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Teachers, researchers and poets join forces to educate schoolchildren about cancer

The Wales Cancer Research Centre has teamed up with Cardiff University to launch a competition and education pack.

Developed with teachers, researchers and poets, this new education pack aims to inspire a future generation of cancer researchers while improving skills in literacy and digital competency. The RIME project (Research Inspires ME) features a quiz that educates about cancer risk factors, a tool to help children assess the validity of medical research claims they find online and a competition that challenges them to get creative and write a poem about cancer research.

Bringing together the arts and sciences, this free resource is designed for use by English, Welsh, PSE and science teachers who work with key stage three pupils (age 11 – 14). Anyone can download the resources; they might be of particular interest to parents looking for home school activities during the current lockdown.

The competition launches today and invites school pupils to write a poem about cancer research. To inspire them, poets Ifor ap Glyn (National Poet of Wales) and Owen Sheers have composed works of their own, based on conversations with some of the researchers tackling cancer in Wales. Their compositions have been transformed into film-poems (produced by Rewired Life) that feature in the education pack.

The poetry competition is open until 30 April 2021. The poets will pick one winner in Welsh and one winner in English who will receive £150 each in book tokens for their school and have their poem displayed publicly at a cancer research facility.

Poet, author and playwright Sheers wrote the English-language poem. He said: “Poetry is looking at the world with language, a way of exploring beyond the surface of things. For this poem I was able to do just that, guided by the stories of some incredible cancer researchers so as to use the biology of the disease to explore just how impactful and far-reaching their work is. It’s a field of research that is as fascinating as it is vital. I found my conversations with the researchers truly inspiring and I hope the film-poem goes some way towards inspiring a future generation of researchers. I’m very excited to read the poems that pupils come up with after engaging with the education pack.”

Ap Glyn composed the Welsh-language poem. He said: “It was a privilege to contribute to this project, especially because of the opportunity to speak directly to some of the scientists and medics who are constantly working on cancer research here in Wales. And as they explained their work to me, I was getting ideas about how I might share that through a poem. It’s important to keep bridging between the twin worlds of the sciences and the arts in this way. I hope that children who watch the film will be inspired to learn more about medical research and I look forward to reading their poems.”

Dr Kieran Foley, a consultant radiologist at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and a clinical researcher for Velindre Cancer Centre and Cardiff University, is one of the researchers who helped to develop the project. He said: “There’s sometimes a tendency for people to picture a scientist in a lab coat when they think of cancer researchers. My role is much closer to patients. My research involves using radiology scans that patients have when they are diagnosed with cancer to improve the decisions about which treatments have the best chance of success and which types of scans should be used and when. I really enjoy working with a variety of people from different specialities and hospitals and seeing the research we do being used in everyday practice. It’s wonderful to know that my work helps improve the lives of cancer patients and I hope this education pack will encourage young people to consider taking up a career in the field.”

Dr Joanna Zabkiewicz, a researcher at Cardiff University said, “It’s really important to encourage young people to think about careers in cancer research. It’s a very interesting field. My role involves developing new treatments for cancer patients. I really enjoy studying how cancer cells work in the amazing human body. Tackling cancer requires people in all sorts of roles: pharmacists, nurses, engineers, data managers… the list goes on! I hope these films and the education pack will encourage more people to take up careers in medical research.”

The films and education pack are available in Welsh and English and are free to download from walescancerresearchcentre.org/rime-research-inspires-me. They have been produced in collaboration between Cardiff University, the Wales Cancer Research Centre and the Centre for Trials Research, with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

The Wales Cancer Research Centre performs and supports research of the highest quality, from the lab bench through to the patient’s bedside and into the community. They work to improve outcomes for patients at every step from early diagnosis through treatment to survivorship and end-of-life care, with an emphasis on both increasing cures and maintaining quality of life. More at www.walescancerresearchcentre.org

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework ranked the University 5th in the UK for research excellence. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise encompasses: the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences; and the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, along with a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff’s flagship Research Institutes are offering radical new approaches to pressing global problems. More at www.cardiff.ac.uk