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    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 Instagram.

    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 for Wilbur and his school – a similar curation can be viewed on our Pinterest fossils board. 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.

    Third-party resources

    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 to collections using our website collections tool, 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 our collections tool and Pinterest

    Our collections tool and Pinterest 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 one 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.

    The collections tool on our website has a public and private setting that enables us to curate and share content. The tool is also freely available for those of you who have registered to curate your own content, add notes and share with others. Take a look at this collection one of our team members put together Physics – force and motion or see these examples below:

    • Opportunities for using te reo Māori – science is a wonderful context for promoting and using te reo Māori. The resources in this collection are ordered by pedagogy and planning, introducing concepts and specific topics with supporting articles and activities.
    • The periodic table of elements – this collection curates content related to the periodic table of elements. Use this as a starting point to develop your own collection about this topic.
    • Climate change – the resources in this collection help to unpack the science of climate change and associated socio-scientific issues.
    • Flight and the science capabilities for NZC levels 1–3 – this collection matches resources with specific capabilities. Notes provide information about key science ideas, pedagogical advice, probing questions and more.

    We have many more collections – and when we publish new content, we ensure we add it to the relevant collection(s).

    Need a set of resources on Pinterest or via our collections tool? Just tweet, Facebook or email us – we’d love to help!

    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

    Come and join us on one of our social media channels. We’re active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

    ​​​​​Acknowledgement

    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.

      Published 12 February 2018 Referencing Hub articles