Public and student awareness science: recreational science as a catalyst

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When discussing the traditional and new missions of higher education (1996 Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century) Jacques Delors stated that "Excessive attraction to social sciences has broken equilibrium of available graduates for workforce, thus causing doubts of graduates and employers on the quality of knowledge provided by higher education". Likewise, when discussing the progress of science and technology, the 1998 UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education concluded that "Another challenge concerts the latest advancements of Science, the sine qua non of sustainable development"; and that “with Information Technology, the unavoidable invasion of virtual reality has increased the distance between industrial and developing countries". Recreational Science has a long tradition all over the Educational World; it aims to show the basic aspects of Science, aims to entertain, and aims to induce thinking. Until a few years ago, this field of knowledge consisted of a few books, a few kits and other classical (yet innovative) ways to popularize the knowledge of Nature and the laws governing it. In Spain, the interest for recreational science has increased in the last years. First, new recreational books are being published and found in bookstores. Second the number of Science-related museums and exhibits is increasing. And third, new television shows are produced and new short science-based, superficial sketches are found in variety programs. However, actual programs in Spanish television dealing seriously with Science are scarce. Recreational Science, especially that related to physical phenomena like light or motion, is generally found at Science Museums because special equipment is required. On the contrary, Science related mathematics, quizzes and puzzles use to gather into books, e.g. the extensive collections by Martin Gardner. However, lately Science podcasts have entered the field of science communication. Not only traditional science journals and television channels are providing audio and video podcasts, but new websites deal exclusively with science podcasts, in particular on Recreational Science. In this communication we discuss the above mentioned trends and show our experience in the last two years in participating at Science Fairs and university-sponsored events to attract students to science and technology careers. We show a combination of real examples (e.g., mathemagic), imagination, use of information technology, and use of social networks. We present as well an experience on designing a computational, interactive tool to promote chemistry among high school, prospective students using computers ("Dancing with Bionanomolecules"). Like the concepts related to Web 2.0, it has been already proposed that a new framework for communication of science is emerging, i.e., Science Communication 2.0, where people and institutions develop new innovative ways to explain science topics to diverse publics – and where Recreational Science is likely to play a leading role ​
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