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Personal Views on Up-Skilling in Science Communication; An Erasmus+ KA1 Project

21/01/2020
Maria Farrugia
Valoda: EN

Article compiled by Des Cini- Education Programme Developer, who attended a job shadowing event at the Heureka Science Center; Vantaa, Finland.

Visitng Heureka was a truly fruitful experience. The main objectives of this trip were to experience how Heureka Science Centre in Finland operates and to discover in detail what it has to offer for its visitors. Furthermore, it was essential for me to learn their different methodologies towards effective engagement of various kinds of visitors and groups in Heureka events and activities.

 

 

I feel that together with my experience working at Esplora, this job shadowing experience helped me to understand better how other European science centres operate in order to achieve the best results. Furthermore, it helped me to recognize and identify whether various methods that we, as Esplora, are following are ideal or not and how we should improve our service and visitor experience on all levels of operations and education. Moreover, meeting new international colleagues is always helpful form a development point of view since this is a great opportunity to establish a resource sharing relationship.

As a team, we had the opportunity to experience how all teams work in unison to provide the best experience possible for the visitors. The sessions we’ve had include the development of the science centre, exhibition production, planetarium productions, workshops and science shows development and delivery, outreach and overseas productions and techniques, events organisation, audience development, customer services, communications, and sales and marketing. An overview of all these sessions was useful for our team since it gave us an overview of what makes a centre work in the best and most efficient way possible. Our approach wasn’t once that each of us stuck to its respective job objectives only, but rather getting to know what each of our teams does on a wider level. Since Esplora is relatively young when compared to science centres such as Heureka, we consider that our centre is currently in need of training within all teams in order to improve operationally on an organisational level.

When going on such training, the one important thing that one should avoid is comparing the two science centres involved, the hosting centre to the one back home. This is because, each science centre has different aims and objectives with respect to their main target audiences. Even though all science centres promote science communication and science engagement; the methods are different and vary depending to the local public. In our case, Esplora’s main target audience is currently schools and families. Although Heureka’s main audiences are similar, the Finnish education system varies vastly to that of Malta thus, reaching out through science might be somewhat easier than that of Malta due to the local perceptions of science. Rather than comparing, analysing what methods work best to Malta, and seeing what would benefit Esplora if a new similar system is implemented would be a wiser approach. An excellent example of this would be the exhibition production. Heureka has specific teams that create and develop new exhibition in-house. Esplora does not have the facilities and expertise in doing so thus we cannot compare on that aspect. However, we can see how they promote a new exhibition (irrelevant of how it was created and produced) or how they chose a new topic of exhibition whether it was a need or a want for the science centre. On the other hand, such experiences make us realise why our organisation holds back on certain implementations. We might take it for granted that our organisation is not following the what seems as easy procedures that other science centres do. We might not realise that each science centre is run by a different body. It can either be a charity, privately owned or like our case, EU funded and run by a governmental body. Limitations vary between all kinds of administrations thus some issues would need to be tackled through a set of procedures which might take a bit more time to be implemented.

The most amazing thing about external job shadowing experiences is the opportunity to expand our professional network. Meeting different people from different science centres helps in making our job easier. This is since, each individual working within this industry aims at reaching a global objective of popularising the sciences within schools and amongst the general public. Thus, reaching out to our offshore colleagues would be very helpful in order to look for best practices that worked best in different environments with different public mentalities.

After each experience, I feel that the team would feel boosted towards improving our workplace and productivity. This is only made possibly by the encouragement and empowerment of our management.

 

Article compiled by Maria Farrugia-Explainer, who attended a job shadowing event at the Heureka Science Center; Vantaa, Finland.

Between the 17th and 22nd of March 2019, I had the great opportunity to attend a job shadowing experience in Finland, at the Heureka Science Centre. This was my first ever experience of a job shadowing experience, as part of an Erasmus+ Project entitled ‘Up- Skilling in Science Communication’.

Given that it was also my first time visiting a foreign Science Centre, I had no expectations of what this Centre will be offering us. Apart from having time to explore the various exhibits covering the various concepts of Science, it was a first-hand experience for all of us in this centre. This experience was unique as we had the chance to spend a week with the professionals who run the Science Centre.

 

 

Our group consisted of five other staff members from our Science Centre, coming from different departments; Operations, Educational Programme Developers, Science Communicators, Communications and Marketing. On our first day of the week, we got to meet the Centre Director Mikko Myllykoski who welcomed us to their premises. With Mikko we got deeper into the types of visitors and how a science centre might appear to them, and what can be done to improve their experience. We had an interesting discussion on the reasons why people visit, and what do they learn when they interact with the exhibits.

During the week, there were times were the whole group attended common sessions, however there were other sessions where the group was divided according to their area they pertained. During another session, conducted by a senior inspirer we participated in a workshop named ‘Sour Art Workshop’. By using lemonade, blueberry juice, vinegar, water mixed with bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice, we can see a special kind of Art that develops through the reactions from these liquids. We had the opportunity to watch this workshop being presented to students. This same output was being delivered to a range of audiences, allowing us to see the difference in the communication techniques that the inspirer uses according to the audience.  

Volunteering is another essential aspect of this centre. There are around sixty volunteers; from students to seniors; who the majority are retired teachers that involve themselves on a regular basis. This idea of volunteering is somewhat new to our science centre and it provided us with more information on what we can adopt in our centre in the future.

We got to meet other inspirers that gave us an insight on their daily work schedule. We also discussed the style by which every inspirer is identified when performing a science show or a workshop. Silent shows and ‘stand- up comedy’ style shows are also available. I had the opportunity to watch other science shows; such as the Laser Show; which was a silent show and the focus was on the visuals, lights and music.  The subject was on Light; absorption, reflection and refraction. As a result of this visual show, the result is that light will always travel in a straight line, unless it hits something.

We also had the chance to take part in an optical illusion workshop that was delivered to a class of students. Although this workshop was delivered in Finnish, with the help of pictures and other visuals it was still easy to follow wat we had to do.

Throughout this week other meetings followed, on various subjects. They shared their way of events, such as Halloween, workshops that are still being developed and a maker space where the inspirers get to create their props using 3D printers.  During our experience, Heuerka had a temporary exhibition on Dinosaurs. Apart from the life size exhibits of dinosaurs and other activities, there was a busking activity called ‘the dino cart’. Having experience in doing busking, this was very interesting to learn how to better approach the visitors and interact with them. The inspirer conducting this activity was capable to transmit her knowledge to us in an enjoyable way.

During this active week, it was natural to compare what we were experiencing at Heureka, to what we are familiar with at Esplora Science Centre. However, while doing this one has to keep in mind that every Centre has its own mission and purpose.  As a group we discussed on what can be done to improve our roles, and Esplora’s working operations in general. The difference in their uniforms and other ideas which were new to us, such as doing science busking activities in the science centre’s cafeteria. We concluded this job shadowing experience with an evaluation. Sharing various ideas with Herueka’s staff and learning new techniques on how to better interact with the visit

It was a whole new experience for me; experiencing the working operations of another science centre, experiencing Finnish culture and life, and ultimately seeing how such an experience is beneficial in strengthening the communication between both Science Centres.

 

Article compiled by Clayton Cutajar- Senior Executive, who attended a job shadowing event at the Glasgow Science Center- United Kingdom

The purpose of this trip allowed the participants which were all coming from managerial roles within the Esplora Interactive Science Centre to observe numerous employees performing their wok duties at their place of employment similar to our Centre.

During this training we were given various information on the Audience Development team. With the use of carious surveys asking questions relating to the visit to the Glasgow Science Centre, the Audience Development team to do improve the visitor’s experience and get feedback on their centre. Various questions were asked which helped in getting direct feedback from their visitors such as rating the most popular areas/ halls at the centre relating to the highest levels of enjoyment.  From this survey they can see what their initial expectations were, comparing them to what they feel at the end of their visit. From these questions they can get an idea from where their visitors come from, the approximate age range of their visitors, ethnic groups and how did they get to know about this Science centre.

 

Having time to discuss with the experts and scientists is very beneficial, and we discussed various events that are hosted by Glasgow Science Centre such as the 50th Anniversary Moon- landing Event, Sci- Fi Sundays, Saturday Planetarium Nights and other cultural events and Late Events.   

New inspirations for Science shows and workshops came about as we had the chance to participate and see science shows and workshops. Among the different teams we shadowed was the Customer Care team which is made up of the Front of House and Explainers team who greed people upon entering the centre and are ready to serve the visitors as necessary. Another crucial team within the centre is the bookings team. We were given a run through of what their process entails. They send the respective program to the teachers beforehand. The Gadget shop was an ample example to get ideas on our own Esplora Gadget shop. Their gadget shop had a variety of products which were not only science related. Meeting the Duty Managers and shadowing their daily routine was necessary given that almost all participants are Duty Managers themselves. We also learned about a new booking system knows as Gamma.

This experience provided a realistic basis on career information at Glasgow Science Centre, as well as an opportunity for networking and sharing best practices. It was a very worthwhile experience and so many ideas came about and were later developed and implemented at our Science Centre with the purpose of opening further our door to various people that are not so likely to visit our interactive Science centre.

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