Averil Macdonald
A great teachers resource

My mum's a scientist

Professor Mum

Did you know that you are more likely to be killed by an asteroid hitting the Earth than by getting knocked down by a car?

This thought sprang into Thea’s head as she tried to cross the road. She was certain that blue car suddenly went faster when she stepped out into the road. But surely no one would deliberately try to run her over. Anyway they missed so it wasn’t really important.

Cars can be very smelly things though. “It’s all the polluting gases coming out of the exhaust pipe,” thought Thea. Her Mum had talked abut this to her. How the some of the gases from cars were rising high into the atmosphere and wrapping themselves around the Earth. Then the heat from the Earth couldn’t escape so the Earth was getting hotter and hotter. Global Warming they called it.

“What’s so wrong with the temperature going up a bit,” Thea had asked. “It would be nice to live somewhere warmer.”

“Some scientists think that then temperature will go up so much that there will be more rain, more hurricanes and more floods.” Mum had explained.

Thea thought about that now. It was odd because you couldn’t really tell that the gases were dangerous. They smelt a bit but that was about all.

“Sometimes the most dangerous gases are the ones you can’t smell,” Mum had told her. “For example did you know that the gases from one car’s exhaust pipe go straight into the next car when you’re in a traffic jam? There’s one gas called carbon monoxide that is very dangerous and you can’t smell it at all. If you are waiting at traffic lights, the air in your car will be getting more and more polluted. It’s much worse than the air outside that the pedestrians are breathing. You are slowly being poisoned, yet you can’t tell there’s anything wrong.”

Thea wanted some Smarties. She liked to eat Smarties but this time she wanted them for a special experiment. She handed over her money and held her hand out for the change.

“Sorry I don’t have any 5p pieces, it will have to be copper” the shop keeper said.

“That’s fine,” said Thea thinking that there was a really neat trick she could do with all those 1p pieces.

Back at home she had to keep her younger brother Paul entertained while her Mum was at work. She got out the Smarties and a piece of kitchen paper. She chose one of each colour Smartie, wet it slightly and placed it on the kitchen paper. Paul was fascinated. Slowly the colours began to spread across the paper. But better than that, the colours began to separate into lots of different colours.

Suddenly she caught sight of movement at the window. She looked up but there was nothing there. But there it was again. She was certain that there was someone outside, but every time she looked out of the window, they were gone.

Back to the experiment. Thea explained to Paul that the pretty colours were spreading out from the Smarties, just as Mum had explained to her. Mum was a scientist who worked on important new inventions at the university. Mum could always answer difficult questions and explain interesting things. Thea wanted to be a scientist when she grew up.

Suddenly there is was again – movement outside. This time she was convinced there was someone hiding round the corner of the house. It felt spooky. Though she didn’t know why, she felt as if she was in danger. She knew she had to see who was there, but that they must not know she had seen them.

“Periscope” she said. “That’s how I’ll do it, I’ll make a periscope.” She rushed to the kitchen and got a half empty tube of Pringles then found two small make-up mirrors in Mum’s make-up box. She sliced into the box and slid the mirror into place. By putting them parallel to each other she knew the light would reflect from the top one, down to the bottom one and into her eyes so she would be able to see who was round the corner of the house.

Slowly she put the periscope out of the window and looked round the corner of the house. Just as she did she saw an odd looking woman walking carefully back to a bright blue car. Was that the car she had seen speeding towards he when she crossed the road? Surely it couldn’t be. She looked again. By now the woman was getting onto the car. Thea was certain she had seen that car before – and it was the one that had tried to run her over.


(will lead to kidnap plot and revelation that Mum is high powered scientist working on secret invention that the ‘baddies’ want to get their hands on. Thea has to foil kidnappers using science (and consulting mum) as well as doing some other little experiments that the readers can do at home).

‘She rushed to the kitchen and got a half empty tube of Pringles then found two small make-up mirrors in Mum’s make-up box.’

My Mum's a Scientist

A series of stories for primary age pupils to show mums can be scientists and scientists can be mums.

Choose a relative