Students Staff

05 March 2012

Help to create 'science legacy'

Colchester Campus

Dr Valerie Gladwell

University of Essex scientist Dr Valerie Gladwell has been involved in a £5 million Olympics-inspired Wellcome Trust project which will include every school in the UK.

Dr Gladwell, a Senior Lecturer in Physiology, has been advising the Wellcome Trust on the In the Zone project which will see schools receiving a free experiment kit to learn how their bodies work during exercise, movement and rest.

Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the kit will help the pupils explore questions such as whether having longer legs helps you jump further and what happens inside our bodies and minds when we take part in sport. The kits contain all the equipment and resources needed to carry out scientific experiments related to human physiology. By the end of this month, every primary and secondary school and further education college in the UK will have received their own free kit.

Dr Gladwell, based in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, worked with the Wellcome Trust project team as a sports science expert, advising them on the experiments for secondary school children. She features in the ‘I’ve Got The Power’ zone for 16-19-year-olds, which explores how the body is powered during exercise. She also helped to create the project’s ‘Live Data Zone’ where pupils will go online to enter their data, so pupils and scientists can use it to explore real research questions.

Dr Gladwell said: “What really excited me about this project were the hands-on experiments. The 16-19-year-olds will be doing genuine science with real scientific equipment. It’ll give them knowledge and an insight into how their bodies work, especially during exercise.”

Two different kits will be delivered to schools – one for primary and one secondary. Each kit contains a selection of experiments targeted at different age groups – all linked to relevant science and physical education curricula.

In the Zone was launched by Sir Steve Redgrave, who delivered the first free experiment kit to St Paul’s Way Trust School in East London, where he took part in experiments with the children to understand how the human body works. He said: “I didn’t have much interest in science at school, but it became really important to me as I got more serious about sport. I owe much of my Olympic success to a scientific understanding of my body.

“The important thing with these experiment kits is that they aren’t just for sporty people. The kits are designed for kids of all ages and abilities to get involved, to understand the value of science and the power of their own bodies.”

Dr Gladwell added: “I am very proud to be part of such a good initiative to engage and excite young people about what happens when they exercise. I hope it’ll provide a legacy after the Games, too, with lots of them seeing why they should get physically active – and stay that way!”

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, said: “London-2012 offers a fabulous opportunity to inspire young people in both sport and science. We know that children learn better through practical science than from facts and figures, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to test their own bodies. We hope In the Zone will ignite a curiosity in young people all around the UK to ask questions and discover new things about the value of science in their everyday lives.”


Note to editors:

For more information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail: There are images available to go with this release.

About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

About In the Zone
Inspired by the Olympic and Paralympic Games, in 2012 the Wellcome Trust is supporting activities to engage the public with the science of how their body works during sport, exercise, movement and rest. This includes leading a major UK-wide initiative – In the Zone – incorporating free experiment kits for every UK school, a family exhibition touring open-air venues and festivals and Science Junkie: In the Zone, a live show with demonstrations and audience participation touring schools and festivals around the UK. The Wellcome Trust is delighted to have gained the London 2012 Inspire Mark for the In the Zone initiative and to feature in the official London 2012 education programme Get Set+.

In the Zone: Kits for Schools
The Wellcome Trust is sending free experiment kits to every UK school and Further Education College in early 2012, engaging young people aged 4–19 through investigative work exploring physiology linked to UK curricula. A consortium led by Pearson Education is developing and delivering the kits. The investigations include:

Brilliant Bodies for ages 4–5
Investigate balance and find out about different parts of the body

Stupendous Steppers for ages 5–7
Explore how quick off the mark you are and how many steps you take to do different activities

Myth Busters for ages 7–9
Discover whether having longer legs helps you to jump further

Heart Beaters for ages 9–11
What effect does exercise have on your body?

On your marks…Get set…Breathe for ages 11–14
Find out how exercise affects your breath and your breathing rate

From Strength to Strength for ages 14–16
Explore the strength of your muscles and discover how they are used during movement

I’ve got the Power for ages 16–19
Investigate how the cardiovascular system adapts during different exercises or sports

...more news releases