637   Insight talk

Enhancing public understanding of paleontology

Author: Luz Helena Oviedo
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Colombia

An alliance among research institutions and universities developed a communication strategy to increase awareness about paleontology. Such strategy included the development of a science popularization book and workshops to distribute it. We conducted 45 workshops in 40 cities in 29 of 32 departments in Colombia. Out of the 40 places, 15 places (37%) were not capital cities (less than 25,000 inhabitants). And 20 were part of distant regions with high presence of afro, indigenous, farmer communities, or affected by armed conflict. 1000 people attended workshops, mainly public school teachers, as well as students, museum educators and librarians. Results from surveys conducted at the end of workshops, indicate that this strategy spark among participants scientific skills such as creativity and observation and referred to social appropriation, protection of patrimony and the value of science.  

This experience is an example of a major science outreach effort that went beyond the design of a particular product (i.e. book, video). We share this case for scientists and science communicators interested in developing similar communication endeavors that proof to be of inspiration for attendees, and as an example for research institutes willing to share content with broader audiences and to reach formal and informal education environments. This experience will also be of interest as an experience for countries similar to Colombia, among the most unequal in the world, with major differences between private and public schools, partial school attendance and low quality. In addition, we recognize the importance of mediation in the presentation of science outreach materials, specially in not well known topics such as Deep time. 

Main lessons learned and challenges during this two years process, are related with communication among scientists and designers, managing and finding partners, workshop methodology and following up with workshop participants.


Co-author: Carlos Jaramillo
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama

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