Students work with Science Hunters project to try to engage children in science including Minecraft clubs

‌‌Minecraft

The Organisation

Science Hunters is an outreach project based in Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, which uses the computer game Minecraft to engage children with science. The project works particularly with those from ‘widening participation’ backgrounds (i.e. they face one or more barriers to accessing higher education). There are several strands of activity within the project, including fortnightly sessions on campus with the National Autistic Society, a variety of public events and visits to primary and secondary schools.

www.lancaster.ac.uk/sciencehunters

The Challenge

Science Hunters needed administrative and delivery support at sessions, working with the Science Hunters Outreach Coordinator to plan and evaluate Minecraft Club sessions, school visits and off campus events and assist with their delivery alongside university and external staff, and student volunteers.

Skills Sought

  • Enthusiasm for working with children and engaging them with science
  • Computer literacy
  • Ability to respond to queries/communication appropriately and effectively
  • Safeguarding training, working with children with SEN
  • Experience of computer games, particularly Minecraft

The Solution

Final year Psychology Students, Jordan Bibby and Lauren Bowden were recruited through the Psychology Employability Programme for a placement of over 20 hours with the Science Hunters project.  Jordan and Lauren worked with the Science Hunters Outreach Coordinator, other university staff and external colleagues to prepare, deliver and evaluate events, which helped engage children, and their teachers and families with the project, science learning and university research

Impact

Jordan and Lauren’s work with Science Hunters helped engage a number of children with science and science learning, and develop skills valuable for their futures.  They have both gone on to find related employment.

Benefits

  • Gave fresh perspective on activities
  • Provided additional support to help clients
  • Promoted the university’s work within the community

Organisation Feedback

“Having Lauren and Jordan to assist with the project was great as they were both committed, enthusiastic and fantastic with the children we worked with, and having them on board enabled us to extend the scope of our delivery. Their existing skills were a good fit with our needs and they worked hard to add to and enhance these during the course of our work together, which I am confident will be useful to them in their post-graduate studies and careers.

"They were an asset to the project and I am delighted to have been able to provide constructive support and experience to them in return.” Dr Laura Hobbs, Science Hunters Outreach Coordinator, Science Hunters.

Student Feedback

“As a Science Hunters outreach assistant I was required to take part in both administrative organisation, such as communicating with other schools, libraries and community settings in order to arrange  sessions, and the actual delivery of science lessons during the sessions.

"‘Science Hunters’ aim is to make scientific subjects, which some children may not be exposed to, applicable and interesting. For example, during the last session our aim was to make eco-friendly farms using the tools on Minecraft. This allowed children to apply the knowledge they had gained about global warming and over-population.

"During this role, I developed and implemented subjects of interest for the children. This has helped me develop key skills such as adapting communication styles depending upon an individual’s needs. This is especially important for children with ASD who may find close proximity uncomfortable.

"I learned how important it is as a volunteer to engage children on a peer-to-peer basis so they do not feel intimated by an authority, but to feel at ease in their surroundings and with the people around them.

"The Science Hunters role allowed me to gain first-hand experience in psychological research; I was able to observe how individuals with ASD interacted on an online server and designed and carried out questionnaires based upon their experience. However for me, this role was extremely important for character building.

"I gained confidence working with children/young adults and the role fuelled by career aspirations beyond graduation; working in an SEN/Educational Psychology domain.” Lauren Bowden, 3rd year BSc Psychology Student, Science Hunters Volunteer.

"The Science Hunters placement is fantastic as it provides invaluable experience which compliments students’ ongoing studies at Lancaster University. ScienceHunters gave me the opportunity to work as part of a multidisciplinary team, such as with schools and teachers, researchers, psychologists, parents, and community organisations. This experience has helped me to find the employment I wanted and much more.

"Science Hunters outreach engages children of various ages and backgrounds in science through novel and exciting methods such as minecraft education. Children (and myself!) learnt about overpopulation and food science. As a ScienceHunters outreach assistant I was given the opportunity to teach science to children who may be underrepresented in the field, and also take part in interesting psychological research investigating how children with ASD communicate on an online server. As part of this placement I learnt much in psychological research and in teaching science, and I was given all of the support I needed.

"Engaging children with diverse needs and working as part of this outreach team, I developed diverse communication skills which will be used now and in the future. Aside from the skills and experience that I have developed, I got to know the team well and have learnt much from other outreach assistants and professionals.

"The placement has set me up for the employment I have now and I would do it again!" Jordan Bibby, 3rd year BSc Psychology Student, Science Hunters Volunteer.

Future Plans

­­Science Hunters will host future students throughout the project.