Science Ambassadors are young people who aim to inspire their peers, families and communities in science. The project aims to build young people’s self-confidence particularly in broadening their awareness of opportunities and their science capital. It does this by encouraging them to explore their own curiosity in STEM; providing opportunities to meet others including role models from other schools, academia and industry; and supporting them in communicating their interest and enthusiasm to others, especially within their own communities. With financial and additional support from a range of organisations (including the Institute of Physics, Business Durham, The Ogden Trust, Adobe, Success4All, Inspire2Learn with Sirius Minerals, DrResearch, the Ideas Foundation and UK Space Agency) Science Engagement has been able to provide initial training and on-going support, linking Science Ambassadors to opportunities including:
producing promotional films for NETPark;
becoming citizen scientists collaborating with Durham University researchers to contribute to real research as co-authors on a research paper (MammalWeb Paper);
presenting activities at the House of Commons as part of the Tim Peake launch celebrations;
in partnership with European Southern Observatory (ESO) researchers, co-delivering ESO engagement activities to public audiences described in this article (ESO Science Ambassadors);
and contributing annually to Durham University’s Celebrate Science.
Since the programme began in 2011, over 2,900 young people from 170 schools and community organisations across the North East have been trained and become involved in activities. The Ambassadors’ own interactions with others in their schools and communities have engaged and inspired many more. For example, in 2018-19 the 38 County Durham primary Science Ambassador teams alone were estimated to have engaged over 4,500 other young people, not including families and others at out of school events
The adoption of the programme into the IOP’s Stimulating Physics Network portfolio, taking resources developed in Durham and rolling them out as part of their national programme, has meant that to date an additional 2,000 young people were involved throughout the UK. The successes of the programme enabled us to include it in a research paper on the impact of longer-term interventions (Going Beyond the One Off).
Youth groups have also been involved and the young people of Success4All’s WEYDA group produced short films highlighting some of their excitement and interest in science in just one week.
Prior to March 2020, the programme centred around in person interactions. During lockdown, the enthusiasm to maintain the programme was expressed by teachers and young people, which facilitated SOE working with external partners, university students and schools to trial variations of virtual and hybrid models. As a result of our learning, we are working collaboratively with a range of partners (including film producers, animators, businesses, formal and informal educators and school pupils) to produce accessible and adaptable digital resources that will incorporate professional films with films and activities made by the Science Ambassadors themselves. We aim for these to increase the reach and longevity of the programme. Business Durham have recently agreed to provide financial and additional support for this ongoing programme.