This blog has been adapted from the University of the West of England (UWE) Science Communication Unit (SCU) blog, where I study an MSc in Science Communication and also work with the BoxEd team, delivering schools outreach. If you’d like to know more about the unit, please click here.
The Science Communication Unit (SCU) at UWE has been involved in developing an ambitious new outreach programme for secondary schools in the region called BoxEd. We’ve worked with over 4,000 school pupils in the last 18 months, finding tardigrades, hacking robots and solving murder mysteries with science, technology, engineering and maths.
The idea behind the project is not only to engage local communities and raise pupil aspirations. Our plan is to refocus outreach within the university so that it no longer competes with student learning or research time, but instead functions to develop undergraduate skills and to showcase UWE’s cutting edge research.
The outreach activities are developed by specialists, but then led by undergraduate students and student interns, who develop confidence and skills. UWE Bristol students can use their outreach activities to count towards their UWE Futures Award, and in some degree courses we are looking at ways that outreach projects can provide credit and supplement degree modules. Researchers can use the activities to increase their research impact and share their work with internal and external audiences – getting students excited about research through explaining it to young people. Enabling students to lead outreach – including Science Communication Masters and Postgraduate Certificate students – means that the university delivers more activities, reaching more schools and giving more school pupils the chance to participate.
The brainchild of UWE Bristol staff Mandy Bancroft and John Lanham, the development stages of the project have been led by Debbie Lewis and Corra Boushel from the Faculty for Health and Applied Science and the Science Communication Unit with support from Laura Fogg Rogers. The project is now being expanded into a university-wide strategy with cross-faculty support to cover all subject areas, not only STEM.
Katherine Bourne is another student in the SCU, studying towards a PGCert in Science Communication whilst also working on the BoxEd project. She has been involved with promoting BoxEd to current MSc students who will develop new activities to go into schools as part of their Science in Public Spaces module, run by Emma Weitkamp and Erik Stengler. Special thanks go to Kath, as well as to Jack Bevan, a graduate intern also employed on the project and the Student Ambassadors involved with delivering the sessions in schools.