Q: Tell us about your background and research.
A: I am originally from Colombia and I completed my BA in Biology there, in my home country. My older brother was already a biologist when I started thinking about my career. He was passionate about his work and was a huge influence on me. During my childhood, he shared stories about his studies and courses, reflections related to books he read, research projects he carried out in the field, and research questions that were relevant to him. He did some experiments at home with frogs and small reptiles, and I enjoyed helping him make observations and recording data (for example, the number of times a frog flexed its legs while swimming from one side of the aquarium to the other). . All those experiences with science and the stories I heard about his work made me think that I could be good at science too. Later, while doing my BA and taking different courses related to evolution, biochemistry, ecology and taxonomy, I started to wonder about the relationships between biology, education and society. Why is it important for other people to learn biology? How can they connect what they’ve learned to their own contexts and experiences?
These types of questions inspired me to pursue a Masters in Education, with an emphasis on science education in Brazil. Since then, I have been researching this field, examining how different informal education contexts (such as museums, science centers and science clubs) seek to nurture relationships between science and its audiences. For example, I’m interested in understanding how museum visitors respond to exhibits on biodiversity, mental health, teen pregnancy, and drug use. I am currently interested in examining the ways in which science museums have been attentive and responsive to the pandemic.
Q: How do you think science education environments, including museums and creative spaces, play a role in sustainability and in scientific, social, cultural and political contexts?
A: Informal education environments, such as museums, science centers, botanical gardens and makerspaces, can play important roles in promoting relationships between science and society. They can generate positive attitudes towards science and technology, fuel curiosity about what is around us, help people formulate opinions on scientific issues with social implications, stimulate decision-making and promote participation and agency in science. and technology. In relation to their role in sustainability, these institutions were called upon to become forces for the public good and agents of social and environmental change. To do this, informal education settings have begun to expand and renew their mandates, reflect transformative practices, and strengthen their alliance with their communities. For example, in recent decades, we have witnessed science museums adding new functions and purposes to their vision and mission statements (eg, nurturing science citizenship). We also saw critical transformative practices such as: coalitions of museums dedicated to climate justice; galleries that investigate complex issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation and waste management; exhibitions being created through co-design and participatory practices; and dialogic events (such as science cafés and citizen panels) that seek to promote conversations about the implications of scientific and technological advances.
Q: What is the role of scientific information in cities and communities?
A: Over the past three years, the pandemic has shown us the value of reliable sources of scientific information. As we have witnessed, information (and misinformation) about the coronavirus, Covid-19 and, more recently, vaccines and vaccine mandates has flooded TV news, newspapers and social media. In this sense, the World Health Organization created the term “infodemic”, to allude to an excessive amount of information (often misleading) circulating in various media. In this context, scientific literacy can play a critical role in helping individuals navigate the complexities of scientific and technological advances. When talking about scientific literacy, it is important to recognize different dimensions and desired skills linked to this concept. The integration of scientific information into our personal structures of understanding is one of them. Other dimensions and competencies, however, also need to be considered when referring to scientifically literate citizens, for example: weighing different evidence, developing arguments, sharing opinions and perspectives, making informed decisions and taking action. If we return to the topic of Covid-19, we will see how all these skills are (and need to be) intertwined, as individuals are confronted with news, fake news and critical decisions about, for example, vaccines and vaccine boosters. .
Q: What can educators implement in these informal spaces to encourage/improve science literacy and for women and girls to consider careers and opportunities in science?
A: Educators, facilitators and facilitators of informal science education environments can help generate curiosity and positive attitudes and interest in science and technology. As I mentioned earlier, informal educational contexts, such as museums, science centers, maker spaces and science clubs, have been expanding their societal purposes and considering how equity, social inclusion and civic scientific literacy can be promoted. Thus, initiatives conducted in these environments and inspired by these types of social and democratic arguments also have the potential to increase the participation of women and girls in science and technology.