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At the Eden Project with the Royal Society


Before I begin, I have a very special request....see the black box at the end of this blog post for more !

Now, as some of you might know, last Sunday me and my family traveled down to Cornwall, for a VERY big event on the Monday at the Eden Project. I was going down for the Royal Society Young Person's Book Award. I was on the shortlist of with five other amazing authors.

Long story short, I didn't win, and Professor Robert Winston's book "Utterly Amazing Science" did. The awards ceremony wasn't until lunchtime, but my family and my editor, Jo, went down to the Eden Project at 9am, because there was something we had to do first....

The workshops

After the judging panel put together the shortlist of six (from about 40 submitted books), the shortlisted books that were on the list were sent out to schools and youth groups all over the UK, and it was these children who decided the final winner. Four local schools, including some of the judging groups, came down to the Eden Project to take part in the day, including workshops based around each of the books. The one I was involved with was about fossils !

The plan was for everyone to make their own 'fossil' of a sea shell out of plaster-of-paris to take away at the end of the day. The session leader was Robbie, who was really cool,  and my dad and Jo also stayed to help.

So here's how we did it....

1. Get a ball of clay, flatten it into something about the size of a puck or hamburger patty.

2. Wrap a piece of card around it and sellotape.

3. Push down the edges of the patty so there are no gaps between it and the cardboard.

4. Take a seashell , dip it in water, then push down hard into the clay to leave an impression

5. Make up plaster of paris, about the same thickness as ketchup.

6. Pour in the plaster of paris into the mould and leave to dry.

We had four workshops to do with a VERY quick turnaround, but it  turned out to be a really fun activity. After the first school, we had five minutes to clean up for the next group.

The fossils actually turned out to look really nice, like this one below, to give a brilliant souvenir of the day and hopefully inspire some of the children to take an interest in fossils and nature.

After the four sessions, we had time for a small lunch with the other authors on the shortlist, before we had to go back up to the auditorium where the awards ceremony were being held ! Nervous times  !

The awards

When we arrived, there was a reserved seat for me at the front, next the the other authors, and my family and Jo sat behind me. The person hosting the awards was CBBC presenter, Katie Thistleton who I'd met earlier in the day, and she talked about the shortlisted books.

After that, Dr Emily Grossman was the guest speaker, and got the kids "warmed up" with a fun science quiz, with one question themed from each book. For example, one of the questions was "what is the strongest bone in the body". The options were A. Jaw bone, B. Pelvis or C. Femur (duh!). Thankfully, most people stood up for the femur.

After that, she asked for one of the school children to come up to the stage so she could tickle them. She then showed that if you put your hand onto the hands of the person tickling you, then you won't laugh because it tricks your brain into thinking that you are tickling yourself, which doesn't work (try it !)

Katie then came back up to the stage to introduce each author and asked them a question. My question was "How old were you when you first started collecting bones and what was your first bone?". Funnily enough, this is the question I'm asked most, so I already had an answer well prepared.

After all of the authors were asked there question, the was a short video that was put together by the pupils judgers, saying what they thought of each book. I got some really nice thing said about my book, but then again, so did all the other authors.

When the winner was announced, I was really disappointed when Lord Sir Robert Winston won. He wasn't there to claim his award, so his publisher did a speech on his behalf. It turned out to be the third time a book of his had won ! Congratulations to all the team at DK !

Nicola Davies was the author of Tiny: The Invisible World Of Microbes, which was another book on the shortlist, and said some very nice things which I really appreciated.

Some of the schoolchildren came over at the end as well to say hello which I really appreciated, even if I seemed not very happy at the time.

After the awards ceremony, we had a tour laid on !

The tour

The Eden project is one of the most unusual and distinctive places in the UK, and is in an old quarry pretty much in the middle of nowhere.. People mainly remember these huge biodomes, which are massive greenhouses. They were also used as a location in one of the James Bond films.

After the awards, there was a tour arranged for the authors to go round the area and then into the Biome. One of the first things we were shown was this giant robot that was made of old objects that they didn't want to throw out, like old computer monitors and old computer mice. I think it was about five metres tall.

Then we went into the rainforest biome. The different parts of the biome were different rainforest from all over the world. The guide showed us all of the different trees and even some of the animals from these countries that they introduced to get rid of the cockroaches.

It really did feel like we were in a real rainforest, as it was very humid and warm even though it was a cold day. The biomes were inside the big bubble-like domes you saw a few pictures above. These were used to trap the heat in.

Jo took loads of amazing pictures of my and my brothers in and out of the biome. I would not have been there is it wasn't for Jo, so I would just like to say a big thank you to her for being a fantastic editor.

Near the end of the tour, a man from BBC Radio Cornwall can to interview me for a five minute slot, which was on the next morning at 8:20am.

The biodomes were brilliant, and I could have spent much more time there.

After the tour, we all went back to the awards room to juice and cake (I wasn't allowed champagne !). This was me and Jo talking about the day.

This was one of the best days of my life and I'm really thankful that I was able to go down to the Eden Project, even though I didn't win. A big thank you to all involved in the judging, and to the Royal Society as well for inviting me. This is a picture of me on the day taken by Jo of me with my brothers Sam (on the right) and Harry.

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