Sky Fest: A Model of Successful Scientist Participation in E/PO
Abstract:Participation in outreach events is an easy way for scientists to get involved with E/PO and reach many people with minimal time commitment. At the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, Texas, the E/PO team holds Sky Fest outreach events several times a year. These events each have a science content theme and include several activities for children and their parents, night sky viewing through telescopes, and scientist presentations. LPI scientists have the opportunity to participate in Sky Fest events either by helping lead an activity or by giving the scientist presentation (a short lecture and/or demonstration).
Scientists are involved in at least one preparation meeting before the event. This allows them to ask questions, understand what activity they will be leading, and learn the key points that they should be sharing with the public, as well as techniques for effectively teaching members of the public about the event topic. During the event, each activity is run by one E/PO specialist and one scientist, enabling the scientist to learn about effective E/PO practices from the E/PO specialist and the E/PO specialist to get more science information about the event topic. E/PO specialists working together with scientists at stations provides a more complete, richer experience for event participants.
Surveys of event participants have shown that interacting one-on-one with scientists is often one of their favorite parts of the events. Interviews with scientists indicated that they enjoyed Sky Fest because there was very little time involved on their parts outside of the actual event; the activities were created and/or chosen by the E/PO professionals, and setup for the events was completed before they arrived. They also enjoyed presenting their topic to people without a background in science, and who would not have otherwise sought out the information that was presented.