Bringing different worlds together: Engaging very low social and science capital audiences on Teesside through exoplanet science

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Sci, Tech, Eng & Maths (STEM)


I will visit schools in some of the most deprived communities of the UK, and spend time with children, teachers and parents. My aim is to share my enthusiasm for astronomy, specifically for the study of exoplanets: stars orbiting stars other than the sun. I think most people are interested in this science, some of the basic concepts familiar from film franchises like Star Wars. Exoplanets are a great vehicle for introducing scientific and mathematical ideas. I hope to overcome the aversion to science and maths that some members of low social capital communities feel. I am specifically targeting Teesside, including schools in the neighbourhood I grew up. There are not many research scientists to be found in these neighbourhoods, and I hope to demonstrate that children from them can aspire to any career they choose. I will use some of my time to developing networks of people who work in science and technology on Teesside, and facilitating joint events involving them and my target schools. There is a strong and growing digital 21st Century economy on Teesside, but a shortage of interactions between the two worlds apart. I will work with parents who did not succeed in gaining science qualifications in their own schooling, and together we will develop gateway resources to make the world of free online education more accessible. I will evaluate which types of engagement interactions produce the most lasting impacts, and share these findings with research scientists across the UK. I will contribute to a regular feature "This week in Space" on BBC Radio Tees.


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