Discovering Science Club
Project ended December 2013 - website no longer active
• To stimulate quality family learning in science
• To facilitate primary age children’s engagement with science professionals
• To raise Black and Minority Ethnic (BME)engagement in science, targeting the African-Caribbean community in south London
Collaboration between parents, children and volunteers, to deliver a weekly programme of hands-on, practical and science-based activities. Activities would be on-site and off-site.
Summary of activity:
-Operating on a Saturday afternoon, scheduled bi-weekly onsite science activities based largely on British Science Association CREST materials as well as content led by science professionals or enthusiastic parents.
-Organised offsite attendance at science institutions and events such as Big Bang!
-Organised offsite visits to science related places of interest such as Space centre (Leicester) Ladywell Fields, Science Museum, RAF Museum, Big Bang Festival
-Arranged interviews with science professionals as part of Primary Engineers programme
-Showcased Club via Black History Month (Lewisham) 2012 and gained new members
-Read shortlisted books and contributed as a selected Royal Society Judging Panel for Young People in 2012 and 2013
• Weekly immediate feedback from children about their enjoyment and/or engagement with the session (throughout project)
• Members invited to use comment box at any time or to speak to volunteers (throughout project)
• Families given a “Family Outcomes” survey on joining and asked to return to this at the end of a term
• Exit Survey via Survey Monkey (at close of project)
What went well:
1. QUALITY FAMILY LEARNING TOOK PLACE: within a strong framework- the sessions had a clear start and end. Start with introducing the concepts and ended with children giving feedback and explaining some of their own observations during the session. Parents were encouraged to join in as participants and learners too.
2. WE ENGAGED WELL WITH COMMITTED PROFESSIONALS: through voluntary contribution of their time and generous sharing of their experience. We were often able to visit scientists in their working environments.
3. RAISED ENGAGEMENT OVER 23 MONTH PERIOD: with our the target audience were children from families of African-Caribbean descent. But this was widened for remaining 6 months as numbers were too small.
What was learned:
1. PRIMARY AGE CHILDREN- can be fully engaged with hands-on science learning and development of thinking.
2. OUR END OF SESSION PLENARY-(however brief) allowed an opportunity for reflection and it seemed important to make sure that this space for group feedback/learning was maintained.
3 VOLUNTEERING AND 'BIG SOCIETY' -Many social activities rely on goodwill and energy of a minority of people. It is possible to harness that motivation and goodwill for a limited time. Subject to the length of commitment required, it is essential that we have practical strategies for bringing in new people. The Club made a decision to close partly due to a limited number of committed people who were unable to continue past a certain point.
Top tips and advice for others
1. PROOF OF CONCEPT-The concept of African-Caribbean family learning was an ambitious one and was very hard to implement in a meaningful way, in the short-term. The numbers will never be huge- so this should not deter from trying...but
2. ...SIMPLE BUSINESS APPROACH REQUIRED TOO-have a cashflow plan (start with your eyes open); have a marketing plan that is implemented by a dedicated team of people (doesn’t matter how good the product/service is; you won’t reach attendance targets or income targets without this!!)...and finally, expect...
3. ...EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION-Member feedback (23% from 17 families) showed that families who were engaged are committed to continue their family learning through existing avenues and would welcome a return of the Club. Therefore the concept of family learning is welcomed. Good luck! ( We would welcome knowing how you get on if you decide to initiate a similar project!)