Background A senior scientist at Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute (HFI) set out to improve the communication skills of a group PhD scholars. Their challenge was to engage a group of 'teenagers'. He approached the Principal of Cheltenham Secondary College (CSC) and after consultation with biology teachers, they agreed to participate in project to increase the engagement and understanding of 'real science' for their high school students. The CSC students visited the scholars at the HFI for a lab tour and talk; later the HFI scholars visited the CSC students for a follow up talk and feedback on their communication.

Objective To articulate the ingredients of a successful and repeatable community engagement project between scientists and secondary school students.

Method I conducted semi‐structured interviews with HFI scholars, the senior scientist, the CSC principal and biology teachers. The interviews were conducted months after the event so responses were recollections and reflections.

Results The format meets the project's objective for scholars (professional development) and students (encounter 'real science') but it also achieved personal, professional and organisational benefits. Ingredients (applicable to both partners in the project)
1. Relationships foster engagement (social learning)
Participants talked about the relationships that had made as a back drop to the science and the communication they learned. Students formed a mentor relationship with the scholars, the scholars formed new networks with each other at HFI and teachers enhanced their connections with students and 'real science'.
2. Organisational support (values, resources, enablers and drivers) Management validated the project and it was acknowledged as core businesses, an alternative approach and not as an add– on.
3. Appropriate use of scientist and teacher expertise in time and space.
Conclusions Community engagement is not just an external public relations activity for scientific research institutions and secondary schools but has benefits for individual participants and internal organisational culture.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Young scientists (scholars) and secondary school teenagers (students) Ingredients for a successful, repeatable community engagement project

Andrea Horvath   Museum Victoria

Background A senior scientist at Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute (HFI) set out to improve the communication skills of a group PhD scholars. Their challenge was to engage a group of 'teenagers'. He approached the Principal of Cheltenham Secondary College (CSC) and after consultation with biology teachers, they agreed to participate in project to increase the engagement and understanding of 'real science' for their high school students. The CSC students visited the scholars at the HFI for a lab tour and talk; later the HFI scholars visited the CSC students for a follow up talk and feedback on their communication.

Objective To articulate the ingredients of a successful and repeatable community engagement project between scientists and secondary school students.

Method I conducted semi‐structured interviews with HFI scholars, the senior scientist, the CSC principal and biology teachers. The interviews were conducted months after the event so responses were recollections and reflections.

Results The format meets the project's objective for scholars (professional development) and students (encounter 'real science') but it also achieved personal, professional and organisational benefits. Ingredients (applicable to both partners in the project)
1. Relationships foster engagement (social learning)
Participants talked about the relationships that had made as a back drop to the science and the communication they learned. Students formed a mentor relationship with the scholars, the scholars formed new networks with each other at HFI and teachers enhanced their connections with students and 'real science'.
2. Organisational support (values, resources, enablers and drivers) Management validated the project and it was acknowledged as core businesses, an alternative approach and not as an add– on.
3. Appropriate use of scientist and teacher expertise in time and space.
Conclusions Community engagement is not just an external public relations activity for scientific research institutions and secondary schools but has benefits for individual participants and internal organisational culture.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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