University of Manchester, Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, National Space Academy
The vision of this two-year programme was to inspire a new sense of excitement among young people around the physical sciences by sharing the amazing stories and technologies of STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council). The 5 key goals for this national programme were:
1. To inspire and involve the key audiences with the physical sciences - from particle physics to astronomy
2. To help people of all ages and all backgrounds explore the physical sciences
3. To increase the visibility and approachability of STFC scientists and STFC facilities to the target audiences
4. To increase the public engagement skills and opportunities of STFC staff and STFC-related university researchers
5. To train science engagement professionals embedded in ASDC member organisations across the UK to engage the public with the latest in physical sciences, so they can continue to engage their 20 million visitors with STFC science and scientists into the future
Explore Your Universe was a fast-paced project which trained, equipped and supported ten partner science and discovery centres, and two STFC facilities to run a host of specially developed cutting-edge 'Explore Your Universe' schools workshops, family shows, activities and scientist-led events.
After the project team were brought together, a piece of research was undertaken to assess what type of activities were already taking place relating to this area of research. A Charette (an intensive planning session) was held where expert scientists from across the UK came to contribute their ideas. A set of equipment (the kit) was then developed along with a family show, a master class for schools aged 14-16, a schools workshop for ages 10-13 and a Meet the Expert format. Science centre staff and scientists were then trained to deliver the workshops and participate in 'Meet the Expert' events. These ten science centres engaged and involved 156,880 children and adults with the project’s exceptional hands-on activities, experiments, schools workshops, public shows and Meet the Expert events. The full set of project materials is licensed under creative commons and is available to all on the Explore Your Universe website. The science centres have now incorporated the activities and stories of STFC science in the Explore Your Universe programme into their on-going schools and public programmes. This ranges from running the whole suite of schools workshops to using the equipment and stories of STFC science in multiple workshops and family activities. The programme was fully evaluated by academics, making it the UK’s largest multi-centre study of the impact of informal science learning.
The goal of the national meeting at the end of the project was to bring together the staff from all the science centres and facilities involved in the project. To this end, the team held a lively one-day gathering at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in November 2013 (and subsequently at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 2014 and CERN in 2015) with the theme of 'looking to the future'. Around 25 people were at this meeting and together they shared their innovations and new ways to use the equipment, new experiments to try and solutions to problems. Each project participant gave a presentation on what they had achieved and shared their ideas on how they would be taking the project forward into the future.