SCIENTISTS are helping children keep learning during lockdown by hosting live experiments over video calls.

Through the Scientist Next Door project, founded by researchers from Durham and Edinburgh universities, over 50 scientists from around the world are taking part in video calls aimed at encouraging pupils’ interest in STEM subjects.

Small groups of scientists run video calls with a family to discuss the science behind daily processes and encourage children to undertake supervised experiments at home or demonstrate them live.

Since the project began in March, there have been over 40 calls, supporting children aged four to 17.

Topics covered include extracting DNA from a strawberry, comparing fingerprints, why boats float and balloons fly, how sunscreen works and why we see auroras in the dark winter sky.

There is also a wide range of resources on the project website,, including some on Covid-19, explaining what it is, debunking some myths, modelling a pandemic and experiments explaining why handwashing is important.

The project was founded by Dr Valentina Erastova from the University of Edinburgh and Drs Basile Curchod and Matteo Degiacomi from Durham University.

Dr Curchod, a theoretical chemist, said: “Our goal is to support families that are currently not benefitting from science connections, events and activities as a consequence of the lockdown. Through this, we believe we can lower the barriers that prevent students from the least advantaged backgrounds pursuing their aspirations in science.

Dr Degiacomi, a computational biophysicist, added: “We want to encourage children to be curious about the world around them. Seeing them getting excited about an experiment that they have carried out with their own hands is extremely rewarding. We’ve also been amazed by the broad response of scientists willing to give some of their own time to our project.”

The mother of an eight-year-old girl wrote on the project’s Facebook page: “Highly recommended. Fantastic sessions which fully engaged my eight-year-old, fun experiments and great resources. A unique opportunity to enthuse children about STEM subjects.”