What is Science Circus Africa?
Science Circus Africa is an innovative new approach to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education and capacity building in developing countries. CPAS founded the program in 2013 with support from Questacon, building on a decade of projects in South Africa. The project’s principal supporter is the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The program uses low-cost everyday materials to make science astonishing through exciting live shows in schools and public venues, workshops for teachers, interactive exhibits and community displays, and strategic capacity building in our African partners. The long-term goal is to work with our African partners to establish physical science centres and sustainable, locally led programs.
Science Circus Africa programs make science fun, interactive, relevant to everyday life, and practical and hands-on – they bring science to life! – in regions of the world where science rarely makes it off the blackboard, but is critical to underpin long-term economic growth and wellbeing.
Along with projects in Africa, CPAS brings future leaders of the African science centre movement to Australia for training. In 2017, 15 people from eight countries underwent six weeks of intensive training as part of a DFAT supported Australia Award Fellowship program.
The heart of our model is to train, equip and inspire local organisations so they can continue to provide impacts and drive the project from within their countries. CPAS’s unique approach identifies individuals, universities, governments and NGOs already on the innovative STEM education mission; we further enable those who have already shown commitment and passion. We team up to understand their country’s needs, then share world’s best practice with them in a country-appropriate way, incorporating local knowledge and country specific goals. CPAS’s expertise in this area is unique.
Science Circus Africa programs have trained 359 Africa staff and reached 68,310 people – including training 580 teachers – in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa.
Anecdotal feedback shows the program has affected student’s career and university course choice and changed teacher’s classroom practice, however further research is required to better understand these impacts.
“The experiments conducted during the show further stimulated interest in chemistry - that was when I decided that I want to enroll with BIUST [local university] and study a program in chemistry.” – student in Botswana.
The project is also yielding longer term impacts. In Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi – all countries where no similar approaches to STEM education existed – our African partners have independently run programs reaching over 70,000 people and counting. These African-led programs demonstrate the program is effective at building capacity and producing sustainable outcomes. In short, it works.
Planning in underway to spread these impacts to the Asia-Pacific, beginning with Myanmar.
Other partners and supporters
Several companies and organisations are kindly supporting the project, including:
- AMF Magnetics have provided thousands of magnets, allowing their use in many aspects of the project and donation of magnets to schools.
- The Exploratorium have allowed use of their extensive archive of science activities in developing the Science Circus Africa teacher resource book and teacher workshops.
Science Circus Africa aims to show the fun in STEM, promote the careers and futures it can be part of, and – most critically – build capacity for STEM education and communication in countries where it is greatly needed. Major planned program components include:
Engaging, portable, interactive exhibits and training for local facilitators, including donation of sets of exhibits to our African partners to provide ongoing impact. DIY low-cost ‘pop-up’ science exhibits will be made in Africa with local teams, allowing impacts to be sustained and spread.
Exciting shows will bring the STEM curriculum to life with amazing demonstrations, audience participation and oodles of fun. Experienced international presenters will work closely with African colleagues, initially training and co-presenting shows before African presenters take centre stage. Sets of show equipment and scripts will be left in each country.
Inspiring workshops using everyday items to make science fascinating and hands-on for students, including donation of resource booklets to schools. Workshops have been piloted and will be further customised to address local needs and link to the country’s school curriculum and teacher training colleges. International and African team members will work together, then as skills and confidence build local African staff will assume lead roles.