Earth and environmental sciences outreach

Aims

Earth and Environmental Sciences outreach aims to attract more people from low participation areas and groups to going into higher education by inspiring them with science across a range of disciplines. We look at traditional school subjects like Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, and put them into exciting real-world context. This goes across the world of earth and environmental sciences, addressing questions such as global change, resources, volcanoes, dinosaurs, the role of STEM, and evidence-based decision making.

Fit to University policy

The University wishes to engage with the City of Bristol and the region as well as targeting widening participation (WP) goals. WP goals include recruiting black and minority ethnic (BME) students, mature students, and women into all STEM, and wider, subject areas. We record data from our school trips and engagement activities to show how effectively we address these targets.

Recruiting, training and motivating the student volunteers

Student volunteers are recruited through induction events, such as talks, at the start of the year, as well as emails to the major mailing lists outlining opportunities. A dedicated mailing list is operated which, in conjunction with social media groups, gives information to students on upcoming events and encourages loyalty and involvement.

The students are given training in outreach and communication skills both through formal sessions organised along with other departmental training, and during informal sessions such as the weekly BDP Monday events. They are highly motivated to help as this enhances their skills and brings the chance of awards.

Identifying target schools

We work with all schools, youth and community groups, but make a point of targeting certain schools. Areas of low engagement or deprivation are identified with POLAR and TUNDRA data, and we make sure they are visited as frequently as possible. The benefits of long-term engagement is we build relationships with particular teachers and schools to adapt our offerings to their needs.

Links to the National Curriculum

The National Curriculum is regularly consulted when planning sessions to ensure we address key questions at particular age levels. These include skills across multiple disciplines, such as maths, natural and physical sciences, geography, and, where appropriate, history. Earth and environmental sciences offer cogent themes to engage students in these wider applications of science, such as starting with dinosaurs, plastics in the ocean, or volcanoes to show links between daily life, decision-making and scientific evidence.

Tailoring our work to different age groups

Different age groups receive different workshops. Younger children get their first exposure to some of the biggest ideas in science; the age of the earth, what is happening beneath their feet, and the vast evolutionary tree of life. For older students it puts abstract ideas they learnt in science into a new and exciting context. When working with Sixth Formers, we aim to inspire them to follow careers in science, showing them how the world of earth and environmental sciences offers them personally satisfying careers, but also careers that do good for the community and the world.

Construct a convincing impact case for your grant

UKRI funding councils (NERC, BBSRC, EPSRC, STFC, etc) no longer specify a ‘Pathways to impact’ document, but they encourage applicants to consider how they will achieve impact throughout their projects and include this as part of their Case for Support. Such activities can be costed. Therefore, if you would like to use your science to engage with the public, and especially to use it to encourage young citizens to think about science and the environment, we can help.

Speak to our Engagement Coordinator, Rhys Charles, for help in constructing an ‘impact’ request for funding in association with your grant applications. Contact: Click here.