Engaging new audiences with Stargazing+

2 February 2018


Our annual Stargazing Oxford events allow up to 100 researchers to showcase their work and interact with the public through a variety of activities including stalls, talks and hands-on activities. The events are a great success and attract around 1,000 people to the Department each year. However we also recognise that the events are largely accessed by members of the public who are already engaged with science. Through Stargazing+ we wanted to look at engaging new, under-served, audiences with space-themed research at Oxford.

Most recently this has led to SPACE and YOU, a fun Stargazing-style event, taking place in October in the University to engage children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) and their families. These are family groups whoare often unable to access events such as Stargazing Oxford due to a difficultywith dealing with large crowds. SPACE and YOU allowed 15 such families to access activities in a relaxed environment with dedicated quiet areas provided if needed. Each family was given a guide on arrival and the guide stayed with their family throughout their visit. A number of the activities were adapted for this audience. The feedback from this first ASN event was extremely positive and led to us including a dedicated hour at the Stargazing Oxford event in January for children with ASN. The event also contributed to Stargazing+ being recognised within the SEPnet Public Engagement Awards 2017 as an innovative project for engaging harder-to-reach public groups. For more information about Stargazing+ please visit: www.physics.ox.ac.uk/stargazingplus.

Quotes from the SPACE and YOU event:

"First time we have managed to access anything like this as a family"
"Joseph loved it [the event] and very proudly showed off his certificate to his class friends"
"My daughters have already been Googling and talking about what they learned"
"We appreciated the thought that had gone into making the activities engaging for our children"
"Fantastic Afternoon, easy access, interesting content and friendly staff"