08 December 2011

A Bit of Bilingual Science Outreach

When you can’t bring the masses to science, bring science to the masses. At least that’s the approach recently for many science outreach programs, including Explorando las Ciencias, or Exploring the Sciences, a bilingual community event held Oct. 23 on Madison’s south side that catered to both Spanish and English speakers. 

With the goal of attracting a broad new audience among children and adults who haven’t been exposed to science as much as their peers, Explorando las Ciencas, held at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s UW Space Place location in the Villager Mall, is in its third year.

“The thought was that we’re still not reaching a lot of people who never get to campus,” said Kay Kriewald, outreach specialist for UW Space Place. “And so about 3 years ago, we decided to try this … and [to] do everything bilingual and see how that would work.” 

The event brought together scientists and volunteers from a number of different campus and community groups, including several UW departments in the physical and life sciences, the Madison Children’s Museum and the University’s Synchrotron Radiation Center in Stoughton. Presentations including the "Wonders of Physics", educational comedy shows and interactive activities were offered in both languages with the assistance of native Spanish speakers and volunteer translators.

Although much of the programming is directed toward children, it’s really for all ages, said Kriewald. “I think there is really something for everyone."

Attendance at the event has typically been between 300 and 400, she said, although this year’s edition — on a rain-soaked Sunday — attracted closer to just 100.

The University sponsors a variety of annual outreach events such as Science Expeditions and the Wisconsin Science Festival, as well as weekly and monthly programs, but Explorando is one of the few that is held off-campus. It is part of an effort to appeal to the Spanish-speaking community in the area, Kriewald said. In addition to promoting Space Place, the outreach arm of UW’s Astronomy Department, she said, it’s also an opportunity for other campus groups “to do some outreach programs to groups they might not reach otherwise.”

Personal note: This was my first real attempt at video journalism/production/editing. It was great! ... with the exception of some rather glitchy (but free) editing software.

Personal note 2: Bilingual science outreach is pretty excellent. In fact, you might say it is ...

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