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Working together to impact our communities

Tuesday 27th September 2022

It takes a team to achieve real and lasting impact. In her wisdom, Mother Teresa couldn’t have put it more simply when she said, “I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Her sentiments highlight the real value in our relationships and connections with partners within the communities we serve. Drawing on each other’s strengths, we can achieve more.

Science Oxford aims to inspire young people about STEM. Director of Education and Engagement, Bridget Holligan, says, “Our approach to STEM learning is all about the provision of ‘inclusive challenge’ – stretching children to develop new skills and ways of thinking, but supporting them to do so at their own level so everyone can feel successful.” No young person should feel excluded. Community partners are key to achieving this mission, extending our impact on young people and better serving our communities.

Project Inspire

Project Inspire’, a grant awarded by the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres in collaboration with the Inspiring Science Fund, ran from March to September 2021 and facilitated the birth of a number of fruitful and mutually-beneficial partnerships that have continued to grow since the conclusion of the project.

The project aimed to develop new, innovative, and digital ways to engage underserved audiences with STEM. It was important for Science Oxford to better understand some of our previously underserved audiences, so we connected with community partners who work closely with the people they support. We found great partnerships in MyVision Oxfordshire, a charity which supports people living with sight loss throughout Oxfordshire; Berkshire Vision, a charity which supports visually-impaired children and adults, and their families, in Berkshire; and Autism Family Support Oxfordshire, a charity which supports children and young people with autism, and their families, in Oxfordshire.

These charities formed part of the team who co-organised activity days at our Science Oxford Centre and supported the co-design of digital resources, to enhance the experience of people with their unique needs at the Centre and more broadly enhance their engagement with STEM. Throughout the project and our subsequent interactions, the charities have been integral in facilitating a better understanding of their communities, including the challenges they and their families may face during both in-person visits and online.

“Visually-impaired children need to learn through touch and sound; the experiments at the Centre are interactive and most of them are very tactile, and therefore, perfect for visually-impaired children to use in the same way as other children,” says Laura Finnis, Children and Young People’s Coordinator of MyVision Oxfordshire.

Continuing our work together

We have continued to strengthen our relationships with community and family support groups. We aim to ensure that our own learning of how to cater for a wider range of educational needs has lasting impact within our organisation, as well as in these communities.

“It has been good to work with the Centre on making it more accessible for those with sight loss as this really is a very interactive and tactile place that is perfect for the visually-impaired to be able to explore science and nature in such a fun way,” says Laura. MyVision Oxfordshire has since also assisted with new braille signage for hands-on exhibits in the Exploration Zone and supported the development of our ‘Seeing Differently’ Live Lab. The team at Science Oxford have also benefitted from Visual Impairment Awareness Training through the charity to further our understanding of the needs of the community.

We continue, with our partners, to co-organise family visit days to the Science Oxford Centre with the communities, one of which was held recently with families associated with MyVision Oxfordshire and Berkshire Vision. Laura reflects: “It is amazing to make science accessible to our community in this way and it means the children can experience the Centre along with their sighted siblings and have fun together. It’s very hard for parents to find activities and places to visit that are equally accessible to their visually-impaired child and appropriate for the whole family.”

Dr Emily Fisk, Science Oxford Centre Operations Manager says, “It has been an incredible pleasure to continue working with these community partners, and to further learn how best to support families who may require additional support. It has helped to shape our digital accessibility, including our website, virtual tour and visual stories, as well as our in-person engagements with individuals and families. We look forward to creating more memorable experiences for these communities, whilst also learning more from them.”

Echoing the appreciation for a sustained relationship, Laura also says, “We are very grateful to the Centre for working with us and providing so many accessible activities to our families. We look forward to continuing our partnership for many more wonderful days out.”

Sensory Friendly Family Day

Our next family visit day on 1 October is a Sensory Friendly Family Day for children with autism and their families, stemming from our relationship with Autism Family Support Oxfordshire. We have committed to running Sensory Friendly Family Days quarterly as a regular offering for families who may appreciate a quieter visiting experience. We look forward to many more.

To book for the Sensory Friendly Family Day, visit our event page.

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