As the 2022/23 academic year rolls into action, at LifeLab we are excited for what our school teams and research programmes have coming up. We have also been looking back on the last academic year and taking pride in all we achieved.
LifeLab on Tour
As COVID-19 restrictions eased during 2021/22 we were able to modify our programme and get back to doing what we love which is in-person teaching with the students. We were able to welcome students back using a temporary LifeLab facility at the Mathematics and Science Learning Centre (MSLC) on Highfield Campus – a huge thank you to the Southampton Education School and Faculty of Social Sciences for facilitating the use of this space for us.
We were thrilled to welcome our Engaging Adolescents with Changing Behaviour (EACH-B) schools for their LifeLab activity days from Cantell School in November, who were our first face-to-face classes since March 2020! When we had to close our doors at LifeLab in March 2020, we had just started to welcome schools who were participating in EACH-B project. We had to pause this project due to COVID-19 and it was vitally important that we were able to begin the in-person visits as soon as possible, to fulfil our commitment to this NIHR-funded randomised controlled trial.
Through the course of the academic year, a further 12 schools from Southampton, Portsmouth, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight visited the temporary facility which we fondly dubbed ‘LifeLab on Tour.’ We were also able to go back into schools to complete data collection for the trial.
As well as welcoming back students, we have also been able to host school staff for professional development and we recommenced our Meet the Scientist training programme, both at the MLSC.
LifeLab is always seeking out opportunities to engage and work with young people in different ways.
Our Youth Panel is one of these ways and has been a huge success. So far, we’ve run two panels, with 12 young people involved who get paid for their time working with us.
The first ran from April to July and was themed around putting young people at the heart of the research being carried out for their benefit, we worked with them via weekly online sessions to help them co-create animations, magazine articles and conduct researcher interviews.
The second panel ran from July to September and using insights from UoS researchers, the panel developed a resource to support young people to eat well and move more.
The Climate Change Theatre project was something new to LifeLab this year. A group of young people took on the challenge of telling the story of climate change by bringing together science and art in this unique project.
With Southampton and surrounding areas being both the inspiration and backdrop for the piece, the LifeLab ‘climate change youth group’ spent time in three different environments; the forest, the beach and the city to find out more about the impact of climate change on these areas and the opportunities for individuals to take action. They then created campaigns, undertook talks and put on a live theatre production at venues across Hampshire, which were socially impactful and raised awareness around climate change in their local communities.
Young Health Champions
COVID-19 Young Health Champions is a partnership between Royal Society for Public Health and LifeLab. Working together we developed an exciting new qualification for young people to develop peer mentors which harnesses their natural enthusiasm to lead in peer-to-peer education on the COVID-19 virus and lifestyle related health.
In the academic year 2021/22 we had two cohorts take part in the qualification, gained through LifeLab because we are an accredited centre of excellence for delivering RSPH programmes. The first cohort was comprised of six members of the Youth Ambassadors Group at Southampton Children’s Hospital and the second was 10 students from Henry Cort Community College in Fareham.
Becoming a COVID-19 Young Health Champion enables the young person to take on the role of peer mentor and signpost to the support and resources available. It also provides pupils the opportunity to discuss problems faced by young people - giving them a voice in tackling the health-related issues of the day.
2021/22 saw us engage with over 75 schools, colleges and specialist settings through the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Saliva Testing Programme. We supported not only with COVID-19 testing, but also understanding the science behind the public health messages around COVID-19.
The year culminated on a high with our annual Experience Medicine with LifeLab Summer School taking place in-person for the first time since 2019 at the MLSC. 40 students joined us from across the country for two days of clinical skills, anatomy, trauma simulation, presentations from clinicians and admissions talks.
The students got the chance to work with current medical students from Southampton University and quiz them about all aspects of university life and what it’s like to study medicine here. The two days were a huge success, and it was a fantastic way to head into the summer break for our LifeLab team.
We got a slight jump on everyone else starting back in September and held our Virtual Work Experience event at the end of August as an enjoyable way to ease the team into the new term.
Students were selected from across the country with the majority in Year 12 of further education and interested in entering medicine through a widening access route. This is a joint project run by the University Hospital Southampton and the University of Southampton, where students are immersed in all elements of a teaching hospital observing live surgery, ward rounds, outpatient clinics, pathology lab tour, WISH lab tour, and a Multi-Disciplinary Team meeting.
This is an ongoing collaborative project with more sessions planned throughout the year. If you or someone you know might be interested, find out more here.
And so the new year is upon us and our team is poised to build on all these successes.
The most exciting development for September is that we are hoping to be welcoming students back to our dedicated LifeLab facility in the hospital for the first time since 2020, so it feels like a very momentous occasion – we cannot wait.
Following that we have the start of our autumn youth panel, we have recruited six members and they will be kicking off by designing toolkits for students suffering with exam stress.
We are looking forward to unveiling a video documentary about the Climate Change theatre project – look out for more details soon!
And last but not least, thanks to generous funding from Southampton City Council, we are rolling out our Early LifeLab project. In partnership with University Hospital Southampton, NHS Foundation Trust, the programme aims to support behaviour change in children using a series of ‘teaching toolkits’.
All primary phase settings in Southampton can opt to take part in Early LifeLab and participating schools will receive a fully-resourced “flight case”, which contains all the equipment, resources and teaching information needed to deliver the lessons. If your school is interested please get in touch.