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Edinburgh families discover summer fun with Public Engagement

7 October 2020

STFC’s Edinburgh-based Public Engagement team have been busy during the summer, working with local families as part of a city-wide initiative.

The ‘Discover programme’ is a project from the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) Lifelong Learning department. Families from across Edinburgh who are affected by poverty related issues are identified and recommended to Discover by schools, social work or other professions.

The aim of the programme is to reduce food stress and minimise holiday learning loss through the provision of free activities during the school holidays.

Previously the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Public Engagement team (ROE PE) has run activities in the community and at the observatory as part of this. However, this year the activity has gone online and the Public Engagement team rose to the challenge of creating engaging activities without being face-to-face with the families.

Families in the scheme received a box every week. In the box was food, recipes, arts and crafts materials and activities from ROE PE and other partners. Each week had an overarching theme of a different country, and the activities reflected this. A private Facebook group was also created for the initiative which gave the Public Engagement team another chance to reach out to the families.

They created short videos which were streamed across several weeks. They included:

  • Stars of the week – pre-recorded short videos featuring a different constellation and linked stories each week
  • Astronomer of the week – pre-recorded clips of astronomers either from or linked to ROE. They answered questions and encouraged conversation around the country of the week – for example, if it was related to a telescope they had worked on, where they had studies, their home country etc
  • Facebook live sessions – cook-along using items from the box and household staples. Plus, general space chat linking to the work at ROE.

Over the holiday period, 75-125 boxes were delivered each week.  A total of 467 boxes contained ROE activity packs, and the videos received over 920 views.

As well as being referred for the Edinburgh scheme, the families also fit in to the demographic for Public Engagement’s Wonder initiative, which aims to increase equity of access to our STEM engagement activities.

Fiona Travers, Senior Public Engagement Officer was delighted to be a part of the scheme:

“In the past we have run sessions as part of the Discover programme with the City of Edinburgh Council. It was important for us that we continued that support this year - the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that there has been even more pressure on some local families during the summer holidays.

“The numbers watching the video streams and the feedback we have received suggests that they have found it useful and really enjoyed the content.”

Molly Page, CEC Lifelong Learning Development Officer added:

“Discover Online over summer 2020 has been a real hit amongst the families and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our partners Edinburgh Community Food, Edinburgh Zoo and the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Public Engagement team.

“The activities contributed by Fiona and the team brought a unique fun learning experience to the families and we could see how much they were enjoyed thanks to the comments and posts families posted to the group.”

The feedback from users has been positive, with one parent saying:

“Thanks guys been a totally different summer this year. But you’ve definitely helped keep the kiddies busy along with myself.... The kids definitely loved seeing the animals along with learning all about space. Think telescope [is] definitely on the Christmas list.”

Find out more about STFC’s public engagement work here.

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Last updated: 07 October 2020


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