I'm a Scientist! Get me out of here! STFC (Science & Technology Facilities Council)
I’m a Scientist aims to bring real science to life for students, helping them to engage with science and develop discussion and critical thinking skills. It is designed to cover key concepts in How Science Works and is supported by lesson plans, information sheets and resources for different ages and ability levels, between years 7 – 13
The specific objectives of I’m a Scientist include have over 500 students take part and a high percentage of these students actively participating. Get schools students engaging with Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Summary of activity:
The November event ran with two zones (Subatomic and Zinc), sponsored by the STFC. In each zone there were 5 scientists, who spoke to students via 36 live chat sessions and answered 1,546 questions. A total of 582 school students from 31 schools took part, with 86% of students actively participating in live chats, asking questions and voting. Over the course of two weeks, students cast 521 votes for their favourite scientists and the winner in each zone was announced at the end of the event.
Being online, the project collects megabytes of data and we used this data to capture statistics based on students taking part in the live chat sessions, asking questions and casting votes. We also collected feedback surveys from teachers, students and scientists. Using both statistics and feedback, we produced short summary evaluation documents for each zone to help scientists illuminate the impact of taking part.
What went well:
1.A higher rate (80%) of students actively participated, compared to 80% in the June 2011 I’m a Scientist event.
2.It encouraged discussions about a wide range of themes within STFC research areas, from time travel to neutrinos. This challenged scientists within and beyond their areas of research.
3.Students felt empowered to ask questions and engage with scientists.
What was learned:
1. You get more input from quieter students using online engagement, as typing a question is less intimidating than standing up in class
2. Young people are used to 'socialising' online, so it seems like a friendly space to them.
3. Getting students talking to REAL scientists makes it much more engaging then textbook exercises.
Top tips and advice for others
1. Previous participants word of mouth is your best marketing, if you focus on making the experience a great one.
2. Twitter is a great way of spreading the word about your event and also keeping in contact with your potential audiences and with participants. In the 2010 events, perhaps 20% of our scientists were on twitter, which helped build a buzz about it, but it also gave us a real time feedback mechanism if there were any problems
3. If you are developing resources for teachers, consult some actual teachers early on, and repeatedly! We recruited a teacher panel and they were invaluable – we were able to develop resources that met real teaching needs and worked brilliantly in the classroom. It's about what they want, not what you want to give them!