Last summer, at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, a slightly mad professor, Doc Yard, invented a brand new gas – A1R. Given this, um, ‘new’ discovery didn’t go entirely to plan, she’s back this year along with her able assistant, Bunsen, to show all budding Techsplorers her newest discovery – a special liquid called BU88L.
Before she’s ready to show off exactly what this can do, children of all ages are encouraged to take part in some hands-on workshops, learning how to get in a bit of a lather making bubble mixture, discovering which ingredient ratios work, how to make different bubble blowers, and how to make balloon torpedos.
Once the suds have been sploshed, and the balloons have gone bang, it’s showtime, in a production not dissimilar from the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures – if they had been scripted by Harry Hill.
The experiments run through every kind of bubble children from four to fourteen might think of – bubbles in water, bubbles in fizzy drinks, bubbles in the blood (submariners – they’re great at linking things back to the nautical) – air, carbon dioxide and nitrogen bubbles, tiny bubbles, bubble rockets, child-sized bubbles – enough bubbles to make your mind go pop.
The jokes are terrible, the wigs are wonderful, the science is great fun and the facts are memorable. It caters to kids of all ages and both genders and there will be plenty to gleefully tie back in to school work come September. It’s also highly audience participatory (you may wish to take a small towel along, just in case.)
Next door on HMS Gannet, Sailors’ Academy activities have children hunting down clues to solve a range of puzzles. There are signal flag phrases to decode, ships cats to find, a mission to complete around the whole Dockyard and some gallery-based word searches for older children.
The shift of Sailors’ Academy to a drop-in-and-do event (it used to be timed) leaves plenty of time for the Ropery and submarine tours, as well as experimenting with Doc Yard. It makes the day run more smoothly for families, with one less time constraint to juggle. The hands-on signal flag and knot-tying activities from previous school holidays are still available upon request.
Doc Yard shows run three times each day in The Big Space at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham. Both activities run until 31 August 2015 and are included in the price of admission.