Explore Your Universe (EYU) is a national programme celebrating the physical sciences developed by the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
EYU began in 2012 and in the first year of Phase 1, 156,880 children and adults took part in events at 10 science and discovery centres and two STFC facilities. Phase 2, which began in 2014, saw 184,834 visitors taking part in events at 10 more centres. Phase 3 started in April 2016 and finished in March 2018. In total, 39,273 people participated in Explore Your Universe activities, events and workshops in 14 science and discovery centres.
Evaluation of Phase 1
The independent evaluation by King's College London examined the impact on the first 3,883 students and 369 teachers (4895 people) who took part in the activities, making it the UK's largest multi-centre dataset of the impact of informal science learning.
Evaluation of Phase 2 was also led by Professor Justin Dillon. Specific evaluation objectives for Phase 2 included the requirement to look for evidence of any differential impact related to age (with focus on younger children age 7-10), gender or levels of deprivation.
Phase 3 of Explore Your Universe has just been completed, engaging 39,273 children and adults, largely from underserved communities, in 14 regions of the UK and across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Phase 3 aimed to increase the value-for-money, sustainability and legacy of the Explore Your Universe Programme, further extending the reach into disadvantaged and underserved schools and communities to engage those who are remote from STEM.
11% of participants were evaluated - 213 teachers and 4,282 students took part in the evaluation.
Boys and girls were equally positive about the activities with some slight differences for some aspects.
Students from schools in areas of higher deprivation were slightly more positive about the activities than students from schools in areas of lower deprivation although both groups were overwhelmingly positive.
The main findings are as follows:
Students from schools in areas of higher deprivation (91%) were slightly more positive about the activities than students from schools in areas of lower deprivation (88%).
In total, 79% of students felt inspired by the activities. More primary school students (87%) were inspired than secondary school students (75%).
More students from schools in areas of higher deprivation (83%) were inspired than students from schools in areas of lower deprivation (80%).
Three-quarters of students said that they would tell friends and family about the activities with female students being more positive, especially those from primary schools.
More than half the students reported that they had ¬never used the equipment in the activities before.
More than half the students were more likely to consider a career in STEM after taking part in the activities (53%). The likelihood was greater for primary than secondary students. Similarly, male students were more encouraged by the activities than were female students.
Female students participating in careers events were more positive than male students, and students who attended more deprived schools were more positive about the activity than students who attended less deprived schools.
Students liked the hands-on nature of the activities and enjoyed using sometimes novel equipment.
Overall, 93% of the teachers gave a positive evaluation of the activities. And almost all teachers (98%) would recommend these activities to other teachers.
The funding for visiting the centre was crucial for teachers; if the cost is covered then over 90% of teachers reported that they would take students to a science centre or arrange an outreach visit. With no cost cover this percentage dropped to 30% and 43%, respectively.
Teachers from more deprived schools were more positive about the content and the expertise of staff than those who work in less deprived schools.
Most of the teachers did not know about STFC before the activity (88%).
All centres benefitted substantially from the funding which allowed them to engage with new schools or to strengthen existing relationships. Some centres had identified strategies to ensure that these links could be maintained after the project finished. Many centres seem to have benefitted from a focus on outreach to schools and, in one case, to a prison. Centre staff felt more confident in delivering EYU-type activities beyond their own institution.
The kit was uniformly valued as one of the major legacies of the project.
Participating centres chose to organise outreach events involving visits to schools or other locations and/or careers events involving local and national employers. Some centres chose to provide bursaries so that schools could take part in events that they would not normally have been able to afford.
Total Numbers of participants in Explore Your Universe Phase 3:
13,373 students took part through either outreach (8836), bursary (4085) or careers (452) events
"Explore Your Universe has been one of the best projects we have worked on. The kit we received is of the highest quality and has been commented on by science teachers. They are greatly enthused about the demonstrations they can carry out which cannot take place in their classrooms. Teachers have also reported that their pupils are really enthusiastic about the workshops - even those that are usually uninterested in science. I would congratulate the team that created this project - it has become one of our best received projects." - Louise Smith, Chief Executive, Dundee Science Centre
"Explore Your Universe forms an excellent bridge between the cutting edge research and development of STFC and the varied learning environments of the science centres involved." - Kierann Shah, Project Manager, National Space Academy
"Taking part in EYU has boosted our offer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich by giving us access to top class equipment that we could not usually justify would not usually have. One of the most important and useful things that this project has done is it has created new links between science and discovery centres and also working scientists in various institutions around the county allowing us all to quickly and regularly share best practice. This is something that is invaluable when working in the busy world of science and discovery centres." - Liz Roche, Education Manager, Royal Observatory Greenwich
"Explore Your Universe has enabled us to capture the imaginations of our visitors through inspiring and challenging science demonstrations. From meteorites and thermal imaging to solar telescopes and atomic cloud chambers, the resources have been awe-inspiring and highly effective at grabbing the attention of our visitors. The support and training from the ASDC has been invaluable and the opportunity for us to engage in a UK-wide partnership to engage people of all ages in science is something we would be keen to continue in the future." -Stephen Breslin, Chief Executive, Glasgow Science Centre
Quotes from the Academic Evaluations
"It has opened my eyes to ways in which we can extend and alter our offer to educational groups and the general public."
"Being able to present our visitors with cutting edge information has increased our position as a place where people can engage with CURRENT science"
"It has been a great chance for me to embark on a project with many different elements safe in the knowledge that there has been a good level of support available from [my institution] ASDC and other science centres involved."