Junior Festival of Ideas upholds the purpose of education: to spark ideas

Junior Festival of Ideas upholds the purpose of education: to spark ideas

26 October 2017

Junior Festival of Ideas upholds the purpose of education: to spark ideas

St Mary’s Junior School, Cambridge celebrated the very idea of ideas last week, by scheduling a week’s worth of activities to get all of the pupils thinking outside of the box, inspired by the University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas which runs this fortnight.

From Monday 16 to Friday 20 October the pupils from Reception through to Year 6 attended a series of talks at school on subjects ranging from ‘Why do we compare ourselves to others?’ to ‘Will robots rule the world?’ and much more in between.

On Wednesday 18 October Dr Molly Taylor, Senior Scientist at AstraZeneca, delivered a talk titled ‘Will we ever find a cure for cancer?’ to pupils in Year 3 to Year 6. After sharing a brief history of what it took to become a scientist of biology, Dr Taylor explained the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells, different resources scientists use to study cancer, and highlighted that English lessons are just as important as Science lessons because scientists are required to write and speak about what they find during their research.

Dr Taylor said: “I was impressed to see how very knowledgeable the girls already are about the basics of cell biology – and also incredibly inspired by how optimistic they are about a cure for cancer being found.”


Other sessions during the week focused on engineering glass and the merits of going on to study at university or taking a different path. The week culminated with a talk in which the whole Junior School was presented with interesting and curious sentences designed to get the girls thinking about the world in a new way – so called ‘thunks’. During the talk some of the questions from the week were revisited and posed to the whole of the Junior School.

Mrs Susan McKay, Assistant Head: Junior School, asked why we compare ourselves to others. One Year 6 pupil suggested that “it is because we can be jealous of others. But we should not be jealous, we should be ourselves. Being yourself is more important than being the most popular.” Mrs McKay also read some thought provoking questions from Ian Gilbert’s Little Book of Thunks and the girls were encouraged to delve deep when thinking about questions such as ‘Where does the sky start?’ and ‘If I borrow £1 million, am I a millionaire?’.

Mr Matthew O’Reilly, Head of Juniors, said: “It has been so important to put a celebration of ideas at the forefront of the girls’ attention for a week. Pupils across the country have had a busy first half term of the academic year and many will now be enjoying a well-deserved half term break. We thought this very unique decision to hold our own Festival of Ideas tailored to children aged four to 11 was an innovative way to recognise and uphold the real purpose of education – to spark ideas, ambition, hope and innovation.”

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