Research has shown that, if we are to encourage more young people to pursue science, then we need to build their ‘science capital’.
Science capital includes what science you know, how you think about it, who you know and what sort of everyday engagement you have with science.
The Science Oxford Centre is the first hands-on science centre in the UK whose entire exhibit content and educational programme is founded on an evidence-based ethos (see Thinking, Doing, Talking Science). Young people are encouraged to understand science as a creative process of discovery as well as a body of knowledge. They also get to experience science as something that is both accessible and challenging.
The support from EET has helped the Centre develop, test and establish a regular Live Lab programme of activities that the team can sustainably deliver via partnerships, volunteers and casual staff. It has also provided opportunities for young people and their families to meet and talk with people who work in science as a great way to showcase the diversity of careers that use STEM skills.
“The EET team took the time to engage in dialogue with us and to understand what makes us tick and what we can offer. We were able to properly explore the areas of overlapping interest and discuss how their funding could add value, maximise impact over time and support the dissemination of learning.”
Bridget Holligan, Director of Education and Engagement, Science Oxford Centre
Science is for everyone
Young people get to conduct mini experiments of their own, with fun ideas to try at home. Activities range from exploring the structure of blood using a centrifuge, to exploring mammal skulls, completing tasks with different model glasses to understand more about visual impairments, and snail racing.
Since the launch of the project in August 2021, the Centre has seen an increase in repeat visits and has developed new partnerships with researchers from local university departments. It has also delivered new and much-needed science communication training to enhance public engagement skills for people with a STEM based career.
Gathering evidence of impact is fundamental to both the Science Oxford Centre and EET.
The Centre has partnered with an external evaluator to develop and use data collection tools that are appropriate for qualitative analysis of short ‘drop-in’ interactions, as well as tracking visitor choices and motivations over time.
In the short term, the Centre is interested in how the Live Lab activities make people feel and what they might do next as a result. In the medium and long term, the Centre wants to know how activities lead to the take-up of other opportunities so that skills, self-efficacy, and interest in science flourish over time. The project team plans to disseminate learnings to the wider informal science learning sector starting from July 2022.