Over one million people visit the National Science and Technology Fair, a two-week interactive celebration of all things science, every year. But for Chirapatcharin Arthachinda (Bink), Director of Public Outreach for the National Science Museum (NSM), which organizes the fair, a million is not enough.
It’s not just about the numbers, either. Ms. Bink wants students to experience science on a personal level – to understand how science relates to their daily lives; not just to know science, but to live and breathe it.
“We still need to do more to engage,” says Ms. Bink, over the dull roar of the convention hall, where thousands of students wait to board school buses back to their home provinces. “We are making science accessible and lovable for the students.”
The annual fair is one of many science outreach events organized by the NSM and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation (MHESI) to promote this type of engagement with science learning outside the formal classroom – better known as “informal STEM.”
STEM is a key part of the Thai government’s increased efforts to expand its technology economy and increase the country’s global competitiveness. Research shows that STEM education is integral for developing a skilled workforce and promoting sustainable growth.
Or as Ms. Bink says, making science “lovable.”
There’s a growing recognition that informal experiences are the cornerstone of a robust STEM education. Informal learning builds a foundation of interest in STEM topics and creates a venue for students to forge identities as STEM learners. Beyond that, it can also be a vehicle for expanding equity and accessibility of STEM knowledge for all, regardless of background.
As part of the Thailand 4.0 initiative, MHESI and NSM along with the Chevron Enjoy Science Project have actively identified exceptional programming and provided the infrastructure to scale it up. Focusing on 21st century skills like creativity and problem-solving, informal programs act as a conduit to developing the interest of Thai students in STEM topics and forming life-long engagements with STEM learning.
New and innovative STEM learning experiences are blossoming in Thailand, from travelling exhibitions like the NSM’s Science Caravan, alongside Enjoy Science Careers, to interactive Maker Spaces and the NSM’s “Science Square” in downtown Bangkok. But by far the highest profile event is the National Science and Technology Fair, which this year hosted exhibitions on topics from the majesty of space exploration to the ooey-gooey ecology of mealworm farms, and everything in-between.
October 10, 2019