April is science festival month in North Carolina. An initiative of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the North Carolina Science Festival offers an opportunity to celebrate science in fun and welcoming settings, encourages children to pursue science-related careers, and encourages businesses to invest in North Carolina. KPC supports the initiative by evaluating the effectiveness of participating presenters in various events.
KPC field researchers participated in nine events from late March through mid-May – two in the Greensboro area, three in the Triangle, three in eastern NC and one in western NC. KPC designs the evaluation methodology based on the type of event. For example, for more structured symposiums where presenters typically have more time to engage with their audience (usually students), researchers observe how the presenter interacts with the audience, noting the techniques used and how engaged the audience is. On the other hand, in an Expo-type event where the audience is more fluid, field researchers work as mystery shoppers to capture information at the booths where trained presenters are engaging audiences about their particular STEM specialty. The field researchers also engage directly with the audience, conducting surveys of audience members, both for booths that have trained presenters as well as in comparison booths.
Survey data are also collected from scientists, teachers, and students who interact in school-based programs through the festival’s SciMatch program. Every year, Festival staff matches dozens of STEM professionals with middle school classrooms in order to facilitate classroom visits that educate and inspire the next generation of potential scientists. Scientists are going to be a focus of this year’s Expo evaluation as well, as we document who are the festival scientists for the first time this year. Three Expos have partnered with KPC to collect this information about their scientist presenters, and we plan to compare those data to the demographics of the science workforce and public in our state.
A final method launched on June 5 this year, as we survey potential festival-goers to find out if they came to the festival (or not) and ask them to share other things that did during the month of April to have fun outside of the house. We know that the festival isn’t the only game in town, and so our hope is that these data will help us learn more about the various range that people chose to spend their time during the month of April.