The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is a free, week-long festival that celebrates cutting edge UK science. It offers a programme of talks, demonstrations, and performances alongside 22 exhibits of hands-on science and technology. I went to scoop out some examples of good engagement practice, with our engagement reflection points to hand.
The ‘What’s in your breakfast?’ activity, from the ‘In your element‘ group, is great for linking chemistry to peoples’ everyday lives. When I approached, I was initially asked what I had for breakfast. This question put me at ease as it was easy to answer, and it didn’t need or assume any prior science knowledge. It also hooked me in as I wondered why they wanted to know. Using tablets to input my breakfast and finding out the chemical elements that appear in different foods, and are essential for life, was really interesting and not something I’d typically think about. The activity made the periodic table accessible and relatable, and also opened up the conversation that chemicals make up everything we eat and drink.
The ‘Farming for the Future’ game, from the ‘Take a bite out of climate change’ group, is perfect for rewarding people for behaving scientifically and for using science skills and knowledge. The game, guided by a facilitator, gets visitors to play the role of farmer and make choices that can help create a more sustainable farm. It really worked to generate discussion, promote science talk and break down the jargon associated with climate change and farming. Being in the farmers shoes, was exciting and I was made to realise that I knew more and could generate valid ideas to deal with the issues the farm was facing. It related the issues real farmers have with the growing issues surrounding food, sustainability and our world.
As part of the ‘Super biomaterials to fight super bugs’ exhibit I played a game to destroy ‘superbugs’. I got to race a partner which hooked me in, and in the process, learnt about how we can make materials repel bacteria. The prize I won was their ‘Bad Bugs’ tops trumps style pack of cards. These cards extended my visit as they showed which bugs led to certain infections, something alluded to during the game I played there. I also got to share, with friends, the cards and the cool fact that new plastic coatings, which the researchers are working on, could lead to reduced hospital infections, saving lives and money.
Our science engagement reflection points help us critically think about our audiences’ experience. They can be used as a tool to aid development of, or, reflection on, any engagement experience. If you have some examples of great science engagement you’d like to share, get in touch!