Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum Gets Researchers Quickly Up to Speed with Family Audiences

Karine Thate, Museum of Science
Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum

Seeing a child’s face light up with excitement as they interact with real-life scientists and grad students at your outreach event is always a pleasure.  Many researchers are interested in sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm with the public, but they typically need some prior guidance and practice working hands-on with public audiences. With this in the mind, the NISE Network created the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum (SSW&P), a time-efficient, low-cost, low-commitment solution to preparing researchers for successful interactions with youth and community audiences. Last fall, the NISE Net also offered a limited number of Implementation Grants to help institutions adopt and host the SSW&P in advance of their NanoDays or other outreach events.

Six NISE Net partners signed on to host the SSW&P during the winter and spring 2016:  Hardin Engelhardt from Marbles Kids Museum, Tracy Englert from University of Southern Mississippi, Sarah Fisk from SUNY Poly CMOST, Brian Pollock from Cincinnati Museum Center, Suzi Taylor from Montana State University, and Nick Wethington from spectrUM Discovery Area. Together, they prepared 116 researchers to light up those visitor faces with the joy of discovery.

What we learned...

The workshop providers received favorable responses and great feedback in their evaluation surveys.  All of Brian Pollock's respondents said they would recommend the workshop to their peers.  "I loved seeing the surprise and awe on the kids’ faces when they aren’t expecting what they observe," wrote one participant.


Picture above left: Montana State University graduate students practice with peers during their Feb 2016 SSW&P. 
Picture above right: SSW&P participants at work in the spectrUM Discovery Area.

The NISE Net partners also felt it improved the experience for their visitors. Hardin Engelhardt said "Our volunteers come with lots of content knowledge, but are less experienced with how to share science with young children through hands-on exploration, questioning, and sharing information at the appropriate level.  The workshop helped them gain those skills and deliver more effectively on the floor." Tracy Englert said "I noticed an overall level of comfort and enthusiasm in the volunteers. This in turn made the visitor experience enjoyable and fun."

Picture right: MSU graduate students lead NanoDays activities for students at Irving Elementary’s afterschool program.

Developing stronger ties...

We had theorized that the SSW&P would contribute to the development of stronger, more sustainable partnerships between research centers and informal science learning organizations.  Our partners confirmed this result:

  • "It's a formal opportunity for us to improve a program that we’d already been running… it’s paid off in spades to have a ready-made curriculum to provide professional development to our volunteers from the university." - Nick Wethington, spectrUM Discovery Area
  • "The SSW&P offers a framework for partnerships with universities and scientists…[It] has been included as a portion of a grant that we’ve applied for. It is also part of our future plans to engage more university and industry partners in our programs." – Brian Pollock, Cincinnati Museum Center
  • "This program was a great catalyst for forming a partnership with our Graduate School. We now have opened the door for future science communication & outreach programs." – Suzi Taylor, Montana State University

Interested in hosting the SSW&P at your institution?

Download your copy of the Planning & Implementation Guide for the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum here.  It includes everything you need from sample agendas, planning timelines, facilitator commentary, media, handouts, and survey instruments.  Our workshop providers all agreed the guide has been helpful, noting: "It was terrific! Comprehensive and useful" and "I didn’t have to create my own curriculum! Everything was right there."  

The Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum Final Report 2016 is also available to view and download below, which describes the cumulative results of the implementation and dissemination strategies for the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum professional development program. 

Contact Karine Thate ([email protected]) or Carol Lynn Alpert ([email protected]) if you have any questions.  


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