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The everyday science beating poverty

This opinion piece is over 7 years old

Sally Pritchard explains how science is helping to overcome deprivation in Glasgow communities

Glasgow is a city famous for the strength of its communities. It’s one that I’m proud to live and work in, however, since deindustrialisation, Glasgow has become the most deprived city and local authority area in Scotland. Almost half of its 286,000 residents live in 20% of most deprived areas in the country.

However, the city is working hard to regain its footing. The 2014 Commonwealth Games were testament to the level of progress it’s made. Similarly, since it opened in 2001, the Glasgow Science Centre (GSC) has become symbolic of the cities re-birth and transformation.

Sally Pritchard

We use our resources and expertise to tackle challenges faced by high deprivation communities from healthy living and mental wellbeing, to family and adult literacy and numeracy

Sally Pritchard

Science in the community

A major part of this achievement has been linked to our community engagement programme, which launched in 2012. Using everyday science as its core, the programme works with community groups to bring sustainable change to communities in the bottom 15% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. We’ve been inviting various community organisations, from mental health support groups to pensioner groups, into the centre to take part in short courses and discovery days.

Many of the people that I talk to from these groups see science as something completely removed from their lives. Our task is to prove that it is not. We go to great lengths to answer everyday questions, such as:

What does smoking actually do to your lungs? How does hair dye work? How does the water from Loch Katrine makes its way to your home in Glasgow?

Improving choices

We use our resources and expertise to tackle challenges faced by high deprivation communities from healthy living and mental wellbeing, to family and adult literacy and numeracy.

Lack of employment underpins many of the issues that communities from poorer areas face. By encouraging adults to visit and learn about the centre’s Powering the Future exhibition, for example, we aim to inspire interest in what happens in the energy sector, with the overarching objective of encouraging them to seek out further education or job opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) roles.

We invite community groups into the centre to learn about the negative effects of smoking. Using our Bodyworks exhibition (pictured above), we can show them exactly what happens to a smoker’s lung – using a pig lung!

Many of those who attend the workshops at GSC may be averse to traditional classroom-style learning environments. As a result of the way we design our classes, they’re allowed to learn in a way relevant to them. More often than not I discuss what they’d like to do over tea and biscuits in this first instance.

Based on the south-side of the river Clyde, right next to Govan, GSC is part of the landscape of many of Glasgow’s urban communities. I hope that by continuing to work with those that are typically worse of, we will be able to break down any misconceptions about access to science and just how important a role in plays in day to day life.

We’re all very proud of the work we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished. Over the last year alone, we’ve seen a 73% increase in the number of community visitors, which is incredible, and I am looking forward to continuing to help create social change through science in the days to come.

Sally Pritchard is Community Learning Coordinator at Glasgow Science Centre