The sub-goals of our study include developing and executing a marketing needs assessment in relation to community outreach. This will eventually lead to partnerships with local community service organizations and an educational marketing plan. In addition, we plan to increase the exposure and interest in the Science on a Sphere program to diverse audiences and to show that this approach is effective in utilizing a win-win approach to several constituencies.
“Science On a Sphere (SOS)® is a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe. Researchers at NOAA developed Science On a Sphere® as an educational tool to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages. Animated images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature can be shown on the sphere which is used to explain what are sometimes complex environmental processes, in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating (www.sos.noaa.gov).”
Although SOS can be used to help educate a diverse audience, many people in the community do not know of its existence and those who do know primarily come from a scientific background. Through our study, we plan to outreach, engage and inform a broader and more diverse public about SOS, and bring in participants that are from backgrounds other than science to increase awareness of NOAA and SOS's contribution to quality of life and learning.
The goals will be accomplished through three main steps. First, we plan to collect information from stakeholders (the community) through focus groups, in person interviews, phone interviews, surveys, and pre/post evaluations at the SOS site and a literature review. After we gather the information we will record, sort and analyze information collected utilizing a variety of statistical analyses. We will then report the results of our findings and use it in the educational marketing needs assessment.
We conducted a pilot study to simulate and test our methods for our official information collection phase. To do this, we polled predominantly African American students. The initial goal of the College Student Survey was to determine college students' opinions regarding volunteering, mentoring, and science in general. Eighty nine surveys were collected from various students; with approximately 60 percent female and 28 percent male participation (12 percent did not indicate gender). The ages of the sample population varied from ages 17-26, and came from at least 19 different majors.
The results from the sample population depicted interest towards volunteering, mentoring, and but less so for science. Seventy one percent of the participants confirmed they were members of honor societies and community service organizations of which they are required to participate in volunteer activities. Eighty five percent stated that they would volunteer on their own even without an organizational mandate. Ninety one percent would be interested in mentoring children, and 66 percent would be very interested in joining a mentoring program for children.
The mixed feelings emerge when science is included with volunteering and mentoring. Seventy four percent of students were interested in teaching young children science, but only 52 percent were interested when asked about volunteering in the sciences without children. Also, when asked whether they would be interested in volunteering for a fun science museum activity (children were not mentioned) and only 33 percent reported that they were very likely to actually participate.
Two of the most important questions asked about what encouraged/discouraged their volunteering, with follow-up questions on why they would or they would not volunteer or mentor students. These questions required qualitative responses which help to elucidate and explore the respondents' own rationale and not the researcher's presuppositions. Through these questions it is obvious that the majority of students were willing to work with students through mentorship or volunteering, but when science is added, that number diminishes significantly. One participant was bold enough to write “I hate science.”
Although this information seems ill fated towards science, it is with this information that we will reevaluate, redesign, and revamp our surveys for prospective larger samples of the community and community service organizations. This will provide the opportunity to better understand the thoughts/attitudes that the general public has towards science, and how we can change some of the negative views into positive views.
We plan to host more focus groups/interviews with community service affiliated organizations, and begin an educational marketing needs assessment based on the survey results. We will continue to advertise SOS in a positive light, and meet with community organizations in order to establish and implement volunteering and awareness of SOS and science in general.
This study's primary goal is to promote more scientific awareness and involvement through community service outreach. We plan to promote SOS and science to a more diverse audience through education and volunteer service, and we plan to meet that goal head on. Knowing where we want to go in our project is the key element in actually succeeding in it, and we have clearly defined what we want to do with the project. This research project has the potential to become the bridge between those interested in science and those not interested.