Science is dynamic, collaborative and constantly evolving – what was a promising hypothesis last month isn’t even in the ballpark this month – so here at the Science Learning Hub, we need to be just as responsive and dynamic. Yes, we’re engaging educators, scientists and other STEM practitioners to utilise and build our resources. We’re also about building authentic relationships between the science and education communities and supporting those communities with real-time interactions. Social media has become an important tool for us to interact with communities and disseminate science and education information.
The channels we are presently active on are Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the Pond.
Connecting the community with science experts
So what’s special about our social media use? Many of our interactions are standard stuff – but for us, that ‘standard engagement’ is gold. For example, a class found an unusual frog and tweeted us: “What’s this frog we found in the Waitakeres”. Within 24 hours our networks, had not only identified the frog but noted that it was in poor shape, should not be out and about at this time of year and was probably sick. Many of us have these cool interactions every day within our social media channels.
Importantly, these interactions become the starting point for a relationship between the Hub and our communities.
Some time back, we were Facebooked by Wilbur’s mum. Young Wilbur and his classmates at a small inland rural school were perplexed by a shell fossil he’d found on a hill. What was this fossil about and why was a shell on a hill nowhere near an ocean? Within a day we’d got Wilbur some answers to his burning questions, including an extensive email from a GNS/Victoria University palaeontologist. Going a step further, we curated some fossil resources in the Pond, for Wilbur and his school. And because we have the memory of elephants, 2 years later, we reconnected by alerting Wilbur’s mum to a family fossil event in their area.
This is what we do. We connect people – schools, kids, teachers, scientists, those looking for answers, those seeking experts to visit or Skype with and teachers and students looking for ideas. We look for ways to deepen the connections – curating content, posting information, providing PLD and resources and STEM-based events and experiences.
In return, our social media facilitates ongoing active engagement with scientists we’ve featured on our site and organisations we work with – CRIs, universities, National Science Challenges, Participatory Science Platform projects, museums, research labs, schools and individual educators. It also allows us to mine some of the excellent third-party resources and ideas that you all have.
We are not a precious silo. There is so much excellent stuff out there, and educators need resources, but we know they don’t have a lot of time to be trawling the net and trying to fit together a myriad of often contradictory materials to create a class plan or lesson. Being active on social media means we’re up to date with all the new resources (and old goodies) coming through. We assess and add these to our curated content on Pinterest or the Pond, or we add it to the ‘Additional links’ box that you’ll find at the end of many of our resources.
If you’ve found a resource valuable or have created an activity that went off in class, let us know. Being able to repost and curate educator/expert trialled and tested materials is a win for all of us working in STEM education.
Resource curation with Pond and Pinterest
Pinterest and Pond allow us to curate collections of resources grouped by concepts and themes – seasonal studies for each term, science happening in particular regions, grouping by science concept or curriculum thread or gross science that will hook the kids in!
This allows us to be dynamic and responsive. We do curations of resources to support Conservation Week, Seaweek, Primary Science Week, our upcoming PLD webinars or if we see something trending in the news such as 1 year into the New Zealand Predator Free 2050 vision or Rocket Lab. These curations don’t just exist only in social media land. We add links to these into the event listings and articles on our site so you can easily tap into related and third-party links.
Need a set of resources on Pinterest or Pond? Just tweet, Facebook or email us!
What exactly can our social media do for you?
If you want to reach an audience, source class materials, meet a STEM expert, target a particular group of experts or educators or promote a project or an event, we have the infrastructure – a digital platform/website and active social media channels to do this for you. Most importantly, we have dedicated time set aside to do this work.
Are you looking for experts or scientists to seek advice from or to organise a Skype session or school visit? We have broad networks, and they really do want to help. To date, we have always been able to find a connection when asked – thanks in the most part to the remarkable generosity of the New Zealand STEM community.
As a resource repository and content creator, we cannot be static. We need immediacy, we need to be actively reaching out and engaging with the communities we’re a part of. Social media, professional development, collaborations and whanaungatanga – relationships – are central to what we do. So email, tweet, Facebook message – we really are here to help.
Science Learning Hub social media links
This article is based on one originally written and published on New Zealand Science Teacher website here.
New Zealand Science Teacher is published on behalf of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) as their primary voice to bring educators of science together with the latest scientific ideas and pedagogy.