641   Roundtable discussion

Science recreation workshops: establishing communities and developing networks

Science recreation workshops (SRW) are widely used as a means for public communication of science and technology (S&T) that promotes a three-level interaction for participants: physical, intellectual and emotional. People experience S&T first-hand as protagonists that explore their interests, discover amazing things, perform experiments, build devices, and discuss their ideas. In this sense, SRW serve as cornerstones for communities of practice around S&T, involving different kinds of fellows that help each other in their learning and understanding processes.

Other than will, commitment and proper training, SRW do not require many resources to develop. The use of cheap (or reusable) materials, versatility on the spaces where they can work (classrooms, museums, parks or even streets) and the ability to include all kinds of publics, help them reach places where other means cannot go.

So far the scholar discussion about SRW has been modest, but this has not stopped the development of networks of institutions working with this means for the public communication of science and technology. Such collaborations provide opportunities for interaction and discussion that foster larger communities of practice, where experienced members help the advancement of newcomers; who, in turn, provide fresh perspectives that help improve workshops. All of this strengthens professional development for SRW.

This roundtable involves experiences from Colombia, Spain, the United States, and Mexico, and explores the possibility of creating larger international collaboration networks for SRW practitioners.

Questions to guide the discussion: 

What were the main challenges to start the SRW activities you perform?

What is the role of SRW in the process of building communities in your activities?

How did you achieve collaborations with relevant allies?

Do you feel a need for a theoretical foundation that supports the development of SRW?

Is there a need for international collaboration around SRW? What are the benefits that could be achieved from this?

Author: Miguel Garcia-Guerrero
Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico

Miguel first got involved with Science Recreation Workshops (SRW) as a participant, getting involved in activities when he was 12 years old. At age 15 he received his first training to develop SRW and for the last 24 years, he has been active in the advance of this science communication medium in Mexico. He is the leader of Quark, the largest volunteer group working with SRW in Latin America, which works as a very active community of practice that enables young participants to turn into recreational workshops practitioners and also provide the tools for deeper professional development. Miguel is also the President of 'Recreación en Cadena' Mexican Network of Science Recreation Workshops groups, and over the last 12 years has been involved in the creation and training of several groups of this kind in Mexico. The main focus for this has been the creation and distribution of recreational kits.

Speaker: Luz Helena Oviedo
Parque Explora, Colombia

For the last couple of years Luz has worked on the creation of 'Hace tiempo. Un viaje paleontológico ilustrado por Colombia' a science popularization book about paleontology in Colombia, which involved several institutions (the Humboldt Foundation, the Smithsonian, and other private instances) to provide a history of biodiversity in this country. But the publication was not meant to be an isolated endeavor, it served as the spearhead for a much larger and ambitious effort. The book became a tool for teachers all over Colombia to use in their classrooms. Luz developed a SRW strategy that traveled all over the country to train teachers and create a national collaboration network around the contents of the book. This has achieved a significant expansion on the reach of the endeavor: now each teacher fosters a science recreation community with his or her students. This presentation will address major takeaways from this journey: lessons, challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Speaker: Jordi Diaz
University of Barcelona, Spain

Nanotechnology researcher that has emerged as one of the leaders of the public communication of nanotechnologies movement in Spain. His main focus will be on Nanoeducation, with projects as 'Nanoeduca'(middle schools) and 'NanoInventum' (elementary schools). Both programs visit schools to collaborate in three levels: first to provide initial training for teachers, getting them to know about nanotechnologies and understand their basics; second to work with students, through SRW that help them understand important science principles related to this subject; and finally to pose the challenge for participants (with their teachers help) to create a 'Nanoproduct' model intended to solve a problem of their concern. Students work in teams to create their mockups, each school has an internal fair where they present their models and the best advance to regional events and finish in a large Festival (called '10alamenos9') that includes other activities for the public communication of nanotechnologies in several cities in Spain. In addition to creating local communities of practice around nanotechnologies, this program has led to national and international collaborations.

Speaker: Curt Gabrielson
Community Science Workshops, United States

Curt is one of the leaders of an interesting public communication of science movement in the United States. Community Science Workshops are spaces for neighborhood kids to freely explore and create in a context of science and engineering. These spaces are committed to providing space, time, materials, and inspiration for low-income, under-served kids to follow their own innate curiosity and the human need for adventure in and understanding of the physical world. Curt will address the importance of letting participants follow their interests and supporting them in their efforts. Also, the presentation will include an important perspective on the challenges and strategies of growing this movement, including the publication of the book 'Tinkering. Kids Learn by Making Stuff' which has been a source of help and inspiration for several new workshops. Finally, Curt will mention the recent formation of the Global Alliance of Community Science Workshops.

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