Dr Jo Blogs

I’m becoming a little obsessed with the Seek iNaturalist app!

I’m always casually identifying the plants and animals I pass when out and about. I don’t even mean to, it’s just like a mental tick list!

There are inevitably times when there’s something I’m not sure of or haven’t come across before and I need to look it up. I’m a collector of facts and I’m curious (some call it nosey!). I like to find things out and amass new knowledge. 

Whilst an app on my phone will never fully replace a classification key or identification book for me – the skills involved in being able to work out what you’ve found from the clues is a vital one which should be taught and practised! (This is also true of map reading over SatNav use!) – there are times when you just aren’t sure and can’t find what you’re looking for in a field guide.

There are many forums online, of course, where you can ask questions and even submit photos for identification, but I’m finding the free Seek iNaturalist app more and more useful. It works from an image captured in the app on your smart phone and is capable of narrowing down from order to family to genus and even species of a whole host of plant and animal life in nature. And it’s pretty instant! Ta-da! This is what you’re looking at.

Here’s the difference between that Norway Maple and Field Maple.

This is definitely a 7 spot ladybird.

These are all members of the Bromes grass family.

It will just give you this information (including Latin and common names, range, distribution, season and other details) if that’s all you want, but if you enable location settings in the app then it can record your sightings and save them for you, and let you know what else has been spotted nearby.

There are also a number of ‘challenges’ you can take part in, including the forests challenge, climate challenge, citizen science challenge or the current backyard challenge where you need to snap 5 plants, 2 insects, 1 arachnid and 2 birds in your garden or local area to earn a challenge badge.

Seek is created by the iNaturalist team – a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. Seek gets its data from iNaturalist – the largest community of naturalists in the world, working together to identify photos of living things uploaded around the world. These observations then help to train the model, so the more people who use it, the better it will get. 

There’s so much new wildlife about at this time of the year and this app speeds up spotting. I still love a reference book to thumb through, but the instantaneous response of Seek iNaturalist is very helpful. It will be a great tool for #30DaysWild this June and beyond. 

#NotSponsored #Wildlife #30DaysWild #365DaysWild #identification #plants #animals #minibeasts #invertebrates #Birds #BirdSpotting #SeekApp #iNaturalist #WildlifeTrusts #nature #WildlifePhotography #WildlifePhoto #NatureLover #Explore #BeCurious #DrJoScience 


There’s more to grass than just the green stuff beneath your feet!

There are so many different types of grasses and they’ve been popping up on roadsides and verges, pathways and edges of fields over the past couple of months, and taking a closer look on my daily walks has revealed some interesting variations:

Just as these different grasses started to emerge, my latest edition of Whizz Pop Bang magazine also popped through my letterbox! It’s packed full of fascinating facts and fun investigations all about grasses around the world.

Taking a closer look reveals how beautiful these grasses are and also shows just how similar these wild grasses are to our cultivated cereal crops.

Can you spot the ones that look like wheat, oats and barley?

I even had a closer look under a microscope to expose the intricate detail:

Whilst it appears delicate, grass is also tough stuff! What not spot some different types of grass and test the strength. How much weight will a blade of grass hold? Are some grasses tougher than others? Share your findings and tag me @DrJoScience, I’d love to see what you discover!

#ScienceInYourGarden #ScienceFromHome #Grasses #Plants #PlantScience #NotSponsored #NotGifted #365DaysWild #30DaysWild #BeCurious #DrJo #DrJoScience

Daily Science Activities during partial school closures – Week 7, 8 and 9

As well as collating a collection of excellent websites, activities and resources for parents and teachers during the corona virus pandemic on the resources page of my website, I’m also posting a daily science or STEM activity on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. I’m posting ideas seven days a week, through the half term holiday too, because science fun is for every day 😀.

Here are the posts from weeks seven, eight and nine all in one place! 

(You can find week one and two here , week 3 and 4 here and week 5 and 6 here).

Day 43

We’re going on a snail hunt!

When the weather’s been wet, there are often more snails about. Can you find any common garden snails? Or banded snails? What do you notice about their patterns? 

Day 44

Meet The Scientist! Every Tuesday the Primary Science Teaching Trust are releasing activities and videos relating to past and current scientists at work, and you can ask them questions! 


Day 45

One of my favourite types of kitchen chemistry! Bake a cake, biscuits or cookies! Weighing, measuring and mixing are important scientific skills (not to mention taste testing!), as well as investigating the irreversible changes that happen during cooking.

Day 46

Can you find any red dots are on sycamore leaves? Ever wondered what they are? These galls are caused by tiny mites. As they pierce individual cells to feed, the surrounding cells divide, enlarging and forming the gall. By mid-May the mites start to lay eggs within the galls.

Day 47

It’s #VEday too so let’s celebrate aviation with this #PaperPlane challenge activity from the MoD. Can you make a paper plane that flies the furthest? ✈️ What materials will you use? Paper, card, tin foil?!?

Then, once you’ve had a go at the #PaperPlane challenge, check out the Chemistry of the Battle Of Britain with this poster from @theSkyLabSTEM and @RoySocChem and @IWMDuxford 

Day 48

Can you explore your fingerprints? Everyone’s fingerprints are unique – Can you take a fingerprint and spot the arch, loop and whorl patterns in your fingerprints? 🔍
Just one activity from Dr Jo Science Club last week!

You can sign up to a 12 week rolling programme of Dr Jo Science Club at any time: Weekly interactive video and a bumper activity pack of further investigations to carry out for just £5 per week for as many children as you have at home!

Day 49

Today’s Science activity is all about looking for evidence of animals that they might have left behind. I saw these prehistoric looking prints in a puddle! (Spoiler: it was a bird!)
Can you spot any animal footprints while you’re out and about? Have a go at identifying the footprints in this quiz from @ASUatSWCHS too. 

Day 50

Explore the stars by carefully punching holes in the bottom of a paper cup or through a piece of paper with a pin and shine a torch or light through it to project the constellations onto a wall!
✨from stormthecastle.com

Keep looking up to the sky and thinking about the universe with this week’s #GreatSciShare theme to inspire you to explore and ask questions.
From 11-17 May it’s a focus on space with @RoyalAstroSoc #RAS200 🔭🌒🪐🛰️🚀☄️👩‍🚀🌠‍
Share your questions at greatscienceshare.org

Day 51

Discover the weird world of lichen! Strange composite organisms found on rocks, stones, walls and trees. Watch this video to find out more, then look up the lichens you can find using this ID guide.
📹 youtu.be/NH0Cq9pBiJw 

Day 52

Make a fizzing bath bomb and find out all about the science of this chemical reaction in this video from @RoySocChem 
📹 https://youtu.be/wieE0wSVXOQ

Day 53

Go cloud spotting! ☁️

Find out more about the different types of cloud from the Met Office.

Day 54

Find out about myriad STEM careers in this fun and fabulous free downloadable board game for all ages created by the team at Diamond Light Source synchrotron near Oxford. https://www.diamond.ac.uk/Public/DiamondTheGame

Day 55

A fun and only slightly messy activity (which you can bake into a tasty treat afterwards!) to investigate the formation of moon craters with the Clangers!

Day 56

Can you make a filter to clean dirty water? Mix soil, water, leaves and small stones. Experiment with different materials such as paper towel, sand and gravel to create a filter (NB It’s still not safe to drink!). Explore further with Practical Action Schools resources.

Day 57

It’s #NationalScavengerHuntDay 18-24 May (anyone else notice that’s a week?). 
Check out the resources at www.greatscienceshare.org to get involved and ask and answer questions about habitats and living things

Day 58

Explore optical illusions and how you can trick your brain! 
Make a thaumotrope – a spinning disc with different images on each side. Stick to a pencil and spin the disc to make it look like it’s a single image

Day 59

It’s #WorldBeeDay so a great excuse to find out about these amazing and important animals. Spot some bees, find out more info and use this comprehensive Bee ID guide.

Day 60

Do some leaf rubbing! Spot or collect some fallen leaves, identify the trees, observe the structure of a leaf and find out about its functions and create some art! 🌿🍁

Day 61

Today’s activity is part of an international science show! #GlobalScienceShow and I’m discussing your sense of smell in this video.
Watch the entire The Global Science Show all day and even consider joining in with the next one on 19th June as they’ve linked up with Great Science Share for Schools to link your curious science questions with science communication!

Day 62

The National Physical Laboratory (they don’t just do physics!) are running weekly #MeasurementAtHome challenges, including the latest: if you could invent a new unit of measurement, what would it be?
…sec, mol, metre, lumen… the Dr Jo unit of how excited you are about science?!?! Wow! That’s 1,000,000 Dr Jo units?

Day 63

This week’s theme for the Great Science Share for Schools is #WasteWarriorWeek
Find out about different types of plastic and how to reduce waste. What questions will you ask?
Can you sort through your recycling and find plastics which can be easily recycled (look for the symbols 1, 2, 4 and 5). 

#ScienceFromHome #HomeSchooling #HomeSchooling2020 #HomeLearning #RemoteLearning #BeCurious #DrJo #DrJoScience #DistanceLearning #LockdownLearning #SchoolClosuresUK #PrimaryScience #STEM #STEMclub #ScienceClub #STEMed #STEMeducation #ScienceEducation #EduTwitter #ChemistryInYourCupboard #KitchenScience #KitchenChemistry #Moon #Craters #Clangers #GreatSciShare #GlobalScienceShow #STEMfromHome #Nature #BugHunt #LeafID #ScavengerHunt #ScienceFromYourGarden #GardenSafari

Join in with more science fun to come. Follow me on social media or why not sign up to my weekly online science club?




Bank holiday weekend at the end of a fun and inspiring week

Happy Weekend Everyone! What a fun week it’s been: I’ve been busy developing, planning and recording video lessons for STEM Learning UK, hosting live Q&A chat sessions linked to the lessons, creating science activities to go in a literacy resource pack for a national organisation (more info coming soon!), posting daily science activities on social media, taking part in the Global Science Show, running a virtual science club on Zoom, creating content for my digital downloadable online science club, packaging up little home investigation science kits for children from one of my local schools, been interviewed for a #GirlsInSTEM magazine and written a guest blog piece on how I’ve been changing the way I’m working during lockdown for Science On A Postcard.

#StaySafe #StayWell #SocialDistance #StayAlert #StayHome where you can.

#stemlearning #stemeducation #science #STEM #scienceeducation #womeninstem #womeninscience #remotelearning #lockdownlearning #ScienceFromHome #GlobalScienceShow #GirlsInSTEM

Daily Science Activities during partial school closures – Week 5 and 6

As well as collating a collection of excellent websites, activities and resources for parents and teachers during the corona virus pandemic on the resources page of my website, I’m also posting a daily science or STEM activity on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. I’m posting ideas seven days a week, through the easter holiday too, because science fun is for every day 😀.

Here are the posts from weeks five and six all in one place! 

(You can find week one and two here and week 3 and 4 here)

Day 29

Have a go at this opening paper flowers activity 🌼🌸🌼🌸🌼🏵️

Use different size and different types of paper to see which one absorbs the water the quickest and opens up! Cut out flower shapes and then fold in the petals. Place in a bucket, bowl, sink or bath and watch them unfurl as the spaces between the paper fibres fill with water. Try tissue paper, printer paper and thin card. Which ones open up the quickest? Why do you think this is? What about if you try different sizes? Are small ones quicker than big ones? Why? 

Day 30

Can you see sound? Sound is caused by vibrations. Can you see the effects of a drum vibrating by putting some rice on a plastic film covered bowl? Find more sound activities in this sneak peek mini sample online science club at https://drjosciencesolutions.co.uk/online-science-club/

Day 31

Today is #EarthDay
Find out about the water cycle with this simple activity exploring evaporation and condensation. Place a small amount of water into a resealable bag and tape it to the window. You could add some blue food colouring if you like to make it easier to see. Leave in a sunny spot and observe what happens over time as the water warms up and evaporates, then cools and condenses, falling back down just like rain in the water cycle.

Day 32

Lots of new leaves are unfurling on trees. Can you identify what they are? 

Day 33

There are lots of dandelions about at the moment, but before you pull them up, they are a great source of food for bees! 
Can you take a picture every day to see how the dandelions change over time?

You could even try to set up a time-lapse film to watch the dandelion flowers close up at night time and open up in the day!

Day 34

Today I should have been at the Department of Zoology, Cambridge with my hero, David Attenborough, who once wrote to me! Do some secondary research and watch a natural history programme in his honour 🦧🦥

Today was also the second #GlobalScienceShow on twitter. Follow @GlobalSciShow to see a virtual science show from around the world. Here’s my small part all about woodlice: 📹 youtu.be/hA2rGJLeVmk

Day 35

This weekend is the City Nature Challenge big weekend
📷 Take pictures of what you find this weekend
🔎 then identify them next week

Day 36

Investigate the cohesive forces of surface tension by seeing how many drops of water you can fit on a penny – use a pipette, syringe or straw. Does it change with temperature? Why or Why not?

Day 37

Natural pH indicators – you’re probably familiar with red cabbage as an indicator (which I LOVE!) but I’ve been inspired by @CrocodileChemi1 and @UncleBo80053383 to have a go with tulip and bluebell anthocyanins and try some microscale diffusion too – bubbles of CO2 form where the acid and base react. The colours in the indicators intensified overnight too! Why not have a go, or just make some ‘potions’ with flower petals?

Day 38

Why not investigate the amount of sugar hidden in food! You might expect to find lots of sugar in sweets and cakes, but do you know how much is also hidden in things like tomato sauce and breakfast cereal? Use the information on the labels to do some secondary research and work it out!

Day 39

Inspired by the popularity of my post about surface tension of water drops on a penny earlier in the week (and the currently weather!), I though we could try it on some rain drop shapes – maybe you’ll have more luck if your table isn’t on a slope!

Could you try it on different surfaces too?

Day 40

Why not have a go at splitting the colour from felt tip pens using a technique called chromatography – you could use filter paper, blotting paper or kitchen roll. Just add a few dots of colour, dip the very end into water and watch it go!

Day 41

Let’s explore floating and sinking today. Find some items from around the house; use a bowl, bucket, sink or bath of water – can you predict which float and which sink? Why?

Day 42

Following on from yesterday’s floating and sinking investigation, could you find out if all fruit float? Why, or why not? Can you change it? 

What’s happening in this picture? Do you know why?

#ScienceFromHome #HomeSchooling #HomeSchooling2020 #HomeLearning #RemoteLearning #BeCurious #DrJo #DrJoScience #DistanceLearning #LockdownLearning #SchoolClosuresUK #PrimaryScience #STEM #STEMclub #ScienceClub #STEMed #STEMeducation #ScienceEducation #EduTwitter

Join in with more science fun to come. Follow me on social media or why not sign up to my weekly online science club?




Radio slot!

Over the Easter weekend, I had a brief slot on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire talking about all the lockdown science activities I’m providing, including:

Here’s the link to the Radio interview. Fast forward to 1:20:45 to hear me!

Daily Science Activities during school closures – Week 3 and 4

As well as collating a collection of excellent websites, activities and resources for parents and teachers during the corona virus pandemic on the resources page of my website, I’m also posting a daily science or STEM activity on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. I’m posting ideas seven days a week, through the easter holiday too, because science fun is for every day 😀.

Here are the posts from weeks three and four all in one place!

(You can find week one and two here)

Day 15

Have a rummage in the recycling box and make some rocket mice! How far can you launch them using a plastic bottle? Which variables you could change? Have a competition and record the results in a table.

Find instructions here: http://ow.ly/p0qC50z1Ypz

#ScienceFromHome #HomeSchooling2020 #RemoteLearning #BeCurious #DrJoScience

Day 16

Dissect a Flower, discover all the different parts and find out about pollination. 


#ScienceFromHome #ScienceInYourGarden #DistanceLearning #RemoteLearning #HomeSchooling #HomeLearning #HomeSchooling2020 #DrJo

Day 17

Find some different sized containers and head outside with a bucket of water to explore and investigate capacity, volume, measuring and pouring. Can you make an accurate measuring beaker?

#ScienceFromHome #ScienceInYourGarden #DistanceLearning #HomeSchool

Day 18

Why not go outside on a #PatioSafari or #Gardensafari and see what minibeasts you can find 🔎🐛🐜


#ScienceFromHome #ScienceInYourGarden #HomeSchooling2020 #DistanceLearning #RemoteLearning #BugHunt #BugSafari

Day 19

Make play dough! Observe what happens as you mix the ingredients together, ‘cook’ them and change states! Then use your dough to make model animals, nerve cells, electrical circuits and more!

Here’s my favourite playdough recipe: http://ow.ly/wpxR50z5lTo

#ScienceFromHome #KitchenScience #DrJo

Day 20

Why not have a go at coding with code club? http://ow.ly/9jrm50z5lXW

or computing champions https://computingchampions.co.uk/dailydose/

#ScienceFromHome #DistanceLearning #RemoteLearning #HomeSchooling #HomeSchooling2020 #Computing #Programming #Algorithm #ComputerScience #StayHome #WithMe

Day 21

Happy Easter! I hope the easter bunny has been 🐇.

Why not investigate some changing states of matter from solid to liquid and back again by melting chocolate and then timing how long it takes to set hard again🍫

Find out more in this Brian Cox video with the Royal Society https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04ts81t

#ScienceFromHome #EasterScience #HomeSchooling #HomeSchooling2020 #StayHome #WithMe #DoScience #ChangingStates #Chocolate

Day 22

Why not take part in the What’s Under Your feet? campaign?

Investigate the different minibeasts under the grass and help scientists to understand the impact of climate change on UK birds

#ScienceFromHome #ScienceInYourGarden #wuyf

Day 23

Physics meet Origami! Make a paper horse that really walks! 

#ScienceFromHome #DistanceLearning #RemoteLearning #HomeSchooling #HomeLearning #HomeSchooling2020 #Origami #Paper

Day 24

If the sun is out where you are, it’s a great opportunity to observe what happens to puddles! Measure the same amount of water (using a spoon, beaker, pipette or syringe) and place on different surfaces or different areas (sun, shade etc). Observe what happens over time.

You could time how long it takes to evaporate, and maybe draw around the puddle in chalk at different times of the day to measure the size.

#ScienceFromHome #DistanceLearning #StayHome #WithMe #DoScience #ObservationOverTime #EnquiryTypes #ComparativeTest #HomeLearning #HomeSchooling #HomeSchooling2020 #RemoteLearning #ScienceInYourGarden

Day 25

Discover some Geography today as we explore rivers in this Dr Jo video: https://youtu.be/FqsMPCrsN2k 

Then follow the course of the river Thames from source to mouth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-znrVgVyck to explore rivers from home!

#ScienceFromHome  #HomeSchooling #DrJo #DrJoScience #BeCurious#StayHome #StaySafe #LetsDoScience #WithMe #HomeSchooling2020 #DistanceLearning #RemoteLearning #HomeLearning #STEMed #GeographyEd

Day 26

Go on a wildflower wander or explore with me: can you spot nettles, dandelions, daisies, celandine, dead nettle, ground ivy, cow parsley, sticky weed, hawthorn and more?


#SciencefromHome #DistanceLearning #LetsDoScience #HomeSchool

Day 27

Measuring! Scientists have to be able to take and record accurate measurements. Practise this skill by measuring the length or width objects with a ruler, a tape measure or…something else! How many mangoes long is an elephant? How many iPhones long are the curtains? How many ants would stretch the length of your shoe? Estimate how big something is, then measure it. I’d love to see what you get up to!

#ScienceFromHome #DistanceLearning #HomeSchooling #HomeSchooling2020 #HomeLearning #RemoteLearning

Day 28

Find out about space, planets and stars! 
💫☄️🔭🪐🌌🌕 with this video from University of Cambridge Astronomy department

Could you take a photo of the moon or make a model of the solar system?

You could even join NASA kids club 
www.nasa.gov/kids club/index.html 

or sign up for live Astroscience challenge with Tim Peake starting on 27th April www.astrosciencechallenge.com

#LetsDoScience #DrJo #ScienceFromHome #LetsDoScience

Join in with more science fun to come. Follow me on social media or why not sign up to my weekly online science club?