As a busy secondary school teacher, Adrian Allan would be forgiven for using his magical powers to make his paperwork disappear.
But the Sutherland man is using his powers for good – and employing magic tricks to help his students grasp the basics of science.
Dr Allan, a member of staff at Dornoch Academy, has been making a name for himself representing the UK at a European science festival demonstrating how magic illusions can help.
During the four-day festival earlier this month, the chemistry teacher delivered an innovative workshop to more than 30 academics explaining how to use the technique in helping to improve and develop the communication skills and confidence of students.
Now back in the classroom, Dr Allan – who has been a teacher at the academy since 2010 – spoke of how he came up with the innovative concept.
He said: “Before I did teaching, I did magic tricks as a hobby. I came into science teaching fairly late, in my early 30s in 2006 and I realised when I was doing science teaching, I do like spectacular demonstrations with all the setting fire to things and colour changes.
“The skills required to put together a science demonstration, like practising a lot, getting a script, interacting with people and coming up with an astonishing moment are quite similar to doing a magic trick so I started combining the two.”
Through using simple household items such as paper cups, a deck of cards and money the teacher is able to take simple items and incorporate them in his practical demonstrations during his classroom based lessons.
While teaching students the concepts of how water bonds, he will use his “disappearing water” trick as a practical example before going onto explain the science in detail.
The 47-year-old academic is now looking ahead to sharing his teaching ideas from the festival with UK teachers at the “Best of Science on Stage” session at the 2020 ASE Conference in Reading next year.
More than 400 science teachers from 30 countries turned out to present and exchange their innovative teaching concepts through a series of workshops and short lectures during the event-coordinated by the Association of Science Education (ASE).
Founded in 2000, the festival was established to help improve science teaching and motive academics across the globe whilst encouraging more schoolchildren to consider a career in science and engineering.
UK SoS representative Stuart Farmer from Aberdeen said: “The Festival brings together educationalists from across Europe in a way that allows them to share ideas together and break down borders.
“The whole Festival was really well-organised – it was a great venue and it was by far the best team spirit we’ve had as a UK delegation at the festival.”
It’s a kind of magic
Dr Allan let us in on his secrets and explained the rules of a simple magic trick used to teach young students key aspects of science.
To perform the water disappearing from a cup illusion, he begins by pouring water into an opaque plastic cup. However, when the cup is overturned, no water comes out as it has mysteriously “vanished”.
The trick is accomplished by placing hydrogel power in the bottom of the cup which in turn which absorbs the water to form a solid gel, which remains in the cup when inverted.
Mr Allan explains how he uses the trick to keep teach student about polymers and molecules.
He explained: “I have a simple trick I do called the disappearing water.
“I use it to teach pupils about polymers and how long molecules like these they can be made do useful things like absorbing water. This powder is used to absorb urine in nappies which forms a gel inside the nappy keeping it dry.”
Other tricks performed by the magician include levitation, a coin disappearing through rubber, cutting and restoring a newspaper page and the floating flame.