The BASF site in Bradford boasts one of the largest and most productive single site chemical plants in the UK. The site primarily manufactures products used to enhance industrial processing in various industries such as papermaking, mining, oil extraction, and wastewater treatment. The site, which is approximately 50 acres with 11 main production facilities, employs 750 people.
Being a good neighbour and a valued member of the local community is a key priority for BASF at Bradford. In order to encourage students to take science related subjects in further education and to promote “science in everyday life” to primary school pupils, BASF developed a dedicated Kids’ Lab, which was opened in 2010. This hands on learning facility is for children aged 9 to 11, and has been in use every 2 weeks term time. During a typical visit, the pupils are taken on a journey into what life could be like without science and introducing them to the Kids’ Lab characters: Nellie Neutron, FABS the dog, Paul Polymer and Doctor Bubbler. The story starts from the moment the children wake, the clean water that comes out of taps, the mobile phones they use, the gel they put in their hair, until they curl up in their nice warm duvets at the end of their day. The pupils then have the hands on opportunity to carry out two experiments: Water purification – making dirty water clean and Water storage – how to keeps the water in the soil! The pupils use all their skills as scientists, predicting what will work the best, ensuring a fair test; recording and analysing results. The children then get a chance to see chemistry in action during a tour of the plant. The feedback from children and teachers is extremely positive. The Kids’ Lab is run entirely by 40 BASF volunteers and currently hosts visits by 20 schools per year.
The Kids’ Lab forms an integral part of BASF’s community relations activities that focusses on science and education. Ultimately it helps protect its licence to operate. In the longer term, both BASF and the Chemical Industry will benefit from students choosing science related subjects at further education. For employees, they are able to develop their team building and communications skills, share their love of science whilst acting as ambassadors for the businesses.