Junior Scientist T-Shirts from presenter Maddie Moate? Do you know, that's a great idea...

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Earlier this month we spoke to science youtuber and Do you know? presenter Maddie Moate about her new organic t-shirt range for kids!

We all do it. Sat on the sofa drinking a cup of tea, you realise you're still watching Cbeebies, long after its young viewer has fled the room looking for something else to do (or eat, usually eat) Most kids shows (cough, Bing) cause me to launch myself at the remote, but there is one I would happily sit through, and that's Do you know? presented by Maddie Moate.

Maddie never fails to dazzle with how well she can articulate complex ideas to wee (and not so wee) minds, and in our house, we're all fans. When I discovered Maddie had a range of Junior Scientist t-shirts on Teemill (all organic with great green credentials), my youngest and I sat down and excitedly ordered one.

In a similar accessible style to Do you know?, Chris Hadfield's youtube videos of simple everyday life on board the International Space Station, has inspired our youngest daughters love of Space Science (and physics in general, though her current bedtime reading is about the periodic table) and it wasn't too much of a surprise she chose the Astrophysicists t-shirt. The quality was great (super soft organic fabric), the packaging recyclable - and I couldn't fault the service at all. What impressed me the most was how my daughter connected with the idea of being a Junior Astrophysicist through an item of clothing - and the happy, this is ME pose, is the result.

If our society is going to attract more women into the STEM workforce, then we need to start addressing lazy gender stereotyping that tells girls from the outset, in a litany of child-directed products, that this is a boys/mans domain. STEM designs and motifs are predominantly aimed at boys, and when girls are included, expect butterflies and vague botany only. In 2015 I wrote extensively about the partnership between Marks & Spencers and the Natural History Museum, which marketed a range of t-shirts for boys only. Space science is particularly lacking from ranges aimed at girls, where you are far more likely to find t-shirts telling girls to smile! than anything with a STEM relevant theme.

Maddie's t-shirts are a really important part of readdressing the imbalance in the messages girls and boys receive about the sciences - that being a Junior Astrophysicist, Junior Zoologist or Junior Entomologist, is something that all children can engage with, explore and take ownership of. Its also a great conversation starter, a declaration of smashing stereotypes and changing the status quo. Like the heroine in Andrea Beaty's excellent Ada Twist Scientist, early interest in the sciences starts with curiosity, and asking why? Why is the grass green, or the sky blue? Why is this for girls and that for boys? Thinking about asking why, Evie (E) and I (F) sat down to work out some questions to put to Maddie.

I don’t think any colour should be thought of as a ‘boys’ or a ‘girls’ colour either! The sea is blue, but we don’t think of the sea as a ‘boys’ thing do we? Rather than think about who should like certain colours, I think it’s far more interesting to ask people why they like the colours they do. Maybe it reminds them of something they love!

E: Hi Maddie, I am Evie and I am 6 years old. My favourite t-shirt is the Astrophysicist one and that’s what I would like to be when I grow up. When you were 6, what did you want to be?

When I was younger I wanted to be a Marine Biologist or an Archaeologist. I loved the fact that these jobs could lead me on science adventures around the world. However, I also wanted to be some kind of performer and work in the arts. In the end I got the best of both worlds, I get to make videos and perform in programmes about science!

E: My mum showed me your t-shirts and I really like them. Are you going to do any more? I would also like to be an astronaut.

I’m definitely going to do more! I’ve had lots of requests for geologist, chemist, botanist, archaeologist and now… astronaut!

E: The t-shirts say they are Organic cotton, what does “organic” mean?

When we grow plants like cotton, farmers may use something called ‘fertiliser’ to help the plants grow and something called a ‘pesticide’ that will help get rid of any bugs that could harm or eat the cotton. Sometimes fertilisers and pesticides can be made of nasty human-made chemicals that can harm the environment where the plants are growing. However the ‘organic cotton’ that has been used to make my t-shirts has been grown using natural fertiliser (cow poo!) and natural pesticides (bigger bugs to help gobble up the small pesky ones!)

E: My mum has been teaching me about wind turbines. What “renewable energy” do your factories use?

The factory in India where the t-shirts are made is powered by solar panels (energy from the sun) and wind turbines (wind energy). The factory on the Isle of Wight where the t-shirts are printed runs off solar panels.

E: My favourite colour is blue. Charlie at school said blue is a boys colour but I don’t think it should be. It sounds a bit silly (do you think it is silly too?)

I don’t think any colour should be thought of as a ‘boys’ or a ‘girls’ colour either! The sea is blue, but we don’t think of the sea as a ‘boys’ thing do we? Rather than think about who should like certain colours, I think it’s far more interesting to ask people why they like the colours they do. Maybe it reminds them of something they love!

E: I really like your spotters guide t-shirts too. We have been learning about different trees. Could you design a tree one too please?

This is a fantastic idea! I’ll definitely think about it!

F: Why do you think it is important to get children talking about Science?

I think it’s important to get children talking about the world around them, and encourage them to ask questions, explore and wonder. Ultimately these are the building blocks of all the sciences. Regardless of what a child wants to go ahead and do in the future, these skills will help them to think independently, solve problems, make decisions and find fulfilment in their environment.

F: Evie loves reading about Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace. Who was your role model as a child?

Evie has some cool role models! When I was a child it wasn't really the norm to introduce young girls to women in science. Now, thanks to a plethora of incredible books and a shift in attitude, these kind of role models are way more accessible. I’d say most of my role models were fictitious. Belle from Beauty and the Beast with her love of books and amazing library, Eliza Thornberry from the Wild Thornberry’s who could talk to animals, Hermione Granger with her magic and smarts and Dr Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park who had the coolest job in the world as a Paleobotanist!

F: The new range is organic cotton and produced in factories that use only renewable energy. Do you have any tips on how to start children thinking about their future purchasing power?

Aside from leading by example and shopping considerately, including your child when you're shopping for them might help them to feel involved and empowered. If you're buying clothes, why not explore charity shops together and set small monetary challenges, make trips to clothes banks and look up where the clothes might end up to help others in need, have a go at up-cycling old clothes, explore different clothing materials and encourage children to find out how their things are made before making decisions on what to buy.

The t-shirt range is for all children, but did you feel any pressure to create separate designs or categories for girls, and for boys?

I only ever wanted to create a neutral range so most of my efforts were spent figuring out how best to achieve that. This was especially true for the ‘Spotters Guide’ t-shirts. Whether I like it or not, certain topics carry a gender bias, so I had to search for ways to categorise things that avoided this. For example rather than a ‘Construction Machines’ t-shirt, I went with ‘Making Machines’ and deliberately combined machines that can be found in the food, textile, farming and transport industries.

Whats the hardest question you’ve been asked?

‘How do playground swings work?', was an extraordinarily difficult physics question to wrap my head around as there are so many forces at play and ‘How do planes fly?’, was another complicated one! Often the hardest thing about answering any question is working out how to make my explanation accessible and understandable to a child. No topic is too tricky, it just takes a bit of work figuring out how to tackle it.

F: What are you plans for 2020?

I’ll definitely be adding a few more items to the clothing range! Keep an eye on my YouTube channel for lots more videos and I’m very excited to be filming some more ‘Do You Know?’ with Cbeebies!

Check out Maddie's range of Junior Scientists and Spotter Guide T-Shirts by clicking here!