Drs Lucy Culliford, Andrew Shearn and Giovanni Biglino took part in an outreach activity at Parson Street Primary School in Bedminster, south Bristol. in May 2021.
The visit was organised by Lucy on behalf of the Bristol Trials Unit. The group explained some of their research to the Year 6 students (aged 10 and 11) and, as the visit happened in the same week as Clinical Trials Day, it was also an opportunity for Lucy to ask the students to think about clinical studies, the idea of randomisation and ‘what is a clinical trial?’. The group showed the THERMIC 3 animation video, which was developed as part of the TRECA study exploring children’s and young people’s engagement with clinical trials.
Giovanni gave an overview of the technology involved in 3D printing and Andrew brought a series of heart models, both adult and paediatric, including examples of babies’ hearts with congenital heart disease, which sparked some stimulating conversations with the 53 students who attended.
They explained that 3D printing technology can produce models of human organs using scans taken during routine visits to the hospital. Bristol Royal Hospital for Children use this technique to create heart models from patients with congenital heart disease. Being able to hold a life-size model of the patient’s heart can complement information the surgeon or cardiologist can get from medical imaging – for example, they can practice aspects of the surgery or decide the best route to access a specific part of the heart. The models are also used when explaining the details of the case to a patient or a parent.
The children asked lots of questions about ‘hole in the hearts’, as some had had siblings with this condition. They also asked how smoking can affect the heart, and if the researchers could show them a video of a beating heart.
“This is the first time we’ve done a talk in a school as part of our outreach activities around Clinical Trials Day, and it was a real pleasure to talk to the children. They were very engaged and although they had only started learning about the heart the day before, they already knew lots about heart anatomy, and had more questions than we had time to answer!”
How to get involved in schools outreach
If you would like to run a schools outreach activity, contact your local school.
Schools often have science weeks, or may be doing a topic related to cardiovascular research. For example, Parson Street Primary School use the Cornerstones curriculum and the year 6s had just started the ‘blood heart’ topic – the following week they had a visitor demonstrating a heart dissection.