Science capital on the road

I’ve recently attended a training session delivered by the Science Museum’s Enterprising Science project team around science capital and how we can use it in our work. Due to this training my understanding of the research around science capital has deepened; more importantly my understanding of what I can personally do to aid the engagement of my audience and grow their science capital has massively improved.

I work in the Science Museum’s Outreach Team. As part of my role I go to schools to deliver science shows and workshops, share science demos at festivals and develop new shows. My audience is by and large students ranging from ages 3-13.

I am currently writing a workshop about light, which consists of a short demonstration with a PowerPoint presentation before the students rotate through activity stations. The perfect opportunity to utilise the science capital training I recently received.

My main take-home messages from the training which will shape this workshop are:

1) WE do science

Science is not just for scientists! I’ve become aware of just how often I accidentally alienate my audience by stating, for example, “scientists think gravity acts on all objects in the same way”. This statement is true, but it doesn’t just apply to scientists, we all think this about gravity. By making a simple change to using inclusive nouns, for example “we think gravity acts on all objects in the same way” I can help my audience feel more involved in science throughout my show.

2) Science is people friendly

Put people in with the science! I talk about telescopes in my workshop, and I had considered using an image of a high-power telescope. However, by using an image of someone looking through a telescope I immediately humanise the science and put people at the forefront, which makes this more relatable. The power in images of people using scientific equipment had never occurred to me, but now I’ve been made aware of it, it’s glaringly obvious. I want to make my pictures as inclusive as possible by not using images of people that look like stereotypical scientists. The aim here is that hopefully my audience will think ‘that could be me’ opposed to ‘scientists do that, not me’.

Before

Telescope

After

Telescope 2

3) YOU do science

In all my workshops my audience will use the same skills scientists do. I need to make sure I highlight the skills that we all share. Highlighting where my audience are using team work, problem solving, creativity or engineering skills and mentioning that these are skills scientists and engineers use every day is one way I can make them feel they are scientists! Positive reinforcement like this should give them confidence, hopefully leaving them feeling like ‘I can do this’ or ‘I want to find out more’.

There are many ways to adapt my shows to ensure I don’t isolate my audiences from science, but these are my top three. I hope to continue to build on these techniques using my science capital knowledge. At the very least, I feel I am headed in the right direction.

Brittany Camp, Outreach Developer

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