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A Successful Outreach Case Study: Summer Scientist Week at the University of Nottingham

How do developmental psychologists solve the problem of getting children participants from a representative sample, and engaging children of all SES backgrounds with science… in one week.

Summer Scientists Week (SSW) is an initiative set up by Associate Professor Lucy Cragg which has now successfully run for a number of years. Children are invited to The University of Nottingham to participate in a half day of fun games and activities. For the children, it is a chance to come to a research environment and engage in unique games which enable learning whilst having fun and socialising. For researchers, it is an opportunity to get child participants for developmental psychological research. For parent’s, it’s often just a welcome break!

Children participate in hands on world-leading research, as well as games designed to teach children about Psychology. The research studies are designed to be fun and engage children’s attention - so the children are often queuing up participate! For the research, children’s reading ability is also accessed, and demographic information is obtained from the parents.

Where does outreach come in to this?

Not only are the children learning about Psychology from a young age, but in order to get a representative sample of children the researchers need to stray away from their connections to the university (i.e. lecturers children’s and friends) and involve children of all backgrounds. I joined them this year at the SSW recruitment events in Beeston and Sneinton. These were just a couple of the many outreach sessions in local library’s around Nottingham where children can come and play games which teach them about the brain, world around them. If they enjoy these engagements, they usually go on to love SSW!

"The initiative is a reciprocal exchange between the university and the community."

One girl I was speaking to, aged 11, boldly pronounced ‘I’m going to be a Psychologist’ – something I didn’t know existed at her age. Now, a PhD student, I found myself able to answer questions and offer advice about subjects to choose when she’s older.

I couldn’t help but think, if this one girl being inspired was all that came out of SSW, then it’s a success. But this is just one recruitment morning, for one year of SSW. It has now been running for number of years, and even if none of the children formerly turn into scientists, initiating and encouraging the children’s enthusiasm for learning and investigating the world around them (as well as exposing them to a university research environment) is only going to be positive.

"This event has been such a success, because it really is the case that ‘everyone benefits’."

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