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A new Course Kit application: testing ground at the Esplora Interactive Science Centre (Malta)

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SciCultureD teamed up the JUSTNature project (Horizon 2020) to design and test a brand-new version of the Course Kit in order to respond to the needs and challenges of today’s science communication: effective public engagement strategies.

Co-design, co-creation and citizen science have become buzzwords used in public engagement with science, but how to design effective activities that achieve long-term impacts and that reach out to diverse target communities?

SciCultureD teamed up with Mohammed Soliman Daoud from the JUSTNature project (Horizon 2020) – also run by the University of Malta – to design and test a brand-new version of the Course Kit in order to respond to the needs and challenges of today’s science communication: effective public engagement strategies.

Public engagement in science and research has become more relevant than ever for institutions such as Universities and museums – helping establish a mind-set that acknowledges the genuine stake of citizens in research and to open two-way conversations about scientific research.

The transdisciplinariy approach of SciCultureD and its creative pedagogies weaved with the mission of JUSTNature for a just transition to a sustainable society in cities. The Course Kit was enriched with new cards designed for public engagement and to include a novel perspective on social justice (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – in short: JEDI). 

An engaging twist was given to the workshop thanks to the precious help of long-experienced role-game player and writer Zachary Bennetti: the workshop turned into a role play game, where participants divide in three groups immersed themselves into five characters in a world in need of science – with one ultimate mission: make science relevant for all!

The team was inspired by the world-renowned Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role play model: in D&D, the players form an adventuring party who explore fantasy worlds together as they embark on epic quests and level up in experience. The Dungeon Master (also known as the DM) is the game’s referee and storyteller. At its heart, D&D is a game that focuses on storytelling.

Towards a new version of the Course Kit

On Thursday 19th October 2023, from 1.30 to 4 PM, the team challenged 17 members of staff at Esplora Interactive Science Centre – among which science communicators, programme managers, and members of the Malta Council for Science and Technology – in exploring creative ways of designing public engagement to meet the needs of stakeholders and create novel opportunities for dialogue with science. The exercise encouraged participants to critically and openly explore the needs, challenges, opportunities as well as relationships of the target audiences using elements of empathy, dialogue and ethics. 

Whilst still following SciCultureD’s design thinking process – four phases (Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver) and the transdisciplinary approach (combining science, arts and entrepreneurship), this version of the Course Kit embeds the four pillars of the framework for effective public engagement by the British National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE): Purpose, People, Process, Evaluation.

Quality Engagement Diagram developed by the NCCPE.

Once in their characters, participants engaged in ethical debates, transdisciplinary collaborations and discussions on social and ecological justice. Eventually the three groups came back together to discuss the backbones of their frameworks and experiences.

The feedback gathered from participants brings valuable insights from the community of practice and will contribute in improving this version of the Course Kit (as part of result ID 2). At the same time the SciCultureD team will continue working with JUSTNature to refine the workshop modality. Further testing will be implemented starting from Spring 2024. Stay tuned!

This workshop is inspired by the EU-funded projects JUSTNature (H2020) and SciCultureD (Erasmus+) and was run by Dr Edward Duca, Mohamed Soliman Daoud and Valentina Delconte with the support of Rexhinald Bajrami (University of Malta). Special thanks goes to Zachary Bennetti, Rebecca Buttigieg (Esplora) and Erica Falzon (Esplora).

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