Author: Claire Concannon – Otago Museum, New Zealand

Co-author: Muriel Grenon – National University of Ireland Galway

The Cell EXPLORERS programme based in the National University of Ireland Galway is an educational outreach programme that engages with the public on STEM topics. As part of the Cell EXPLORERS working model, third level education students can opt to complete science communication final year projects as part of their curricula. The students are assigned a science communication challenge from a research laboratory and are then tasked with creating, piloting and evaluating novel science communication resources. The students are guided through the project by a series of interactive self-reflective workshops and seminars. These cover key concepts and methods in the fields of science communication and science education, and aim to equip the students with skills to develop effective resources. All resources created are then piloted within the community and the students are asked to reflect on their evaluations.

This module helps to address some science communication education challenges. In today’s research world there is an increasing requirement for dialogue between scientists, policy-makers and the public, thus it is necessary for future scientists to learn communication skills during their training. There is also increasing recognition that undergraduate science students should be equipped not just with their subject specific skills and knowledge but with generic positive graduate attributes that will help them in future careers. In addition, the nature of these projects require collaboration both in and outside of the university. As such the projects reflect real life challenges and act to strengthen links between the university and its surrounding community.

These projects are currently in their 4th year and more than 40 students from final year Biochemistry, Microbiology and Zoology courses have undertaken this project. Here we will outline the structure and content of the project module and discuss the results of evaluation of this module.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Teaching science communication

Author: Claire Concannon – Otago Museum, New Zealand

Craig Grant – Otago Museum
Nathalie Wierdak – Otago Museum

Early childhood interactions with science shape young learners’ self-conceptions and aspirations in science, as well as facilitating the development of skills that give long term learning advantages. Interestingly, recent evidence has demonstrated that even very young children are cognitively capable of hypothesis testing and causal inference, key aspects of the scientific method. However, this continues to be an audience that is poorly targeted by science engagement initiatives in New Zealand.

Here we describe the initial phases of the Kia Rapua – Science Playground pilot project aimed at very young learners (4-7 years old). Kia Rapua in Te Reo Māori means ‘Go Explore!’ and reflects the core idea behind the project – to create a playful environment that fosters scientific thinking by giving young children and their caregivers the ideas and materials to exercise their natural curiosity. The portable science playground will travel to four partner preschools around Dunedin.

A review of the literature provided an overview of best practice criteria for designing science activities for the very young, which have been applied to the playground design. Science for this age group is a process of exploration and questioning. Clear scientific concepts underpin the five broad themes of the playground interactives, which have been drawn from the children’s environment and are designed to provide opportunity to be explored from multiple perspectives.

Early childhood educator workshops were developed around the same criteria and run with 15 preschool partner educators. Pre workshop surveys and workshop evaluation indicate that before the workshops participants had a very narrow concept of what science is and little confidence in their ability to develop their own science activities. The workshops received positive feedback and further requests indicate a continued demand. These evaluation results will be discussed as well as the challenges of applying best practice theory to practical playground design.

Presentation type: Visual talk
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice