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From ‘Science Orchestras’ to ‘Science and Supper’ – Science and Discovery Centres across the UK have built programmes designed to reach under-represented young people in their communities

Today (15th June), the Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) is releasing the results from 16 diversity and inclusion programmes for young people run in Centres across the UK. The activities have specifically been built to help tackle the diversity challenges currently faced throughout the Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) sector.

The programmes, funded by the Science Technology Facilities Council (STFC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), have been developed to help nurture and support the creative thinkers of today into diverse scientists, researchers, and innovators of the future.  Over 10,000 children, young people and their families from traditionally under-represented and marginalised communities took part in the programmes, where they were encouraged to explore STEM on their terms in fresh, inclusive, and exploratory ways.

The ASDC and STFC supported projects dovetail with the March 23 Diversity and Inclusion STEM Report, released by Greg Clark MP, Chair of the House of CommonsScience & Technology Committee which states “STEM still has a diversity problem”.

Shaaron Leverment, Chief Executive of the ASDC commented

“UK STEM industry and research is one of the most innovative and exciting sectors, but if it is to flourish for our future, there is no doubt that diversity is an issue. Our collective vision at ASDC is for a society where science is accessible, inclusive, and valued by all as a fundamental part of everyday life. This STFC-funded project shows how science and discovery centres provide so much more than just a fun day out – they open up new relationships and pathways in STEM across all ages, genders, backgrounds, geographies and abilities. We’re excited to see the mix of creativity and ingenuity of the outreach programmes run by our members. They are supporting a sense of belonging, value and ownership in STEM for a new cohort that may indeed become the future STEM innovators and solution-finders of tomorrow.”

Five of the programmes that have made an impact on their local communities are:

  • Aberdeen Science Centre – launched ‘Supper and Science’ which worked with families within the top 20% of the Scottish Index for Multiple Deprivation and were affected by the cost of living crisis, and encouraged them to take part and learnt to cook whilst also learning about the impact science and technology have on their daily lives.
  • Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh – in partnership with Tinderbox Sparks Youth Orchestra, formed a resident ‘science orchestra’ with 20 young people to highlight the connection between music and science, as well as compose music for Dynamic Earth’s new climate change planetarium show ‘Don’t Panic’. The orchestra performed for family and friends, as well as composing ‘Seascapes’ – a haunting accompaniment for footage of deep-sea creatures taken by the Schmitt Ocean Institute.    
  • Jodrell Bank in Macclesfield – offered free trips for over 500 school groups and 80 families. Additionally, secondary school students participated in a ‘Girls Night Out’, an event celebrating women in science past, present and future and encouraged women to consider STEM careers, as well as supporting the centre in its mission to make ‘Space for everyone’.    
  • National Space Centre IGNITE in Leicester – inspired by a young boy who wanted to go to attend ‘Space Club’ in Coalville but was unable to, the centre developed a community programme for children to get excited about Leicester’s role in space. The programme also demonstrated what career opportunities are available on their doorstep and the diversity of jobs available across the space sector.
  • We The Curious in Bristol – launched the ‘Space Science in Time of Crisis’ workshops with Year 9 and Year 10 students from Bristol who were encouraged to explore ‘Should space science be a priority in the current time of crisis?’ and develop a TikTok style video to share their perspectives.

Vanessa Vazquez, Community Engagement Coordinator at Aberdeen Science Centre commented on the initiatives

“The STFC Impact Project brought science to communities, creating equal opportunities for all. It sparked curiosity, encouraged experimentation, and empowered individuals to take ownership. We witnessed incredible transformations, from a disinterested child becoming engaged and excited to them volunteering for experiments. This project went beyond checklists, exemplifying our dedication to uplifting communities. We will continue to make a positive impact, bringing joy and empowerment to every opportunity we encounter.”

Neville Hollingworth, STFC Public Engagement Manager, said:

“We are incredibly proud to mark over a decade of successful collaboration between STFC and ASDC with these excellent results. In order for UK science and innovation to thrive, it is essential that communities who are under-represented in the STEM sector are engaged with the amazing stories that the science and technology community has to tell. These collaborations between STFC, ASDC, and community groups, young people, and families have inspired people across the UK to take an active role in science and provided fantastic opportunities for the benefit of all of society.”

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