Top Five Tips for Doing Science Outreach

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Top Five Tips for Doing Science Outreach


Steve Shropshire, Professor of Physics, Idaho State University, Pocatello

 Idaho State University students Justin Anderson  (foreground with the box speaker) and Alexis Chlarson (with the jumping ring demo) engage shoppers at a local mall during an SPS outreach event. Photo courtesy of Steve Shropshire.

The Society of Physics Students chapter at Idaho State University (ISU) has been very active in science outreach ever since I became the faculty advisor 20 years ago. Every year, members visit between 12 and 50 schools and provide numerous public presentations, events, and activities. The high demand for and appreciation of the ISU physics outreach programs is indicative of a very effective program. This effectiveness is due to enthusiasm, as well as trial and error. The following are a few pointers, ideas, and suggestions that I wish had been given to our chapter 18 years ago.


Make it exciting. To spark or reinforce interest in science, you need to acquire and keep your audience's attention. Choose activities, demos, and topics that maximize wonder, amazement, and surprise.


Keep it educational. Flash and bang without science is just eye candy. Center your outreach on a few specific concepts and convey them clearly and concisely.


Know your audience. Always use age-appropriate language and explain things as simply as possible. Never talk down to folks and do not scare small children.


Keep it Safe. Make precautions obvious and effective, so the exposure to science you provide is both positive and enlightening. One bad experience can make a lasting negative impression.


HAVE FUN AND MAKE SURE EVERYONE CAN TELL. Excitement about science is contagious. Pass it on!  //

 The Idaho State University SPS Haunted lab  demonstration "Phun with Phluorescence." Photo by Jordan Keough.

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