Should explainers explain?


One of the most common, and probably one of the crucial questions about science centers and interactive exhibitions is often phrased as “Ok, it’s fun, but do they learn anything?”. What follows is not an attempt to answer this question; we will just use it as a starting point for a discussion about the role of explainers in science centers. Explainers are usually very motivated people, possessing a genuine interest in science and technology and a scientific background they are eager to share. And they feel everyone else should be as enthusiastic about science as they are. This is a legitimate aspiration, of course, but how exactly does one try to achieve this goal? What is the explainer’s role? Quite often, the answer to the question “…but do they learn anything?” is: “Yes, if we teach them”. It is simple, straightforward, probably it works to some extent, and this is the reasoning that makes explainers become… well, explainers. And this should be avoided.


21 December 2005