Simons Foundation gift to “reach people where they are”

Ben Wiehe - Thursday, March 26th, 2015


Photo of 2011 Philadelphia Science Festival

For many people, participating in informal science learning activity is not a habitual part of what they do. In some instances, the issue is that programs are unavailable in their area or out of reach due to cost or other limiting factors. For others, it may simply not be the kind of experience that they actively seek out. One way to reach people in these scenarios is by integrating science learning opportunities into events that people are participating in already.

This concept is deceptively straightforward: if it is known that people are going to be at a certain time and place, simply bring the informal science learning experience to them. But taking the step of meeting people where they are is more than just making participation convenient. At its best, such activity is the final product of a carefully crafted collaboration with a target audience, and makes a strong statement about the relevance of science to whatever has drawn people together in the first place, even if that is just a shared neighborhood space.

A recent gift from the Simons Foundation will support a dozen science festivals as they experiment over the next two years with different ways of reaching people where they are. The Just Add Science project will launch this month, and is administered by Science Festival Alliance staff at the MIT Museum.