Jennifer: Science communicators all over the world are gearing up for ECSITE 2009– the international conference coordinated by the European Network of Science Centres and Museums, which in 2009 celebrates its 20th year of operation. Delegates will convene at Italy’s Leonardo Da Vinci Museum on June 4 for the 3-day event, which will examine the evolution and revolutions of science communication.
Engaging the public in experiences meaningful to their own lives requires integrating art, music, film, theatre, the web and design into science education. “Are you ready to be contaminated?” is the catch-cry of ECSITE 2009, which will focus on the enriching and intensifying influence of these “creative contaminants”.
The developments in science education since the creation of the first science museum over 40 years ago is evident from the wide array of scientific technologies that are now being communicated, including nanotechnology. Many science centres in Europe participate in outreach activities to explain nanotech and its applications, so that a new figure of science communicators is arising.
The ECSITE conference agenda includes the “NanoToTouch” experience, which is an European Commission-funded project under the leadership of the world’s largest museum of technology and science- the Deutsches Museum in Munich. A fully-functional scanning probe microscopy laboratory will be erected in the middle of Milan’s Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, and visitors will have the opportunity to interact with nanoscientists who will be demonstrating various applications of nanotechnology. Delegates will also be introduced to “Time For Nano” and “NanoYou”, two recently-launched projects which facilitate the communication of nanoscience. The former is based at the Citta della Scienza in Naples, and focuses on encouraging young people to engage in nanoscience through an inquiry-based learning approach. Informal education products include a web-based competition and a “nano-kit” containing nano-objects and materials, as well as scripts for role plays and experiments.
“NanoYou” is promoted as an outreach program directed at the European youth, reaching 11 to 18 year olds through school programs taking place in at least twenty EU Member States and Associated States. Additional programs aimed at young adults aged 19 to 25 will be presented at various science centres across Europe, raising awareness of the ethical, legal and societal implications of nanotechnology.
As an employee of an Australian science centre, I am inspired by the widespread commitment of European science museums to nano education . The annual ECSITE conference is vivid proof of the strength of the European science centre community, which shares values, missions and a common goal.