Posts tagged ‘science communication’

January 16, 2015

National Living Lab is Back for Winter!

by Melissa Harding

Shape Game

After taking a holiday break, The National Living Lab science communication program is back for the new semester! Phipps visitors will once again have the opportunity to help real scientists gather data for their research.

In the National Living Lab (NLL) model, scientists in the fields of child developmental and psychological research conduct their studies at local museums, recruiting study participants from museum visitors. These researchers then work with museum educators to communicate  their work to visitors through innovative activities and one-on-one interactions with the researchers themselves. These studies occur on the museum floor, in plain view of visitors, allowing them to be drawn in to the process. Participants and viewers alike learn how science is applicable to their own lives, how research is conducted, what scientists look and act like and how to answer tough questions using the scientific method.  Studies on the effectiveness of this approach have found that watching children participate in research studies increases adult awareness of child development as a science and that one-on-one conversations between adults and scientists increase adult understanding of the scientific process and their overall scientific literacy.

At Phipps, we have been working with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Discovery Process Lab to provide a museum setting for their work. CMU’s Discovery Process Lab is concerned with exploring children’s scientific reasoning. Phipps is partnering with Dr. Audrey Kittredge, a post-doctoral researcher at the lab, as part of the National Living Lab program; Dr. Kittredge is committed to understanding children’s scientific thinking and problem-solving. In particular, her current studies focus on young children’s independent exploration and experimentation, and on the ways that teachers and other adults may shape children’s learning of these skills. Dr. Kittredge is also committed to making her work applicable both formal and informal educators and to providing them with useful knowledge to help better engage their students.

Dr. Kittredge and her research staff will be continuing to conduct research on a regular basis this winter and spring. In addition to collecting data for her work, she and her staff will also be engaging all visitors about their research and why it is important. The goal of the NLL program is not just to conduct research in a public setting, but for scientists to have face-to-face communication with the general public and give them access to science as it is happening. We are so excited to be able to provide our visitors with this exceptional educational experience!

To join Dr. Kittredge and her team at Phipps, check them out from 9:30 -11:30 am and 1:00 – 3:00pm:
January 17
February 7
February 21
March 21
March 28

You can also follow us on our Phipps Science Education and Research Facebook Page for updates!

Having researchers working in public settings, like museums and libraries, is a great way to involve families in the scientific process. Through participation in studies and interaction with scientists, visitors, researchers and museums can all benefit!

If you are a museum professional and would like to learn more about a Living Lab hub near you, check out the National Living Lab Initiative.

To learn more about the National Science Foundation, click here!

The above photo was taken by Science Education and Research staff.

 

 

September 24, 2014

Save the Dates: Meet Botany in Action Research Fellows at Phipps this Month!

by Melissa Harding

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meet Phipps’ Botany in Action (BIA) Fellows and enjoy presentations about their adventures as global field scientists studying the relationships between people, plants, health and the planet at this special one-day event, free with Conservatory admission.

Members Only: Peek Behind the Petals
Saturday, Sept. 27:  9:30-10:15 a.m.
 The upcoming installment of Peek Behind the Petals will highlight the work of our Botany in Action Fellows, emerging scientists who are conducting plant-focused field research around the globe and sharing their findings with the public through educational outreach efforts.

Meet the Scientists
Saturday, Sept. 27:  1 – 2:30 p.m.
Tropical Forest Conservatory
BIA Fellows will be stationed throughout Tropical Forest India to display their research tools, answer your questions and offer intriguing details about the work of field scientists.

Visiting Botany in Action Fellows:

aurelie jacquet  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAurélie de Rus Jacquet
Purdue University, Indiana
Geographic Focus: Nepal
Research Focus: Neuroprotective effects of Nepalese traditional medicine on Parkinson’s disease models

anna johnson  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAnna Johnson
University of Maryland Baltimore County, Maryland
Geographic Focus: Maryland
Research Focus: Novel urban plant communities: causes and consequences of diversity

jessica turner  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchJessica Turner
West Virginia University, West Virginia
Geographic Focus: West Virginia
Research Focus: The root of sustainability: Understanding and implementing medicinal plant conservation strategies in the face of land-use change in Appalachia

cromulo_headshot2

Chelsie Romulo
George Mason University, Virginia
Geographic Focus: Peru
Research Focus: Working to conserve and sustainably manage the ecologically, culturally, and economically important palm tree Mauritia flexuosa (aguaje) in the Peruvian Amazon (Peru).

Murphy_headshot

Stephen J. Murphy
Ohio State University, Ohio
Geographic Focus: Pennsylvania
Research Focus: Forest landscape change in southwestern Pennsylvania

Read previous posts about BIA Fellows’ research and science outreach work here.

To follow the fellows as their adventures continue, visit phippsbotanyinaction.org.

The above photos were provided by Aurelie de Rus Jacquet, Anna Johnson, Stephen J. Murphy, Jessica Turner and Chelsie Romulo.

February 26, 2014

Explaining Color to 11 Year-olds: Why Science Communication Matters

by Melissa Harding

Why is the sky blue? Does the color blue look the same to everyone? These are some fundamentally puzzling questions to be sure. It can be difficult to explain and understand abstract scientific concepts like these, especially to children. One organization that is attempting to solve this problem, or at least encourage scientists to think more about it, is The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (yes, that Alan Alda). The Alda Center is sponsoring the third year of its Flame Challenge, a contest pitting scientists against each other to see who can best communicate a particular scientific topic to a huge panel of 11 year-old judges. Over 20,000 11 year-old judges, that is. The Challenge stems from Alda’s childhood pondering over the question: What is a flame? Alda’s teacher at the time answered with “oxidation”, which was truly unhelpful to say the least. Children today ask many of those same questions and may have the same kind of trouble getting real answers. The Flame Challenge encourages scientists to create the best possible way of explaining these complex concepts to a difficult audience and helps children get the answers they want.

To choose this year’s challenge question, The Alda Center collected over 800 questions from children all over the world. Color was a recurrent theme, so the question “What is color?” was chosen. Scientists can submit their answers in video, writing or graphics. The Alda Center provides some guidelines for scientists and a very helpful video entitled “Meet an 11 year-old”. Students advise scientists to remember than they are “eleven, not seven”; while they enjoy humor, they do not care for things that are silly or condescending. This is important, because it is tempting to talk down to children instead of just talking to them. Unfortunately for the scientists who make that mistake, the judges are pretty quick to catch them in the act. After being screened for accuracy, the submissions are judged by students all over the world using a standardized rubric and best one is chosen to be the winner.

Alda started this competition to get scientists engaged in effective communication; this is because bad science communication results in scientific illiteracy. It does no one any good to keep the stellar research that is being done stuck in the scientific community. Discoveries are made and published in scientific journals; these journal articles are read by other scientists, but the information they contain rarely makes it to the general public.  A mere 0.013–0.34% of scientific journal articles receive coverage by the mass media.  Non-health related research such as ecology and botany receive even less media attention with only 0.001–0.005% of research articles in these fields receiving coverage. Sometimes this work is very specialized, sometimes it is perceived as irrelevant, or sometimes it is difficult to understand; most of it is not making it to the public. This results in a poor understanding of what a scientist is does. On the other hand, good communication can create a public excited for more knowledge! It encourages life-long learning and a better understanding of the scientific process. It is able, on a broader level, to increase the level of public discourse on issues where scientific concepts affect legislative policy.

In addition to creating a group of scientists who can communicate about their work, The Flame Challenge also has the wonderful side effect of getting kids excited about science. This is a pretty big deal, seeing as research shows that as they age, students have a declining engagement with school in general. These two things go hand in hand; if scientists are more effective communicators of their research and how it applies to real life, then students will be more receptive. There is plenty of evidence showing that students want to engage with things that are real.  Project-based learning, getting students involved in current scientific research, and working on real problems are proven strategies for increasing overall engagement in science. Similarly, effective science communication is able to inform an audience and spark an interest. Effective communication inspires students to pursue STEM careers and develop a passion for life-long learning.

We see this with our Botany in Action Fellows when they speak to students; by communicating their love for science and showing why their research matters in the real world, the Fellows inspire many of the students they speak with to dig deeper into their own passions. They are helping to create a future generation of biologists, chemists, physicists and more. So are projects like those done by The Alda Center and a whole host of other organizations that recognize the importance of informed and excited students. Understanding the best ways to communicate research has repercussions far beyond schools, but starting there is a way to ensure that there are future scientists at all.

To learn more about the Flame Challenge, check out this great link.

To learn more about the public disconnect with scientists and research, check out this blog post.

The above videos are courtesy of the Alda Center for Communicating Science.

September 5, 2013

Save the Dates: Meet Botany in Action Research Fellows at Phipps this Month!

by Melissa Harding

Phipps Botany in Action science education research George Meindl

Meet Phipps’ Botany in Action (BIA) Fellows and enjoy presentations about their adventures as global field scientists studying the relationships between people, plants, health and the planet at this special two-day event, free with Conservatory admission.

Science Stories from the Field
Friday, Sept. 27:  7 – 8:30 p.m.
Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Enjoy entertaining presentations from BIA Fellows about their global research and discoveries in the field. The event will include a cash bar, light refreshments, a photo show, music, and opportunities to meet the researchers and explore the Conservatory.

Science Casual Conversations
Saturday, Sept. 28:  1:30 – 3 p.m.
Tropical Forest Conservatory
BIA Fellows will be stationed throughout Tropical Forest India to display their research tools, answer your questions and offer intriguing details about the work of field scientists.

Visiting Botany in Action Fellows:

aurelie jacquet  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAurélie de Rus Jacquet
Purdue University, Indiana
Geographic Focus: Nepal
Research Focus: Neuroprotective effects of Nepalese traditional medicine on Parkinson’s disease models

anna johnson  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAnna Johnson
University of Maryland Baltimore County, Maryland
Geographic Focus: Maryland
Research Focus: Novel urban plant communities: causes and consequences of diversity

george meindl  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchGeorge A. Meindl
University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Geographic Focus: Pennsylvania and California
Research Focus: Assessing the potential for cascading effects of heavy metal soil pollution: plants and pollinators

jessica turner  Phipps Botany in Action science education researchJessica Turner
West Virginia University, West Virginia
Geographic Focus: West Virginia
Research Focus: The root of sustainability: Understanding and implementing medicinal plant conservation strategies in the face of land-use change in Appalachia

anita varghese Phipps Botany in Action science education researchAnita Varghese
University of Hawaii, Hawaii
Geographic Focus: India
Research Focus: Community based ecological monitoring and its implications for conservation in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

Read previous posts about BIA Fellows’ research and science outreach work here.

 And to follow the fellows as their adventures continue, visit phippsbotanyinaction.org.

The above photos were provided by Aurelie de Rus Jacquet, Anna Johnson, George Meindl, Jessica Turner and Anita Varghese.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: