Understand the disease and risks

Ever modelled an eyeball out of a pomegranate and some jelly? Or made an optic nerve from a strawberry lace? That’s what children taking part in the innovative Digesting Science course do to learn about how MS affects vision, writes Hilary Freeman


MS is a complex disease, which can be hard for adults, let alone children, to understand. The Digesting Science project was created at Queen Mary, University of London in 2013 to help teach children aged six to twelve, who have a parent with MS, about the science behind the disease and its symptoms. It includes both interactive workshops for families and a website with downloadable pdfs, so parents can do the activities with their children at home.

“Digesting Science fills a gap by talking about highly complex scientific content in a simple, fun and engaging way,” says project designer Alison Thomson. “For example, we’ll talk about ‘brain doctors’, not neurologists, so children can understand. They learn through play. The project was developed by designers and scientists, ensuring every activity is factually correct, and it can be continually updated to communicate new research.”

Several studies have shown vitamin-D deficiency plays a role in the risk of developing MS

A main focus of the project is on the importance of vitamin D. Several studies have shown vitamin-D deficiency plays a role in the risk of developing MS, and it’s thought that giving supplements to children, particularly those who have MS in their family and who therefore have a higher risk of developing the disease, might help to prevent future cases. During the workshops, children learn about this risk factor by playing games using printed playing cards and maps.

Digesting Sciencehas now been run at Queen Mary and at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, as well as at the MS Society’s national convention, MS Life. MS nurses can use the downloadable pdfs to organise courses with their patients. Thousands of people have visited the website and it’s hoped the workshops will soon be rolled out nationwide.

www.digestingscience.co.uk