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Enhancing STEM Academics' Public Engagement Skills

Lead Institution: University of Bristol
Collaborating with: Graphic Science, Lighting Up Learning Ltd

What Next?

This project set out to enable Masters, PhD students and STEM academics in the South West to become more effective STEM Ambassadors, developing their transferable public engagement skills through activities and events that enhance the University of Bristol's high profile work on volcanoes and earthquakes.

The project built on the recognition that many scientists do not have the skills to interact effectively with primary school students (Key Stage 1 - 3 pupils). As such, two training seminars were devised to provide continuous professional development opportunities for staff and postgraduates across STEM-related departments in primary school public engagement. These seminars were supported by the development of a Guide to Delivering Effective STEM Public Engagement

Knowledge and good practice arising from the seminars was used to create a range of volcano and earthquake outreach activities for primary schools, activities that designed and delivered by postgraduate students. The project has been hugely successful – it received additional funding from the National HE STEM Programme on two separate occasions so that its activities could be rolled out to other universities – and it will continue beyond the initial funding period.

Sustainability at the University of Bristol

Links have been made with the School of Geography and the School of Biosciences at the University of Bristol, with advice and training provided to these schools. The project leads will continue to offer training within the School of Earth Sciences, developing the public engagement part of the Masters Palaeobiology course. Training seminars will be provided to all new PhD and MSc cohorts on an annual basis, with materials produced by the project also enhancing the lectures on public engagement that MSc students receive.

Recently, a senior and respected lecturer in volcanology has agreed to keep the momentum going by recruiting more volunteers from volcanology and seismology. She has recruited eight volunteers to help develop and deliver her own workshop and will help ensure that both other workshops continue and that more people are involved and trained up.

Sustainability beyond the University of Bristol

Through the National HE STEM Programme's Practice Transfer Adopters' Scheme, seven universities across the country were able to 'adopt' the project and benefit from the leads' expertise. These adoption activities resulted in a plethora of new outreach activities for schools' audiences, and the up-skilling of academics in schools' outreach.

Into the future, the project leads will sell their package of training seminars to other universities across the UK. The seminars give good, baseline training on where schools are at and how to deliver high quality outreach workshops.

If you would like further information about the project or its on-going legacy, please contact the project lead, Ed Drewitt, as below:

Contact Ed Drewitt

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Staff involved

Ed Drewitt
Project lead, University of Bristol

Claire Dimond
Graphic Science

Nicholas Garrick
Lighting Up Learning Ltd