Paul BONIFACE, TRACES, France
TRACES develops a reflection on the links between science education, science-society activities and the structuring of social links. In the framework of these researches, we will present the results emerging from the experience of a programme of pop-up science centres in difficult neighborhoods in Paris (Rayon science project), and our actions with underserved adults communities within the EU project “Tinkering EU3 : addressing the adults”.
The Rayon Science project, funded by the City of Paris since 2018, consists in setting up temporary science centres in abandoned shops in underserved neighborhoods in Paris. Strongly inspired by the Wissenshaft Raum experience in Wien, for a time span of 3 to 6 months an empty shop becomes a venue for experimenting and dialoguing around science with the local communities. Serving at the same time science engagement goals and the needs of keeping a neighborhood alive, the approach truly proves the social relevance of public engagement with science activities.
The Tinkering for adults project adopts the Tinkering approach for engaging underserved adult communities in science learning activities. TRACES has co-constructed and facilitated many series of Tinkering workshops with prisoners in long term detentions and unemployed young adults. We also used this methodology with groups of teenagers in “Fight against dropping out School Missions”, in Paris. These workshops, il all these contexts, offered a frame for technical and creative explorations, contributing to efficient professional reintegration programs.
Both programmes started two years ago and are still running in 2021. Although quite different in their realisations both programmes rely on the principles of Tinkering (learning, questioning and making sense of the world through the making of personally meaningful artifacts) to combine creativity and science issues, and promote social links.
We will present the result of an impact study carried out in the two projects, that show the high value of linking public engagement with science and social work with underserved communities. In particular, we will discuss the advantages and limitations of these approaches with respect to more traditional types of science engagement activities, such as school programmes, traditional science centres, or popular education actions. Several factors, such as the focus on the audience own knowledge and contributions, the embedding of science issues within the problems defined by the audiences, as well as the natural presence within the fabric of the local communities of the rayon Science venues, show that it is possible to transforms our audiences from spectators of the “knowledge of others”, to empowered, motivated and self-conscious owner of an independent and rich knowledge.