A National Creative Genetics Competition for Year 4 Primary Pupils - Evolution Education Trust

Project: UK charity

Project Details


Little Letters (by PI Tiffany Taylor) is a book aimed at primary children (6 – 9 year olds) that communicates basic ideas of DNA, genes and genetics to a young audience (www.littlelettersgenetics.co.uk). This proposed project aims to maximise the impact of, and engagement with, Little Letters as a teaching resource for primary aged children in the UK. Funding from an Evolution Education Trust Outreach Grant would allow for greater reach though a national schools competition. All year 4 primary pupils in the UK will be invited to take part, via their school, in a national competition called “Storytelling Science: The Letters of Life”. Year 4 pupils will be asked to submit a one-page illustrated poem, inspired by the science they have learnt from Little Letters and associated activities. This activity combines Science, Art and English to encourage the children to creatively think about the concepts introduced. The competition entries will be sent to the Milner Centre where a panel of genetics and evolution experts will select 5 winners. The winning entries will be displayed at the entrance of the Milner Centre on our outreach display wall. The winners will receive signed copies of Little Letters and Little Changes (a story from the same author about evolution), a print of an illustration from Little Letters signed by the illustrator (James Munro), a £20 book voucher and a children’s lab coat embroidered with the Milner Centre logo. In addition their class will also receive a virtual Q and A session with the author.

Layman's description

Recent research from the Milner Centre for Evolution shows that children learn about evolution more effectively when engaged through stories rather than through activities that demonstrate the same concepts.
Last autumn Dr Tiffany Taylor, Evolutionary Biologist and Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Milner Centre for Evolution, gave pupils across UK the chance to unleash their imagination about evolution.
Inspired by her experience as a published author of science stories for children, and with financial support from the Evolution Education Trust, Dr Taylor launched a national competition that combined Science, Art, and English to encourage children to think creatively about main concepts of genetics and how to communicate scientific ideas.
“Storytelling Science: the letters of life” was launched in September 2020 as a national competition for year 4 primary schools aimed at encouraging creativity in communicating science. Year 4 pupils were invited to submit short illustrated poems or stories on the theme of genetics.
To help get their creative juices flowing, pupils were encouraged to read the book “Little Letters: an introduction to genetics” authored by Dr Taylor, which introduces the ideas of DNA, genes and genetics in a fun bedtime story.
Teachers were also given a free activity about the concept of genetics to teach to the class, to open up discussion and stimulate questions about the topic of genetics.
The competition was launched with a mailing campaign that targeted appropriate teaching staff across UK. Prof. Alice Roberts also supported the campaign and released a video on social media.

Key findings

136 schools signed up for the competition and accessed the free resources. 566 children from 29 schools submitted individual entries in the form of one-page illustrated stories or poems.
Entries were judged in December 2020 by a panel that included scientists from the Milner Centre for Evolution, and Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at the University of Bath.
The panel members were impressed with the quality of all entries, but the ones that stood out were those were pupils took the information given to them and used it to tell their own stories. After thorough deliberation, the panel selected five winning stories and 20 highly commended entries.
- The 29 schools were based in England (but the 136 to sign up were distributed across the UK)
- Independent school were overrepresented and faith school underrepresented in submissions
- Book website was accessed 3383 times, video of book reading 1112 times and competition webpage 1194 times while competition was running.
- Feedback from teachers was very positive and misconceptions from pupils low.
Short title£1647.95
Effective start/end date1/09/2031/12/20