minute science documentary. Last year’s documentaries were set around the theme ‘Manchester – The Science of the City’ and we received a whole load of great entries.

Last year’s winners (2013) came from Manchester Creative and Media Academy. The school submitted a creative and humorous video exploring the role of Jodrell Bank and the science that is done there. See the video here.


Best Competition

BEST is a biotechnology business competition for teams of up to six students from schools and colleges in Greater Manchester in years 11-13 (ages 16-18). The teams have to think of a brand-new idea for a biotechnology business. The idea only has to be theoretically possible, but it must be based on real-science. They then have to pitch their idea to our “Dragon’s Den” style panel of scientists and entrepreneurs during our competition day. The winning team will be the one that impresses our judges the most, and convinces them that their idea is the one that could work.

Teams are provided with support and encouragement throughout the process. Last year we held a half-day biotech workshop to inspire competitors. Here, teams were able hear from scientists and business leaders from around Manchester and after the event everyone had the opportunity to discuss their ideas with these speakers and get a few helpful hints.