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By Maxwell Hamilton on

Reflecting on Explainer-led activities

This summer the Science and Industry Museum had a full programme of solar related shows and workshops to coincide with the new temporary exhibition ‘The Sun’. Maxwell Hamilton reflects on the application of science capital research in this programme of Explainer-led activities and beyond.

‘Plant Power’ was one of the main workshops run this summer and proved to be particularly popular, especially with families. This workshop allowed children and grown-ups alike to get their hands dirty, planting their own seeds.

“Everyone has seen and eaten plants, and this made linking the ‘plant power’ workshop to everyday examples quite straightforward. It was a gateway to open up conversations about other STEM topics, including the sun which we currently have an exhibition about. We could easily show to visitors that they already have valuable knowledge and skills, which they may not previously have thought of as ‘STEM’”

Hazel Blake, Explainer

Reflecting on this activity through discussion with the Explainer team, it became apparent that the principles of science capital and our engagement reflection points had been embedded throughout this workshop.

The activity started with a simple puzzle where visitors matched different plants to the environment that they could survive in which encouraged lots of interesting science talk between families and groups. This was followed by designing a small plant pot and planting some mystery seeds, which helped to highlight and talk about different STEM skills that visitors already had. As every participant got to take their plant pot home, the experience is extended for weeks, if not months through caring for their seeds and seeing their plants grow.

The other workshop which took place over the summer was ‘Sun Detectors’. This activity used UV beads which changed colour under UV light to make bracelets.

“The sun detectors workshop helped visitors make links between ideas they may not previously have related. Everyone has experienced the sun but may not know how or why it can be dangerous. Sun detectors help build on visitors’ prior knowledge and make links between their experience and STEM through the use of everyday examples.”

Peter Jeffrey-Bourne, Explainer

Challenging stereotypes of who does science was something that all the Explainers felt passionately about. Due to the historical lack of diversity in science, Explainers are conscious to seek out and tell the lesser told stories about those we do not typically associate with STEM. One way this is done is through the main public show – ‘The Science Showdown’.

A section of the engineering themed science showdown showing the diversity of people who do STEM.

In this show a trio of people who use STEM are introduced to the audience. This could be anyone who uses STEM, from historical to present day scientists and engineers, to people who simply use STEM in their job or hobby. This offers the opportunity to widen the perception of who does science; showing that people from all walks of life make use of STEM and not just traditional ‘scientists’.

‘STEM ambassadors are a group of diverse, local people using STEM in their jobs. They can bring content alive and make those links to everyday life. They all have contagious passion for STEM and up-to-date industry knowledge about their sector and are a fantastic resource for the museum.’

Jenny Lobo, STEM Ambassador Engagement Officer

The Learning and Explainer Team at the Science and Industry Museum are doing a fantastic job of reflecting on the science engagement reflection points when they develop and deliver their workshops and shows. The continual process of development, reflection and refinement means we are constantly producing a public programme which is accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Have you had a great experience with an Explainer or got great example of science capital in practice? If so we’d love to hear about it.

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