Marcel Jaspars, School of Natural and Computing Sciences, tells us about how he, Jen Scott and Barbara Gorgoni (Public Engagement with Research Unit) arrange for 80 students from across eight academic Schools to visit the Aberdeen Science Centre.

Below, hear how Marcel responds to some questions about how the students and the Aberdeen Science Centre benefit from these visits.

 

 

What did you do?

 

 

We take the SX3002 ‘Science and Society’ class to the Aberdeen Science Centre to understand how such a centre works. The students are asked to provide a critique of the overall feel of the centre and comment on a specific exhibit. The next week they provide feedback to the CEO of the Aberdeen Science Centre who responds to each of these comments. The students complete a group report which includes the elements above as well as a proposal for a new exhibit.

Why did you do it?

 

 

To give the students an opportunity to understand how such a public science centre functions, and the constraints given budget and audience types. They really feel they have an impact as some suggestions are taken seriously by the CEO and acted on to make positive changes to the Aberdeen Science Centre. This year the students will have an even bigger impact as the ASC has received a major funding boost to upgrade the building and the exhibits.

How did you develop the idea?

 

 

It was a suggestion from the staff of the Public Engagement with Research Unit who teach on the ‘Communicating Science’ part of this course. They have excellent links with the Aberdeen Science Centre and had the idea of inviting the CEO for the feedback session.

What were the challenges?

 

 

 

Initially the organisation was difficult – getting the students there, forming groups and getting them to give positive feedback to the CEO (we have a ‘warm-up’ session before she arrives). After a few years of this, the planning has become very smooth.

What were the benefits to you?

 

 

 

Enthusiasm of the students during and after the visit. The incredible creativity of the students in designing new exhibits. Being able to share our enthusiasm for public engagement with the students. Strengthening our partnership with ASC (who also benefited from the feedback and input of young adults, which is a difficult audience for them to engage with)

What was the impact on student learning?

 

 

 

Understanding how a science centre works and the limitations it faces. Learning how to give criticism in a positive way so that it is acceptable. Consideration of how to explain complex topics to different audiences. Allowing them to think creatively to design a new exhibit given a theme, an audience and a budget.

How did your students evaluate the experience?

 

 

 

Feedback is very positive and some students go on to have part-time jobs as ‘explainers’ at ASC or help with major public engagement events such as Chemistry week.

What did your students say? (feedback/comments from students to share?)

Students comment positively on the opportunity and experience gained.

What hints/tips do you have for others in the future?

 

Additional information?

Taking students out of the classroom is a very valuable learning experience and should not just be for those subjects that traditionally have field trips (eg geology, ecology).

For further information contact:

 

m.jaspars@abdn.ac.uk; j.scott@abdn.ac.uk