Why not consider an agricultural show as part of your science outreach?
When we think of science engagement it can take many, many forms. Often, we find ourselves creating events in unusual places, from pubs to street festivals. With local support and a marketing push, these events can be highly successful and engage the public in a variety of ways. Still, these pop-up events take some effort, as they are created in the hopes that the public might show some interest, take time out of a busy schedule to get there, and they might clash with what they already had planned for that weekend.
Agricultural shows are a different beast altogether. Many towns across each State and Territory have had annual shows for over 100 years and the shows are very much part of the social calendar of the district. After COVID restrictions the shows have bounced back even more popular than ever as everyone appreciates the opportunity to come together as a community, have some fun and learn. From now to March 2024 there are 171 shows listed on the AgShows NSW website!
Why not consider an agricultural show as part of your outreach? People already know when they are on, the infrastructure is in place to handle large crowds, there is always space, and local sponsors are often available. Fizzics Education has been working with agricultural shows for over five years, bringing hands-on science workshops and shows to regional and often isolated audiences. These activities have worked alongside the show’s other ‘entertainment’, which can often be a reptile handler, magician, face painter or a whip cracker.
During the first three months of 2023, Fizzics Education has collaborated with the National Indigenous Science Education Program (NISEP) to bring a hands-on experience to six shows in NSW from Adelong to Gulgong. Part of a program funded by the Australian Government Maker Grant, the public were shown how indigenous plants can be utilised to create prototype dye-sensitised solar cells as well as learn of a simple chemical test for vitamin C in the plant leaves. This collaboration was highly effective, as Fizzics Education already had linkages with the show societies as well as the outreach staff, marquee, tables and support materials to run this for large groups of people
Partnerships can also be formed for these shows. A good example of this was in February this year when Fizzics Education linked the Canberra Show organisers with Inspiring the ACT, and with their funding, the outcome was a ‘Science Extravaganza’ whereby ACT Waterwatch, Young Engineers Australia, NatureArt lab, Canberra Daleks and Robots, Icon water, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, Australian Science Innovations and Fizzics Education ran a drop-in space along with liquid nitrogen shows performed by Fizzics Education.
As you think about your next funding submission or sponsored outreach program, consider how a collaboration to bring science to these agricultural shows might look. Through these events, your requirement to produce ‘numbers’ at your next outreach event is not an issue, as the public already is coming regardless! Even better, by their very nature these events are regional and often in low socioeconomic areas and as such your visitation at one of these events is sorely needed and appreciated by the communities.
Feature image: Fizzics Ed Liquid Nitrogen show at the Gunning Show
Guest blog by Ben Newsome of Fizzics Education. LinkedIn