Who will “do” the science outreach?
The first and foremost factor that dictates the type of science outreach event you can do is people power. At its very core, science outreach is about making a human connection, so determining who can put in the effort is key. Sometimes this means you are doing science outreach on your own, and other times this can mean working on a team. The number of people working for a particular science outreach effort will dictate what you can do, and who you can serve.
Do you have a budget?
For the record, science outreach efforts can be designed such that they are no or low cost endeavors, though having a budget does allow you to get more elaborate. However, it is worth noting that an increase in dollars spent is does not necessarily equate to better quality outreach — really, it’s more about how you engage, not how much you spend. When doing science outreach for service (i.e. volunteering), the majority of your budget will likely be spent on supplies and/or food. However, if you would like to also compensate for time, your budget will have to be substantially bigger (person hours are highly valued).
Finding funding might be as simple as requesting a stipend from your Dean’s Office, student council, or even getting a small seed grant from your professional organization. There is also potential for financial support through campus clubs, or other related organizations. We recommend you take some time to fully assess what funding options you might have access to at your institution.
Where will the science outreach event take place?
Space is definitely a huge factor in determining how you can present your science outreach effort. After figuring out who your target audience is, you will need to assess where you will meet them. Will you be bringing people to you, or will you be going out to the people? At RockEDU, we have access to a dedicated science outreach laboratory/classroom space, so our model is to bring people to us. We also allow other campus groups interested in science outreach to use this space for their events. You might want to ask your institution if an space can be made available for science outreach. If you do not have an available space for science outreach, that is ok! You can still conduct science outreach by going into your community — classrooms, recreation centers, places of worship, and even the sidewalk are all great potential locations for fun and engaging community building through science.
What kind of time do you have?
Time is a really important factor for science outreach, and for obvious reasons. There is no question that life is very busy for everyone these days, and making time to do something outside your normal routine can be challenging. But there are many ways to make science outreach work for you! The frequency with which you contribute to science outreach should be planned out in advance, at least as much as is reasonably possible — don’t forget to budget the time it takes for planning and set up. This is especially relevant if you will be the one that is in charge of the effort. Whether you will do this weekly, monthly, or even once, having a solid plan will keep you on track.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Look for established activities
Many times, there are a variety of initiatives already taking place, either formally or informally, within your institution or community. However, it does take some effort to become aware of the available opportunities.
For instance, take a few minutes perusing through your home institution’s website to see if there are formal outreach programs or initiatives. If opportunities are not obvious, enquire with departments that might be able to give you better direction, such as Human Resources, Career Services, or the Dean’s Office. Another way you can find science outreach opportunities is to contact local museums or educational organizations. A third mechanism for identifying science outreach programs is to google it – you may have to sift through results to find the hit that suits your interests, but at least you will get a broad overview of what is in your area. Lastly, survey your peers. Chances are, you are the not the only one in your department or program who would like to participate in science outreach activities at some level – if someone has already done some sleuthing, it is worth your time to ask around.
Once you get over the hurdle of finding where to start, I think it will be easy to get and stay involved.