Case study: Project evaluation at Eureka! Science + Discovery

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Background to the project

Eureka! Science + Discovery is a new visitor attraction scheduled to open on Merseyside in Autumn 2022.  It will use an interactive, hands-on approach to enable children aged 7 – 14 to discover how Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) influence and shape their lives. The content for the exhibitions is being developed using a co-creation model that brings together local children and young people in collaboration with scientists, engineers and exhibit design specialists. The project is being developed by Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, a unique, award-winning cultural attraction in Halifax that uses play and creativity to help children aged 0 – 11 understand the world around them.

Why evaluate?

The team developing Eureka! Science + Discovery have a track record of using evaluation for continuous improvement, and to help them understand the impact of their work and make the case to partners and funders. The project team built evaluation into the Eureka! project from the outset, including budgeting for an external consultant to work with them throughout the development process. There are four aspects to this work:

  1. Front-end evaluation: Eureka! did wide-ranging research in planning and fundraising for the new attraction to evidence the demand for the project and to understand the needs of its target audience and stakeholders.
  2. The co-creation process itself: children and young people are at the heart of the exhibit development process, which ensures that their views and feedback are integrated at every stage.
  3. Formative evaluation: specific exhibits are tested at key points in their development to make sure they are easy to use and communicate the intended messages to visitors.
  4. Summative evaluation: Eureka! has planned an extensive period of evaluation after the launch date to understand the impact of the new attraction. This includes evaluating the impact of the co-creation process; the extent to which the final exhibits influence visitors’ knowledge and understanding of STEAM subjects; the impact of the attraction on visitors’ attitudes towards science and technology; and its impact on the economic development and perceptions of the local area.

The benefits of evaluation

While the project is still in development, evaluation work is already generating some important insights. For example, the evaluation consultant researched the impact of the co-creation process by undertaking in-depth structured interviews with industry partners, children and young people, teachers and youth workers. This research demonstrated that the process itself had had a positive impact on all those involved, from children and young people who developed their skills, confidence and understanding of STEAM industries, to the industry partners who developed new creative approaches to communicating their passion to young people and found renewed enthusiasm for their work. It also identified factors that had made a difference: proactive support from an experienced co-creation specialist, the playful open-ended approach, and the fact that the new attraction is a high profile project located at the heart of the local community.

This evaluation is being communicated back to stakeholders and funders, helping to build support for the project, and the feedback will enable the Eureka! team to develop their model further as they undertake similar co-creation approaches in future.

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