The Surrounded by Science Project reached a pivotal moment as partners reconvened for the Consortium Meeting hosted by Ellinogermaniki Agogi (Athens, Greece). Spanning across two productive days, October 30th and 31st, the assembly served as a platform for discussions, workshops, and strategic planning sessions, furthering the mission of the project. Analysing the intersections between formal and informal science learning environments is at the heart of Surrounded by Science. In a world where distinctions between education, work, and leisure become blurred, learning — especially science learning — is increasingly taking place everywhere, anytime.
In this context, the project is bringing together experts in science education, policymakers, and user communities to design iSTEM activities and developing a systematic assessment methodology to analyse the impact of such activities. With this mindset, the main takeaways from the project meeting are as follows:
Reflecting on Progress and Envisioning the Future
The partners mapped out exemplary science learning practices outside the classroom that offer a better understanding of the nature and effects of informal STEM (iSTEM) education. Several case studies have been identified to help the project team better understand how users experience these iSTEM activities and how they can affect their science proficiency. This multi-faceted concept encapsulates attitudes and behaviours, such as being excited by science, engaging in scientific reasoning, reflecting on science, and identifying with the scientific community. The main discussions have evolved around the practices educational providers and organisations should implement to help learners build their science identities.
Fostering Engagement through Innovative Tools: The Science Chaser
One highlight of the meeting centred on the Science Chaser app – a key project component aimed at stimulating scientific curiosity and knowledge. The Science Chaser is a tool that both users and providers of iSTEM activities can use. During their visit to science centres or museums (only to cite a few), the former can interact with the proposed exhibitions and activities. For example, users can scan QR codes during the visit and get additional information or find quizzes and games related to the topic. But what makes the Science Chaser App a game changer is that visitors can use it after their visit to a science engagement organisation to report their post-visit activities. Once one has registered, they will also be able to use the Science Chaser to report every subsequent out-of-school science activity, such as playing an educational game, visiting a website, or watching a documentary.
Maximising Outreach Through Effective Communication
The consortium also placed strong emphasis on dissemination and communication strategies, which are crucial for amplifying the impact of the Surrounded by Science Project. The communication and dissemination team shared their various methods to effectively report the outcomes and findings of the project to a broader audience, thereby maximising its educational reach. One of the points discussed was the organisation of the Surrounded by Science Final Conference, as well as other dissemination events that aim to communicate to the public the best practices gathered and introduce participants to the Science Chaser app.
Paving the Way for Future Collaboration
The meeting culminated in a forward-looking discussion where partners contemplated future projects that would continue the work initiated by Surrounded by Science. This aspiration reflects their ongoing dedication to enriching science education and fostering collaboration in the field. Between sessions of discussion, planning, and decision-making, partners also had the chance to enjoy a tour through the school premises and the Observatory of Ellinogermaniki Agogi. The Surrounded by Science Project meeting in Athens was a testament to the commitment and collaborative spirit of the partners involved, marking significant progress in the endeavour to transform informal science education and learning in Europe and across the world.