Went to the annual Association of Science Educators (ASE) conference last week. This is an opportunity for anyone involved in science education to get together. This year it was held in Liverpool University which was great for me because it is just a hop on a train away.
Lots going on including a marquee of exhibitors, seminars and workshops plus a really good programme of evening entertainment.
I had been asked to speak at a session by the Wellcome Trust so off I trotted yesterday, presentation in hand (having of course sent it in earlier but you never know and I always have a plan B!!)
It was a bit weird really because I was asked to talk about Catalyst and obviously I am not there anymore but as the expert on the subject it was logical for me to speak.
The session title was "Proving the unique value of informal learning" a sharing of research findings so far into what the project is calling "informal learning". They mean anything that is not actually a taught classroom session - so it could be the sort of thing that science centres and museums do but equally it could be a TV programme, a science club, a STEM event.....
The company organising the actual research, GHK, explained what they were doing and then Iain Morley from MOSI and I gave case studies of how we approach informal learning.
Fascinating difference between us - Iain said that about 85% of their group visits do not engage with the education team - they come for free and do a self guided tour, picking up gallery guide explanations on the way.
Catalyst in contrast has about 98% of groups doing something with the education team and it is a rare thing for a school to not book anything.
In the audience were lots of other informal learning providers - National History Museum, Science Museum London, BP, numerous STEM contract holders from around the country and everyone said how hard it was to attract secondary schools - but of course Catalyst gets about 50% of school visits from secondary schools. So I was quizzed about how!
One obvious thing is that Catalyst offers chemistry linked activities and has built up a reputation of excellent teaching at secondary level - it is much easier for a non-specialist to teach a primary session. Plus the wonderful Discovery lab setting is very inspirational.
So a fascinating session which was very well received and hopefully the start of a link between the Wellcome Trust for both Catalyst and for me.