Former Sheffield Research Scientist Encourages School Children To Support Heart Charity

A former Sheffield research scientist who’s PhD was funded by the British Heart Foundation is now encouraging thousands of primary school children to raise money for the charity.

Dr Fran Barnes, who works for Cornerstones Education, has written a science project called ‘Blood Heart’ which has been sent to more 1,100 primary schools in England and Wales.

Dr Fran Barnes of Cornerstones with pupils at Reignhead Primary School

The project helps nine and ten-year-olds tackle a range of hands-on scientific investigations and learn how blood moves around our bodies and keeps us alive. It looks at healthy lifestyles and how to look after our hearts; and then challenges pupils to organise their own fundraising events for the British Heart Foundation.

Fran’s own PhD, which she studied at the University of Sheffield in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine in the early 2000s, was funded by the British Heart Foundation. Her completed thesis which looked at the proteins involved in cell death in blood vessels has been contributed to the national library of life-saving research into coronary heart disease.

Fran said: “I felt so privileged to gain the British Heart Foundation’s generous funding for my PhD that when I was thinking of educational activities children could do in this project, it seemed a good idea to encourage them to hold a fundraising event for the BHF. It feels like my career has come full circle.”

The new Blood Heart project, launched this academic year, is being studied by dozens of schools this term.

Fibbersley Park Primary in the West Midlands has already raised more than £1,300 for the British Heart Foundation as part of the project. Another, Marton Manor Moor in Middlesbrough, has recently held a ‘Healthy Heart’ educational fund-raising event for parents. And, pupils, teachers and parents at Lyndon Green Junior School in Birmingham plan to get involved in the ‘Wear it, Beat It’ fundraising day for the British Heart Foundation on February 6th.

Lyndon Green teacher Craig Clarke said: “Our year six children have been really engaged in learning about the anatomy of the heart and the workings of the circulatory system. They’ve carried out real heart dissections – the first time we’ve ever done that in school – plus had a drumming workshop to think about heartbeats; a Zumba exercise class to concentrate on the effects of healthy aerobic exercise and completed lots excellent cross-curricular project work.

“We also had visit from our regional British Heart Foundation representative who talked about the charity’s research into the heart and answered the children’s many questions on the subject. The children are now very enthusiastic and looking forward to wearing red and organising fundraising activities to support the BHF on February 6th.”

British Heart Foundation manager for South Yorkshire, North and North East Lincolnshire Lauren Mallinson said: “It’s because of fundraising efforts like these that we can continue our vital work fighting heart disease. The money raised by these schools will be spent on funding new breakthroughs to help prevent, treat and cure heart conditions.”

Cornerstones Education, based in Barnsley, supplies primary schools with a wide range of teaching and learning materials. The Blood Heart project is part of its full creative curriculum package for three to 11-year-olds.

Fran said: “Blood Heart is designed to engage children in the thrill of scientific exploration and help teachers plan, prepare and deliver experiments – in this case, including an actual heart dissection – with confidence.

“The children also conduct their own research – exploring resources such as the BHF’s website – and present what they have learned to classmates and parents.

“I am a firm believer in hands-on practical science and think children should be ‘doing’ science by exploring, investigating and testing their own ideas.”

Fran, an ambassador for the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), spent nine years working in research laboratories and five years working in education championing accessible science in UK schools, before joining Cornerstones.

She is currently also writing a range of ‘Love to Investigate’ science teaching guides, which are due to be launched in the spring.

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