The “third space” exists between the cultural worlds of school and community. The informal science communication sector, because of its diversity, can provide such a third space: a place within which the very different discourses of the school system and the everyday world are reconciled. The informal sector has the capacity to provide for engagement to bridge these discourses but this space is presently quite empty, with only incoherent and sporadic attempts to provide for such engagement. Many suggestions have been made to policy makers about increasing the engagement of schools with parents, scientists and industry. This presentation will describe two Australian initiatives operating in this third space. The first is a unique program for the mothers of high school students: called “Science for Mums “ It enables mothers with little or no science to become engaged with, and assist, their children’s science at high school level. Parents, in particular mothers, often have little knowledge of or confidence in science, yet their involvement and interest in their children’s school work can have a positive effect on their children’s choice of subjects for study or their future career. At the high school level, parental involvement can be particularly problematic. “Science for Mums” was intended to facilitate conversations about science between parents and their teenage children. A hands-on approach to learning, using easily available materials, ensured that most activities could be repeated in the home environment. The approach was gender-specific and culturally appropriate to the age group. Evaluations indicate that there was a range of positive outcomes, particularly in the reported level of parent–child discussions. The second is the largest outreach program in the world. Operating out of Questacon, Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre, the “Science Circus” consists of a travelling exhibition, school science shows and career showcasing. Now in its 25th year, it travels across Australia focusing on remote and regional areas, including indigenous groups. The program has inspired many to engage with science and evaluations indicate that its influence is both profound and long lasting. Emphasis is placed on family engagement through careful timing of the exhibitions and strong links to the schools. Both these programs will be described and evaluated in this presentation, together with suggestions about further population of the “third space”.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science communication in the third space

Susan Stocklmayer   The Australian National University, Australia

Michael Gore   The Australian National University, Australia

The “third space” exists between the cultural worlds of school and community. The informal science communication sector, because of its diversity, can provide such a third space: a place within which the very different discourses of the school system and the everyday world are reconciled. The informal sector has the capacity to provide for engagement to bridge these discourses but this space is presently quite empty, with only incoherent and sporadic attempts to provide for such engagement. Many suggestions have been made to policy makers about increasing the engagement of schools with parents, scientists and industry. This presentation will describe two Australian initiatives operating in this third space. The first is a unique program for the mothers of high school students: called “Science for Mums “ It enables mothers with little or no science to become engaged with, and assist, their children’s science at high school level. Parents, in particular mothers, often have little knowledge of or confidence in science, yet their involvement and interest in their children’s school work can have a positive effect on their children’s choice of subjects for study or their future career. At the high school level, parental involvement can be particularly problematic. “Science for Mums” was intended to facilitate conversations about science between parents and their teenage children. A hands-on approach to learning, using easily available materials, ensured that most activities could be repeated in the home environment. The approach was gender-specific and culturally appropriate to the age group. Evaluations indicate that there was a range of positive outcomes, particularly in the reported level of parent–child discussions. The second is the largest outreach program in the world. Operating out of Questacon, Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre, the “Science Circus” consists of a travelling exhibition, school science shows and career showcasing. Now in its 25th year, it travels across Australia focusing on remote and regional areas, including indigenous groups. The program has inspired many to engage with science and evaluations indicate that its influence is both profound and long lasting. Emphasis is placed on family engagement through careful timing of the exhibitions and strong links to the schools. Both these programs will be described and evaluated in this presentation, together with suggestions about further population of the “third space”.

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