Jan with some of the Angmering School children making the Buckyball Sculpture
Jan Meering was a remarkable teacher and friend who until recently worked at the Angmering School near Worthing. After the BBC TV Horizon program on the discovery of C60 (also called Buckminsterfullerene, Buckyballs or Fullerenes - a family of new carbon based cage-like molecules) she contacted us to see if we would help with the sixth-form's attempts to make the molecule in their school labs.
Harry Kroto (a Sussex University Professor and later to be awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for chemistry) and I went over to the school and offered suggestions and advice to the group. We invited them all to visit our labs at Sussex University. By late 1994 Jan and her sixth-form had made their own sample of fullerenes and they came over again to Sussex to use the department's mass spectrometer and verify their outstanding achievement. Meridian TV even came over and filmed the event live ! Jan's group were the first school in the world to make the 'nobel prize winning' molecule in their own labs.
This was the start of a great partnership between us (Sussex University), Jan and the Angmering school. It was also the birth of the Creative Science Centre at Sussex and Jan played a leading role in stimulating this. Later on Harry Kroto and I were to run workshops for some of the younger children at the school and one group were actually invited over to participate in the filming of Helen Sharmon (the UK's first astronaut) by the VEGA Science trust.
Then followed a range of projects and investigations facilitated by Jan for almost all abilities and age groups at the Angmering school. In 1997 Jan and I won a Royal Society-Esso Partnership Grant which we used to support a sixth-form project to design and build a small sound recording studio. This was used to record poetry readings as well as school bands and local groups in the area. Another exciting project involved building a giant Buckyball Sculpture to commemorate the schools C60 work. Jan and I even developed a rather unique Xmas workshop where the children would bring in home-made cards and trees and we would teach them about light and simple electronics. In the rest of the workshop they constructed a series circuit of LED's to decorate their creations - this was wonderful.
Jan was passionate about teaching the skills that could be useful for children throughout life rather than just to pass exams. She had a great energy and nothing was too much trouble with regard to these extra school activities, both for my self and the students involved.
At the end of 2000 she fell ill with what eventually turned out to be cancer. Realising that she would not go back to school as a full time teacher we worked together on an outline for a number of science books aimed at school libraries. She seemed to find this a very positive focus against the backdrop of the cancer. Unfortunately by the end of 2001 she needed major surgery which left her very weak. She never fully recovered her strength and on Sunday 13th January 2002, under the great care and love of her partner, Chris Marsland, she died at the Worthing St Barnabas Hospice.
Jan was a great teacher and a wonderful human being. The multitude of different things she taught me, and allowed me to explore with her various classes have been an extremely important and life enriching experience for me. While visiting her at home and in the hospice she radiated a great warmth and kindness. She would simply like people to hold her hand and talk about everyday things - even near the end of her life she was teaching kindness and the preciousness of life in such an amazing way.
Thank you Jan.
Jonathan Hare, January 2002
Link to - Fullerene work
Link to - Angmering school Recording Studio
Link to - Building the Buckyball
Link to - Xmas LED workshop
Link to The Angmering School web site
PRESS ARTICLES ON OUR WORK TOGETHER:
Buckyballs and Beyond
Science Museum - 1999 Whats on guide
The Creative Science Centre
Education in Chemistry, July 1999
Perfect partnership brings Utopia to life
Littelhampton Gazette, Oct 22, 1998
Sixth-formers build stereo just for the record
The Argus, 14 Oct, 1998
Creative Cacophony in school recording studio
Sussex Univerity Bulletin, 23 October, 1998
Buckyball molecule created
West Sussex Gazette, May 21 1998
On the ball pupils star in new science display
Littlehampton Gazette, May 21, 1998
Science Museums Buckyballs and Beyond
visitors guide, 6 may 1998 - 11 Oct. 1998
Angmerings school's roll of honour
Littelhampton Gazette, 28 Nov. 1997
The Sussex Bulletin, October 24, 1997
The Beautiful Buckyball
Littlehampton Gazette, August 1997
Students' model is a link with Nobel Prize winners
West Sussex Gazette, July 24, 1997
Nobel winner helps students sculpt molecule
West Sussex Gazette, July 3, 1997
Sussex Established Centre for Schools
Sussex University Bulletin, May 23, 1997
Ideas of the universe are outlined
West Sussex Gazette, 27 March, 1997
Truth is out there
Littlehampton Gazette, Friday March 14, 1997
Sixthformers take on a noble challenge
Education in Chemistry, May 1997
Sixth-form students make buckyballs in the lab
Sussex University Bulletin, Friday 10th Feb. 1995
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