Developing the perfect formula for Science in the Park

Discover how Science in the Park is created and the collaborations behind a sold out Public Engagement event.

Science in the Park_Childrenwithdinosaur

Engineering event success

This week will see Scientists from Nottingham’s two universities joining forces to showcase their research with a range of fun family activities at the annual Science in the Park event. Now in its 16th year, we’re delving into what goes into delivering this popular, large scale public engagement event as it returns to Wollaton Hall on Saturday 9 March.

For well over a decade Science in the Park has enabled families with young children to access the research of University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, developing a curiosity and understanding of the world around them and inspiring future generations of scientists. Coinciding with British Science Week, this year families will have the opportunity to find out about a breadth of topics covering everything from elephant welfare to the solar system, dinosaurs to treating disease.

Selling out in a matter of days, the successful collaboration between the two Nottingham universities is reflected in the events continued popularity. But what is the Institute's involvement in delivering this major annual event and what is the secret to its ongoing success?

To plan or not to plan; is that even a question?

Planning for the event begins early Autumn with a small events team made up of representatives from the Institute for Policy and Engagement (Sally Nightingale), University of Nottingham (Sam Tang, Specialist Technical Outreach from the Faculty of Chemistry) and Nottingham Trent University (Scientist Dr Michael Loughlin).

The event comes with a long list of tasks including:

  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Coordinating exhibits
  • Liaising with the venue
  • Marketing the event
  • Ordering supplies
  • Following health and safety guidelines
  • Posting social media updates to keep visitors informed
  • Ensuring imagery and footage is captured on the day

Despite a tried and tested blueprint, the first action is always to review and evaluate the previous year’s event with the aim of making incremental changes to improve the experience for the visitors, exhibitioners and volunteers.

This is one reason why, earlier this year, we invited Charlotte Land from Spark STEM to deliver a training workshop on developing engaging table top activities at events and festivals as part of our public engagement masterclass series. This was a fantastic opportunity for academic researchers to gain insight into the art of crafting an engaging science based exhibit.

Child with a headset on their head.

Exhibits that spark the imagination

With over 20 exhibits to choose from there is plenty to ignite the curiosity of families attending the event, which this year includes:

  • Astrophysicists from the University of Nottingham gazing back on the 13.8-billion-year history of our cosmos.
  • Members of the Optics and Photonics Group delivering interactive demonstrations on the fascinating properties of light.
  • British Geological Society Keyworth engaging the public in their scientific endeavours through citizen science.
We’re looking forward to returning once again to Science in the Park and encouraging attendees to come and explore the major events in Earth’s history, including life on the planet right back to its formation our planet 4.567 billion years ago, how we got to where we are today and maybe even hold a real meteorite!
Eloise Ward, Public Engagement and Events Assistant, British Geological Society

On the same wavelength

The goal of this one-day event is clear. Connect STEM based research and family learning to celebrate discovery, curiosity and questioning around science. This unified enthusiasm is displayed across all interactive and hands-on exhibits on the day, providing the unique opportunity for local family audiences to investigate a broad range of STEM topics that shape the world around them. 

Maria Richards, Head of Public Engagement at the Institute for Policy and Engagement, credits this shared energy and values as key to the event’s continual success:

This long-established and much-loved family event reflects the shared commitment and zest of both universities, and our external partners, to engage with the public in their research. Science in the Park brings together a winning formula of academic passions mixed with enquiring young minds that has stood the test of time.

Summing up Science in the Park

The event takes months of planning and we cannot do it alone. Collaboration for any event, large or small, is vital in it's success. Science in the Park resources include: 

One remarkable venue

With a collection of 750,000 objects, ranging from fossils, minerals and taxidermy, Wollaton Hall and Park is the largest dedicated Natural History Museum in the country making it the perfect backdrop for the event.

Image of a large stately home Wollaton Hall

Two engaged universities

The event reinforces the Universities for Nottingham vision, a pioneering collaboration bringing together the civic missions of the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University.

24 enthusiastic exhibitors

The event showcases STEM based ideas and research, around Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, through exhibits that challenge, inspire and excite audiences.

Exhibitor demonstrating a experiment with a light bulb

Over 60 event volunteers

A large number of University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent student volunteers are successfully recruited to support the annual delivery of this large-scale event through their time and enthusiasm.

A group picture of the Science in the Park volunteers 2023

1500 event attendees

Each year, hundreds and thousands of local people attend the event to explore a variety of STEM based activities that challenge, inspire and excite audiences.

Child with a robot shaped like a dog

We're still working hard behind the scenes, adding the final finishing touches to what we know will be another successful year for Science in the Park. Make sure you follow us on our social media for all the latest updates from the event. You can follow the event using the hashtag #scipark

If you would like to read about how the 2024 Science in the Park turned out, you can read this blog post or listen to our podcast.

Further details can be found on our Science in the Park webpage: Science in the Park 2024 - The University of Nottingham