UK science centres raise awareness of climate change

Aerial overhead view of a multi-ethnic group of elementary age children drawing. They are seated around a table. The kids are using colored pencils to make a mural. The have colored a world map, objects found in nature, and symbols of environmental conservation.

Marking Earth Day, NERC has revealed that 30,000 people attended Operation Earth events at UK science centres between October and March.

Operation Earth is a national science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) engagement project.

It is run by the Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC) and in partnership with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The project aims to bring the relevance of NERC’s climate and environmental science and research to life among children and families.

Events at 10 science and discovery centres

Ten science and discovery centres across the UK ran events from October 2021 to March 2022 to mark the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) last year.

The activities provided children and families with the opportunity to find out what environmental scientists are working on, and to practice these skills for themselves.

Engaging in environmental science

Attendees took part in hands on activities including:

  • using a leaf blower to collect air samples and investigate air quality
  • looking at the carbon footprint of popular foods
  • learning how pollination works
  • as well as meeting NERC scientists.

An evaluation of Operation Earth found that:

  • 92% of attendees who provided feedback said they are now able to see a connection between climate and environmental sciences and their own lives
  • 85% of respondents said they are more interested in climate and environmental science topics following the activities
  • 83% of respondents said they were more likely to speak to family and friends about climate and environmental sciences.

Accessible and hands-on activities

ASDC Chief Executive Shaaron Leverment said:

Operation Earth has demonstrated the crucial role that science and discovery centres, museums, and eco-attractions play in delivering accessible, hands-on and place-based climate and environmental science engagement activities.

Science and discovery centres and museums collaborated with local industry, key environmental researchers, and policy makers across the UK.

These local partnerships result in relevant and empowering experiences for schools, families and young people, supporting the government’s agenda for levelling up and net zero.

Igniting curiosity

Conor Ellis, Learning and Engagement Manager at Dynamic Earth science centre in Edinburgh, said:

Operation Earth provides incredible opportunities to ignite natural curiosity with audiences about the world around us.

The Operation Earth programme helps us realise this ambition by bringing the relevance of the earth and environmental sciences in everyday life to the forefront of our programming with the help of NERC’s world leading research and people.

The project has provided our team with excellent development opportunities and helped us maximise our impact with audiences at a crucial point in global climate conversations.

600,000 have engaged in Operation Earth

Hannah Lacey, Senior Public Engagement Programme Manager at NERC said:

Operation Earth has inspired over 600,000 school aged children and their families to explore NERC’s environmental research.

It has been a pleasure to work closely on this project with the Association for Science and Discovery Centres, who have continued to engage children and families throughout the challenges of COVID-19.

They have also delivered innovative engagement around COP26; inspiring young people to get involved in environmental science.

Engaging families

Sarah Atherton, MP for Wrexham who visited local centre Xplore!, said:

It was a wonderful opportunity to see the engagement that Xplore! is facilitating within the local Wrexham community.

It really highlighted the importance of engaging whole families around such a crucial issue for the modern world.

Top image:  Credit: FatCamera, E+ via Getty Images

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