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Dec 21, 2005 Commentary
Volunteers as explainers at the Finnish Science Centre Heureka

by Marjatta Väkeväinen

Heureka is situated in the Helsinki Metropolitan area. Every year, on average, 300.000 visitors come to Heureka; it is one of the largest year-round attractions in the area. 20–25% of the visitors are school classes. Heureka has a main exhibition including Children’s Heureka and also always houses two temporary exhibitions. Special activities supplement the exhibitions: The Verne Theatre, Children’s Laboratory, The Open Laboratory, Science Theatre Minerva and the Basketball Rats.

Volume 4 • Issue 04 • 2005

Dec 21, 2005 Commentary
Beautiful guides. The value of explainers in science communication

by Paola Rodari and Maria Xanthoudaki

During the last annual conference of ECSITE (European Collaborative for Science and Technology Exhibitions; Helsinki, June 2005), for the first time two discussion sessions were devoted to explainers, the innumerable people – young students mainly – who welcome visitors at exhibitions, museums and festivals, who animate laboratories and science shows, who guide, explain and lately also stimulate and manage discussions and participatory procedures. Thanks to the involvement of the speakers, who agreed to submit a broadened version of their papers, JCOM is glad to host the proceedings of these meetings. A great deal has to be done yet in order to analyse the complex European context and to fully understand the explainer’s professional profile.

Volume 4 • Issue 04 • 2005

Dec 21, 2005 Commentary
Who are the Explainers? A case study at the House of Experiments

by Miha Kos

Hiša Eksperimentov (The House of Experiments) is a very small science centre. We are situated in the centre of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. The gross area of the centre is only 500 square meters and we meet around 25,000 visitors per year. We were opened for the public in the year 2000. In the Hiša Eksperimentov there are four full-time employees and around 10 persons working and paid by fees. There are specific institutions present in Slovenia so called Student services. They help students in finding paid job on daily basis. The state still encourages students to work by lowering the taxes for their job. There are around 25 students working as explainers in Hiša. Here are some facts about Slovenia. The population is around 2 million in the area of 20,256 square kilometers. There are 18 students per 1000 inhabitants. One can play a game with numbers – taking into account the area of Hiša and the population and area of Slovenia one can calculate that there is one person expected in an area of the size of 20 science centers. And there are even much fewer students present in the same area. But the number of visitors and students working in the center proves the density is larger. Therefore science centers do concentrate the population!

Volume 4 • Issue 04 • 2005

Dec 09, 2005 Book Review
Learning in a museum. Building knowledge as a social activity.

by Paola Rodari

While the model for transmitting scientific information ­ a model that attributes the effects of a message on the public to the intent of the communicator mediated by text ­ is increasingly becoming an exclusive tool for communication novices, other alternative models are emerging and ­ most importantly ­ field research is being tested and examined.

Volume 4 • Issue 03 • 2005

Jun 21, 2004 Article
The public's rapport with hands-on activities. An evaluation of "Explore-At-Bristol"

by Francesca Conti

In the summer of 2003, a survey was carried out at the At-Bristol Science Centre (UK) to determine the effectiveness of the hands-on activities of "Explore". The section evaluated included 43 interactive experiences divided into two themes. The first, "Get Connected", consisted of examples of the latest digital technologies, such as a television studio, virtual volleyball, and radars. The second, "Curiosity Zone", was dedicated to natural phenomena and subdivided into three additional groups: "Natural Forces" which presented various forces of nature, "Focus on Light", which dealt with the wonder of light, and "Sound Space", reserved for the science of sound. The survey was divided into two phases: the first consisted in observing the public's interaction with the hands-on activities; the second, in consulting the staff. The methods adopted helped determine the effectiveness of the exhibitdesign and the evaluation itself highlighted the role of a promoter of science as an evaluator.

Volume 3 • Issue 02 • 2004

Jun 21, 2003 Article
Museums and museums: the picture of scientific museums

by Marco Crespi

In the field of scientific communication in Europe, science centres have gained increasing importance over the last ten years. Italy, beyond the City of Science in Naples, is also planning the set up of more science centres throughout the country. Their hands-on style makes them something between a museum and a fun fair and, beyond the issue of merit, no doubt the success of many science centres also depends on the fun offered. It is important then to be able to assess to what extent people can actually make use of the proposed themes. This report tries to point out the dialogue opportunities between science museums and people1. A questionnaire has been submitted to two scientific secondary schools in Trent and Busto Arsizio (Varese) as a pilot study in this research. A research of this kind should not limit itself to museums, because public opinion on scientific subjects is also influenced by more popular and widespread media such as newspapers and television. Together with people, museums should therefore also be able to make good use of these media and offer opportunities for investigating and going into detail about given topics that the other media deal with without leaving enough time for thinking them over.

Volume 2 • Issue 02 • 2003