Outreach activities in the School of Life Sciences
Dr Leanne Williams is a Senior Teaching Fellow in our School of Life Sciences. As well as teaching across a broad range of subjects, Leanne is involved in the School's outreach activities, which have reached over 2,000 children from more than 100 schools in the last year alone. She tells us what she loves about working with young people in today's 50@50.
How did you come to work at Warwick?
After graduating from Wolverhampton University in ‘96 I started my science career working at the Sanger Institute on the Human Genome Project. I stayed for quite a number of years - it was such a fun and inspirational place to work at that time. I then decided to pursue an interest in teaching and moved to Nottingham to gain a teaching qualification. I landed my very first teaching job in an inner city FE College in Nottingham. This was the hardest but most rewarding experience.
Upon this I built the foundations of my teaching philosophy and realised my passion for widening participation and second change education. After about five years I left this to pursue my own educational challenge and studied for a PhD in reproductive physiology, specifically ovarian follicle development. Following a short postdoc position I applied for a teaching fellow position here in the School of Life Sciences…and here I am.
What does your current role involve?
As a Senior Teaching Fellow I teach across a very broad range of subjects. I also get involved in teaching and learning innovation projects, such as Digichamps, Students as Producers and transitional skills development. I’m also a personal tutor; I take this role very seriously and work closely with senior tutors and student support services to ensure that we provide the very best support for our students.
I work in close association with Dr Kevin Moffat to coordinate and provide outreach and widening participation activities - check out our new webpage. We also organise and deliver the British Biology Olympiad finals every year and have worked hard with The Royal Society of Biology and Warwick conferences to secure the contract to host the 2017 International Biology Olympiad here. It’s an amazing opportunity for the School and for Warwick!
What’s your favourite thing about working at Warwick?
The thing I love most about working at Warwick is the beautiful campus. As a biologist I love Tocil Woods, the lakes and the wildlife it attracts. I commute from Loughborough every day so I aim to get here early about 7-7:30am to beat the traffic. In the summer I’ll go for a walk first thing and often see Muntjak deer - I get just as excited as I did when I was a little girl!
I also love the progressive nature of Warwick as an institution, particularly with regard to teaching and learning innovation. I’m excited to see how the WIHEA (Warwick International Higher Education Academy) influences us as practitioners and hope to get involved where I can.
Tell us a bit about outreach activities in Life Sciences at Warwick.
Over the last year we have delivered outreach sessions to over 2,000 students from over 100 schools across the country. We now offer more than 22 activities from reception year children even through to professional development sessions for teachers.
Have there been any particularly successful events this year?
I organised a biology training day for our CPE trainee teachers, on their early years PGCE. The aim was to develop their confidence in teaching biology. We then had a second day where over 40 KS1 (Year2) and 35 KS2 (Year 5&6) children came to SLS so the trainees could take the reins. We were mini beast hunting and tracking animals in the woods, pond dipping, measuring reaction rates and making oxygen with plants - we even had an interactive live animal display!
It was amazing, chaotic and tiring but the kids were just so enthusiastic and excited and the trainees were fabulous. Some of the kids had never been into a wood before to look under a log or into a pond. All you have to do is open their eyes to even the tiniest of marvels and you’ve got them completely hooked. That’s what I love about working with young people. That innate curiosity is easy to tap into and then you just have to give them the time and space to run with it. It’s the time to inspire and influence, for sure. And that’s how we’ll get more young people to study life sciences, by getting out there getting involved and giving them positive experiences and opportunities. I love my job.