P801: Teaching students and volunteers to communicate chemistry to museum attendees
For most chemistry students, opportunities to practice communicating with the non-scientific public are scant. Public interactions foster speaking skills and re-enforce students’ understanding of chemical concepts. These benefits were sought for undergraduates in a brand-new “Communicating Science” elective course in which students received training in persuasive communication techniques from professionals in print journalism, film, radio, creative nonfiction, rhetorical exposition, and politics. For their capstone service learning experience, students participated in a two-hour, advertised public event, “Science Saturday: Exploring Climate Change,” held conspicuously in the atrium of a major natural history museum. Students created and staffed six hands-on experiment stations to engage museum attendees with the contextual themes of energy use and climate change. Undergraduates from an American Chemical Society Student Chapter, guided by university staff and students with experience in public outreach, sponsored a separate, similarly-formatted museum event. At “Science Saturday: Chemical Connections,” students employed activity stations to exhibit chemistry principles in the context of commercial products. Catalysis, phase changes, thermochemistry, concentration measurement, and ultraviolet/visible light absorption were addressed. Assessments of these activities, and the potential for chemistry context-based service learning in coursework and student-led organizations, will be discussed.