Building with Biology Participant Impact Evaluation Report
The Multi-Site Public Engagement with Science—Synthetic Biology (MSPES) initiative was an Innovations in Development project funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL-1421179) through the Advancing of Informal STEM Learning program (AISL). MSPES promoted public engagement with science (PES)—a model of mutual dialogue and learning between public and scientist audiences—through the creation and distribution of PES kits to nearly 200 informal science education sites around the country. Kits included two types of learning experiences: (1) forum programs during which scientists and teen or adult public participants engaged in 1-2 hour guided discussions, and (2) six hands-on activities with which scientists facilitated brief (typically 5-15 minute) interactions with visitors of all ages at a public event. Both activity types focused on socio-scientific issues in the field of synthetic biology. This report shares the findings from the evaluation of the MSPES project, which focused on participants who engaged with the forum programs and public events which included hands-on activities. Both forum and event participants reported learning facts about and applications of synthetic biology, as well as learning about the field’s relation to society and individuals. Participants also valued learning from their PES experiences. Respondents to both the forum and event surveys reported increased interest in future behaviors related to PES and synthetic biology. Overall, this report shows that the Building with Biology kits promoted a range of positive outcomes for participants, providing valuable and enjoyable experiences that fostered authentic PES interactions. It also raises several opportunities for future work or study, which may deepen the field’s understanding of the complex interactions between the multiple audiences involved in PES, and how to best foster desirable results.
Appendix includes instruments.