A new interactive science session entitled ‘Hands On Science’ had been developed within the Faculty of Applied Sciences, and piloted during National Science Week 2006. The session was designed to enhance the experience of students visiting the Faculty, taking advantage of the science communication expertise located therein. The purpose of the project was chiefly to test and evaluate the suggested event format.
‘Hands On Science’ was specifically NOT about teaching science to the participants; it was designed as a fun, interactive session that attempted to:
• make science more appealing to visiting school students
• provide an inspirational and memorable experience for participants
• portray a positive image of the Faculty specifically and UWE generally
Summary of activity:
Students were divided (according to schools) into three separate groups. Each group visited a different activity within the Faculty, rotating after approximately 1 hour. A lunch break was included between sessions 2 and 3. Student ambassadors were recruited to direct the visiting students between the venues. The ‘Hands On Science’ sessions involved practical science ‘busking’ demonstrations (previously developed by Graphic Science). Demonstrators had been previously trained by Dr Karen Bultitude to perform the demonstrations and effectively engage audiences. Each visiting group was split into four individual teams, each of which was allocated to a Demonstrator and a table. On each table was a set of worksheet cards and the equipment necessary to perform the demonstrations outlined on the worksheets.
Observations were made throughout the various sessions with comments and feedback also collected. Participants completed an evaluation questionnaire at the end of the day.
What went well:
1.Students were generally enthusiastic, paying close attention to the Demonstrators and were keen to get involved with the demonstrations themselves.
2.The facilitated worksheet format worked well, allowing the students to either choose to do the demonstrations themselves or follow directions from the Demonstrators.
3.The free pens were popular amongst the students, particularly when it was pointed out that they were made from recycled plastic car parts.
What was learned:
The ‘Hands On Science’ event was greatly enjoyed by all the participants and provided a fun and enthusiastic view of UWE in general and FAS in particular. Similar events should certainly be repeated in future, following similar formats to that described within this document and incorporating the recommendations outlined below.
The visiting students participated in four themed tables of interactive activities, with a total of 13 educational and entertaining science demonstrations on display. 11 of the 13 demonstrations were rated positively by the participants, with 6 rated with the top possible score (‘love it!’). The remaining two demonstrations received a ‘neutral’ average response, indicating an overall good impression of the event; although those demonstrations were perhaps not liked so much by the students, they still didn’t elicit a negative response.
The event works best with the following structure:
• no more than 5 students per table
• one trained FAS Student Demonstrator per table
• one person to oversee the event, introduce the format, keep things running to time, and liaise with teachers etc.
Well trained Demonstrators who are familiar with the demonstrations and skilled at facilitating discussion with the students are essential.
Top tips and advice for others
Suggested improvements to the event for future use are:
•Younger students (e.g. Years 7-9) are likely to find these sessions particularly appropriate. The scientific content needs to be increased for older students (Year 10 and Year 11).
•Short breaks between sessions (and/or longer sessions) would provide the Demonstrators time to clean up and prepare better between groups. If it is not possible to adapt the session timings then lunch should be provided for the FAS Student Ambassadors BEFORE all the visiting students are fed, so that the Demonstrators have sufficient time to clean up and reset the equipment before the next group of students arrive.
•The event needs to be carefully publicised to teachers to reflect the true nature of the activities on offer.
•One of the demonstrations (‘Shrinking Coin’) should be replaced by something more dynamic and longer lasting (e.g. ‘Ultra-Violent Observations’).
•One of the themed tables (‘Whizz Bang’) table needs to be carefully monitored to ensure that students get through all the content within the allocated time interval.
•It would be advantageous to include demonstrations that are more specifically appropriate to scientific subjects researched and/or taught within FAS.