A year ago, a passionate group of science communicators and scientists developed a new science engagement project aiming to connect people that continue to be left out or feel detached from science with scientists. The goal is to connect researchers with Portuguese citizens and/or residents, particularly children and their families coming from underserved and/or underprivileged backgrounds, to make science feel more useful and relevant to them.
The project, RAISE – Researchers in Action for Inclusion in Science and Education, is currently funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and Citizens grant and brings together three institutions in Portugal and one NGO in the UK. It focuses on making science accessible to underserved communities through two types of actions: educational programmes in schools where children and adolescents engage with scientists, and an annual science outreach event in a research and medical center in Lisbon where underserved groups connect with science and scientists.
What is our work plan and mode of action?
RAISE is the “umbrella” for two Researchers at Schools (RAS) educational programmes – “Ciência di Noz Manera (CNM) – Science Our Way in Cape Verde Creole -, and “Cientista Regressa à Escola” (CRE) – Scientist Returns to School in Portuguese. It is also the “umbrella” for two special editions of the European Researchers’ Nights (ERN) in Lisbon, Portugal.
CNM (1st edition and 2nd edition) is an original science outreach programme founded by a group of Champalimaud Foundation (CF) science communicators, project managers and scientists aimed at 8th-grade students from underserved backgrounds, with a special focus on ethnic minorities, migrants, and girls. CNM runs during the school year, and brings scientists to local schools identified by the Portuguese government as “territories with priority educational action” (TEIP schools). Through student-led long interactions, in particular, informal conversations, hands-on and minds-on experiences and a series of mentoring sessions, scientists and students build bridges that will ultimately contribute to social mobility.
CRE, the RAS programme developed by Native Scientists targets underserved 4th-grade students across Portugal. In this programme, scientists go back to their primary schools to carry out 90-minute-long hands-on science workshops for children from their hometowns. By connecting with their roots, they act as role models for the pupils that study in some of the most remote locations in the country.
For most of the children and teenagers participating in these programmes, the activities are their first encounter with scientists.
ERN (2022 and 2023 edition), a science outreach event that is celebrated across Europe always on the last Friday of September, happened for the first time at the mesmerizing CF spaces in 2022. ERN is the opportunity to bring science and scientists closer to society, to highlight its impact on citizens’ daily lives in fun, inspiring ways and for RAISE it is a unique opportunity to showcase the co-created outputs produced during the year-long RAS programmes.
What have we accomplished so far?
If we consider all the activities promoted by RAISE (two educational programmes and the European Researchers’ Night), this project has already reached over 1900 people!
Out of the 200 students from Escola Pedro D’Orey da Cunha, a school in the Lisbon outskirts, that participated in the CNM programme, 30 were mentored by scientists from CF. From the participants’ feedback, we found that the mentoring sessions were important to demystify who scientists are and what they do outside the lab. Bringing students to the labs at CF was also a “memorable experience”, as for most of them it was the very first time they entered a research institution, cruised labs and interacted with an inclusive, international and inspiring environment. On the scientists’ side there was a general feeling that this experience was “rewarding and inspirational”.
Within the CRE programme, we made it possible for nine scientists to return to their primary schools and implement 18 workshops for 283 children. 73% of these students met a scientist for the first time in their lives, and almost all of them (98%) enjoyed this experience a lot. The scientists also enjoyed the interaction with students and left that day with their heart full and willing to repeat it.
RAISE’s first ERN took place on 30th September at the CF. During this day smiles abounded and curious eyes sparkled with the awe moments caused by the discovery of something new. At the end of the night the only thing that was missing was more time to keep sharing and exploring. Over the course of nine hours the ERN was visited by 1200 people, including 200 students from four schools of underserved and underprivileged communities. Transportation was covered for these students offering the opportunity for them to participate and enjoy the programme with 60 free activities spread over six interest areas. From dance to workshops, from music to hands-on science stations, from round-tables to stand-up comedy and speed dating aboard a catamaran that linked our programme to the one taking place across the city in Pavilhão do Conhecimento – Centro Ciência Viva.
The students really enjoyed our ERN, rating it an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars. Together with our 193 collaborators, from scientists to artists, we were able to show the students that anyone can do science, science is important, useful for our everyday life, and also cool. Most importantly, we were able to encourage them to learn new things, and that they can be anything they want to be. As for the adults, the ERN was an opportunity to showcase to them that there is science in everything, that it is important to include the general public in science, and that science should be closer to the people and disseminated to everyone.
After these first months’ success, in 2023 RAISE intends to double its impact!
We are aiming to have more students, scientists, and schools participating in the RAS programmes and in the ERN.
The 2nd edition of the CNM programme will involve 3 schools – Escola Pedro D’Orey da Cunha, Escola Dr. Azevedo Neves, and Escola Marquesa de Alorna – bringing science to more than 300 students. Along, 66 scientists from both CF and iMM will receive training in science communication and mentoring, and participate in the different phases of the programme.
The CRE programme will implement a total of 79 workshops reaching more than 1000 students, and challenging them to share what they learn and experience in different formats. The workshops will occur throughout Portugal (Arcos de Valdevez, Armamar, Braga, Estremoz, Melgaço, Mértola, Portalegre, Sintra, Valença, Vimioso, among others), and also Madeira (for the first time) and seven of the nine islands of the Azores.
On 29th of September we will be back at the CF for another epic European Researcher’s Night to which you are all invited.
We are putting together a memorable programme full of science and art, built around co-creative processes, and following an inclusive and inspiring approach.
Stay tuned for more news on our webpage and social media over the forthcoming months.
Funded by the European Commission. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.