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Prof. Katie Hinko Wins $10,000 S3 Grant

Prof. Katie Hinko is leading a team that was awarded a $10,000 Science and Society @ State grant. Working with Prof. Megan Halpern, their project titled: Hidden Value: Investigating the Physics Demonstration as Aesthetic Experience looks to explore physics demonstrations as meaningful experiences.

Physics demonstrations have a rich history both in and outside the classroom. In this project, we seek to better understand the value and meaning of these events. Evaluations of demos have traditionally focused on their ability to facilitate comprehension and retention of information; however, in this context, we seek to examine them as meaningful interactions between demonstrators and audiences. This is part of a larger project to develop an approach to science communication research that shifts the focus from knowledge transfer to experience. This “experience model” describes communication not as a transmission, but rather, as a complex interaction, steeped in cultural and personal context, made meaningful through interpretation and reflection. We focus on one-time outreach events that are based around science demonstrations, which are the most prevalent type of university-facilitated science communication programs, and are especially ubiquitous in physics outreach. In prior work, science demonstrations have been characterized as unsuccessful based on evaluation of knowledge transfer alone. Despite this, demonstrations are still used in many classrooms and throughout museums and other informal learning arenas. Excitement around demonstrations from those who conduct the demonstrations and their audiences suggests that, whether or not information is transferred or retained, there is something meaningful happening. We will observe and interview both the demonstrators and audiences of physics demonstrations to 1) ascertain what about them is meaningful 2) to articulate the idea of the demonstration as an experience, and 3) to develop a framework for creating and evaluating demonstrations using the experience model. This new view of the demonstration can help make visible the hidden dimensions of this long-standing tradition within formal and informal physics learning.

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