In this Engagement Matters post, Ciara Wright and Freja Karrman-Bailey share their experiences of providing support at a University of Manchester public engagement event.
Science Spectacular (part of the Manchester Science Festival) attracted around 1,500 members of the public to Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Building, showcasing the exciting research taking place at the University. The event was a big success due to the dedicated hard work of our staff and students, and our local communities engaging enthusiastically and getting involved with the array of interactive science activities on offer.
Volunteering to help at Science Spectacular was a fantastic opportunity to experience public engagement events from the organiser’s point of view. From start to finish there was always something to be doing, but with the help at hand from student ambassadors to researchers to various staff from the University, the event ran smoothly throughout the day. Jobs included setting up and taking down the stalls and decorations, manning information stands throughout the venues, welcoming the public into the event and last but not least, making sure everyone had an enjoyable experience.
As much as the event was about engaging the public with the work the University does, the engagement was equally as valuable to the volunteers, researchers and staff running the event. Manning the various science stalls and information stands was a great opportunity to chat to people of all ages and abilities, from children to grandparents, and to further develop our skills of communicating with the public.
Hearing from the public about how much they were enjoying the event really made the experience especially worthwhile. It was particularly rewarding seeing the public get so involved with everything, and children getting so excited about subjects that may not normally excite them. Two brothers had not wanted to leave the house at all after having football practice in the morning, especially not to go to a science event, but at the end of the day they both thought it was absolutely brilliant and wanted to come again. There were also kids there who already loved science and were eager to find something that would challenge them and that would be a bit different from what they would normally do in school. One of the great things about Science Spectacular is that there is so much variety on offer; kids (and adults) of all ages were able to find something that they enjoyed. Making slime and chopping the chocolate bars in half were the talking points of the day, though it seemed that every aspect of the event was well received.
As well as being able to see the public enjoying themselves, it was great to see the researchers on the science stalls having a lot of fun and of course getting very enthusiastic about science. At times the volunteers were having as much fun with the robots as the kids! Events like Science Spectacular are excellent opportunities to get involved with public engagement, as they bring is such a range of different people, from the University and from our local communities. The event was also a great opportunity to meet and mingle with people from many different areas of the University that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to mix with, including museum staff, student ambassadors and researchers from various faculties.
We would highly recommend for anyone wanting to get involved with public engagement to volunteer at Science Spectacular next year; there are lots of seasoned Science Spectacular stallholders across different faculties who will be more than happy to give advice if you want to try it out. It’s a great opportunity to bring local communities together with our University community; showing how spectacular science can really be.
Posted on behalf of Ciara Wright, Widening Participation and Schools Engagement Intern, FBMH, and Freja Karrman-Bailey, Public Engagement and Involvement Intern, FBMH.