Explore Your Universe: Atoms to Astrophysics

About the project

Taken from the executive summary from the ASDC final report:

'The participating scientists, the science centres and the project team should feel proud of their contribution to what has clearly been a unique, highly engaging, enjoyable and mind-changing experience. The Explore Your Universe programme met its aims of enabling a broad audience to engage with contemporary science, and also supported the capacity-building efforts and skill development of the individuals and institutions involved.' - King's College London evaluation report

'Explore Your Universe: from Atoms to Astrophysics' was a cutting-edge national strategic science engagement programme developed and delivered by The Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and other experts.

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. The academic evaluation by experts at King's College London confirmed that the programme had indeed been highly engaging and had met its aims.

Explore Your Universe is part of a wider strategic partnership between ASDC and STFC that brings together some of the most fascinating and diverse cutting-edge science in the country with the talents and infrastructure of the nation's largest network of dedicated science engagement organisations who together attract 20 million visitors every year.

To develop the programme, ASDC worked in partnership with engagement experts in this area from The National Space Centre and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre as well over 70 scientists and engineers working in the physical sciences and STFC-related science. To deliver the programme, ten UK partner science centres and museums were selected, trained, equipped and supported to run the activities with their school and family visitors.

As a central part of the programme, ASDC and partners developed a bespoke, high-quality, modular set of equipment, which included over 50 items ranging from a solar telescope, thermal imaging camera and 'a particle accelerator in a salad bowl' to meteorites, a cloud chamber, a pre-loaded iPad and a piece of the particle detector at CERN. Each of the ten science centres and two STFC facilities received the equipment along with a full training and on-going support programme.

The training programme included a two-day residential training academy for staff of the ten science centres where they learned to use all the equipment and to run the Explore Your Universe curriculum-linked schools workshops for 10 - 13 year olds, the bespoke masterclass for 14 - 16 year olds, the family show and meet the expert events. They were also given marketing resources, evaluation resources, all the powerpoints and images for workshops and marketing and a full training handbook with all these resources within. ASDC also set up a bespoke website (www.exploreyouruniverse.org) and social media streams to enhance collaborations. In addition, over 50 scientists and engineers working on STFC science were trained at one-day public engagement academies and linked up with the science centres for meet the expert events.

In their first year of delivery, the ten partner science centres engaged over 122,546 children and adults in exceptional hands-on activities, experiments, schools workshops, public shows, meet the expert sessions and a variety of other events at UK science centres. As part of this, 45,852 people met an expert engineer or scientist, 59,236 took part in the half-hour family show in a science centre, and 9,400 school students aged 10-13 took part in a one hour workshop. In addition, 3,174 school students aged 14-16 spent two hours exploring the latest science in the schools masterclasses, 1,225 teachers and 3,659 young people joined activities with brownies, guides, cubs, scouts.

In addition (and not included in the numbers above), 7,866 people took part in Explore Your Universe activities at two STFC facilities and 26,468 people took part in the Stargazing and World Space Week Programmes administered by ASDC as part of this partnership - bringing the overall project total to 156,880 people.

Explore Your Universe was fully evaluated by academics at King's College London and the programme was shown to be highly engaging and hugely successful. Overall, the evaluation programme involved 4,895 people including 3,883 students and 369 teachers making it the UK's largest multi-centre study of the impact of informal science learning.

The in-depth evaluation results are in a separate independent report authored by King's College London available here (8.2Mb). The highlights are included in this report including quotes they gave from the qualitative analysis. In addition the evaluation confirmed the programme exceeded the target number of participants by 53% and that elements of Explore Your Universe are now embedded in the activities and workshops at science centres across the UK who will continue to celebrate STFC science into the future.

Evaluation results from students aged 14-16 after a workshop

Their teachers said...

The ten science and discovery centres selected to take part in project are:

View Explore Your Universe Partner Organisations in a larger map

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