Kat's Learn to Engage Blog - Part 3: Extreme Science!

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This is the third part of my blog about my visit to science museum MUSE, Trento as part of my Learn To Engage Science Module. 

Extreme Science- Aerobics 
This third and final part of my blog series focuses on a type of science communication called Extreme Science! An example of this is an early morning activity I participated in which ran in collaboration with a local personal trainer, and combined aerobics with history. We began by lying on the ground floor looking upwards through the atrium, giving us a unique view of the suspended creatures. We then listened to music and information about the area of the museum we were in. The exercises included crawling on all fours, rolling along the floor and stretching, all of which symbolized the evolution of man. 
This form of Extreme Science was certainly unusual, memorable, and because of the physical use of moving amongst the museum displays and combining historical information the learning was engaging! I could see this activity being valuable to primary school pupils, and participates who prefer alternative ways of learning. It was great for your physical and mental health. 

Sensory Lab
Based in a Crop Research Institution we took part in a tasting activity to rate our liking of a new type of apple verses existing ones. We were taken to individual booths to experience a controlled environment. Once inside we used a computer screen to record our ratings. We then took part in a bitterness test, and a sniff identification test! 
This form of communication combined the senses with scientific information, such as how taste and smell effect our eating experiences. We were also shown our groups results, and saw how different everyone’s senses are. The act of using senses that we do not normally use to learn, is actually quite nerve racking at first, but once you have acclimatized to the idea it is an opportunity to remember information in an alternative way. It is also hugely interactive and seeing the group results caused a lot of discussion without encouragement, a sign of an interesting workshop!  

Merano Gardens
We were taken on a field trip to a beautiful and enormous botanical gardens, nestled within the mountains of Merano. Firstly, we were taken on a guided tour of the Sun Gardens. We were shown a 700 year old Olive tree, learnt how plants transfer scent to humans, viewed a garden with 100 different types of chilli plant, and learnt how flowers are designed to use insects to pollinate. 

As a way to practice communicating what we experienced on the tour we were told to write a fictional Postcard. This exercise allowed to think about our target audience and how to address information to them. As a non-botanical specialist I went for an insect theme aimed at 3-4 year olds, using imagery and statements to communicate my key information!


Finally, we were taken to the school workshop area and tasted seeds, plant based tea, and used canvas to press leaves. This visit once again used multiple senses to learn, and allowed for down time to process the information we had been given.  

Overall the on-site visit to Trento was hugely informative. The botany themes were not my speciality (working at an engineering based heritage site!), but there were many adaptable examples that I will take with me to the Trust. I have learnt that to successfully communicate science you need to be open to alternative ways of delivery rather than relying on using writing and reading. Theatre, interactive discussion, tinkering, physical movements, tasting, smelling and touching are all valued and exciting ways of learning science. 
I am now completing the remaining part of the course which has involved communicating science to a different audiences; summarising scientific writing; writing a science communication strategy and auctioning effective science communication at the Trust. I look forward to seeing what I can do with the knowledge I have learnt to help our audience effectively learn about the physics and engineering of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 

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