What does science bring?

Informal science learning and education spaces are being called to move beyond inspiring and exciting people in science, towards supporting more equitable outcomes, such as critical STEM agency, or using STEM practices and knowledge to take action on things they care about.


Within Explore Your Universe Phase 4, STFC science was used as a vehicle for nurturing curiosity, critical thinking, building confidence and agency, learning new skills, building a connection to science and broadening horizons. Community partners spoke about gains in confidence experienced by their young people; confidence that they could engage with science, confidence that they could do the activities involved, and pride in what they had accomplished. STFC science was also found to strengthen family relationships through positive experiences together.

Learning from the wider sector

Prioritising these more equitable youth outcomes in a research paper “Fun moments or consequential experiences? A model for conceptualising and researching equitable youth outcomes from informal STEM learning”, Louise Archer et al. (2022) propose a model that prioritises these more equitable youth outcomes, including Grounded fun, STEM capital, STEM trajectories, STEM identity work and Agency.

We can't ever take credit for the STEM options young people choose for their own lives and their future, but with programmes like Explore Your Universe, we can start to give them back the choice...

Shaaron Leverment, Chief Executive, Association for Science and Discovery Centres

Case Study from Explore Your Universe

Skills beyond those traditionally associated with science were supported for young people from North Cambridge Community Partnership (working with Cambridge Science Centre) who developed skills related to research and writing. Young people from youth groups engaging with Science Oxford, as well as those participating in sessions at Dynamic Earth, improved their presentation skills. Other community partners, particularly those working with autistic individuals, referred to the social skills that had been supported through engagement with science, as well as their ability to focus on tasks.

They did things that they probably wouldn't have thought of doing before but some of the kids were really into it and they were saying "I'd love to do this as a job when I get older", so that was a magic moment. The kids were that engrossed by it that they're actually thinking "when I grow up, I would like to do something like this", so that's great.

Community Partner working with W5, Belfast

Learning from the wider sector

The Curiosity programme explored whether there is anything unique to science itself as a tool within youth work. A report outlining findings from 32 projects from the first round found science brought positive differences in terms of:

• Opportunity to engage for young people who are not so excited by other activities
• Encouraging young people to develop their problem-solving skills in ways that other activities don’t
• Enriching other non-science activities, such as the arts and sport, by incorporating a scientific element.

Within the second round, some early indications from Science Ceilidh and People Know How suggest science can particularly help develop resilience to failure.

Our aim was to link STFC science back to everyday life experienced by the young people to translate families' existing cultural resources into science capital.

Practitioner, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre