36 my 3A Work Report for the Science Outreach

36 University Avenue EastWaterloo, OntarioN2J 2V8

November 14, 2017

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Marlee SpaffordManager, Science OutreachUniversity of WaterlooWaterloo, OntarioN2L 3G1

 

Dear Marlee Spafford,

This report, titled “Developing an Organizational System for Science Outreach” was prepared as my 3A Work Report for the Science Outreach office. This is my first work report. The purpose of this report to is develop a new organizational system within the Science Outreach office to allow outreach co-op students more time for other tasks.

Science Outreach is the university’s interaction to the community to provide hands on science activities, workshops, and large events for adults and youths.

As one of the outreach assistants, I was employed by the manager of Science Outreach, Heather Neufeld, where majority of my time was allocated toward Let’s Talk Science tasks.

This report was written entirely by me and has not received any previous academic credit at this or any other institution. I would like to thank Heather Neufeld for helping me come with a solution to this problem and provide valuable resources. I would also like to thank Nicole Kaiser from Let’s Talk Science National for providing me with data on how other universities run their Let’s Talk Science branch. I received no other assistance.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jaskaran Ghotra

ID: 20620126

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

                   Page Numbers

Summary………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….i

Introduction 1.0 ..…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1

Problematic Circumstances 2.0 ……………………………………………………………………………………………….2

            Training 2.1 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….2

            Communication 2.2 …………………………………………………………………………………………………3 – 4

Method 3.0 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..4

            Organization 3.1 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………..4 – 6

            Data 3.2 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…6 – 7

Conclusion 4.0 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………7

Recommendation 5.0 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………8

Reference 6.0 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….9

Glossary 7.0 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….9

Appendix 8.0 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….10 – 16

 

 

 

Summary

   The problem within the Science Outreach office is the amount of time spent on organizing workshops. Time can be spent on more important tasks, such as designing new workshops, scheduling volunteer training, and training volunteers. This report includes the process to develop a new organizational system for the Science Outreach office. This system will increase the efficiency of the office, allowing the outreach assistants to use their time for other major tasks. Volunteers will be allowed to help the office by signing up for clean-up sessions for workshops. Volunteers will be provided with material check lists and given access to areas where inventory for workshops is kept. Altering the system will require data gathered through volunteer feedback. The manager of Science Outreach, Heather Neufeld was consulted before and during the implementation of this system. She helped edit the introductory email sent to volunteers, inviting them to sign up and prepare workshops. She also gave some recommendations. Recommendations include cleaning the storage space and altering the SignUp description to not include the name of the workshops volunteers will be preparing. This will allow outreach assistants to double check workshops for any volunteer mistakes. This system is planned to be implemented by mid December.

 

 

 

1.0 Introduction

 

The faculty of science at the University of Waterloo engages in community outreach in order to “provide programs and enrichment activities to increase the awareness and importance of Science to society” (University of Waterloo, n.d). Outreach is an important part of the University of Waterloo. In order to sustain the demand for outreach events and activities, the University of Waterloo has its own Science outreach branch, under the faculty of science. The role of the Outreach Assistant is to aid the outreach office coordinate and run activities and events in the Region of Waterloo. The assistant’s main responsibility is Let’s Talk Science, a national organization which focuses on teaching curriculum based science through hands-on workshops. As both co-op staff and a Let’s Talk Science volunteer, the assistant is responsible for the organization of workshops, scheduling visits, scheduling training for visits, and training volunteers. This role helps the assistant gain a lot of experience in organization, communication, and leadership. The assistant will learn proper prioritization, respectful and confident communication, and how to guide as a leader on the job. Part of guiding others is how well the assistant is able to provide helpful information to the volunteers. The assistant must be able to conduct training sessions, which includes a run through of the entire workshop, examples of questions that students might ask volunteers, advice on running workshops, and answers to most questions volunteers might have.

      

2.0 Problematic Circumstances

Visits occur multiple times within a week. The assistant makes sure that workshops are filled with the correct materials by going through checklists. This organization however requires a lot of time. The time spent on the organization can be allocated toward other tasks such as the creation of workshops, scheduling visits, and training volunteers. Organization of workshops should be delegated toward volunteers through a sign-up system.

2.1 Training

       Training volunteers is one of the top priorities of the assistants. An assistant must be willing to drop any task to train volunteers. The importance of training volunteers lies with the reputation of Let’s Talk Science and the subject of Science itself. While on visits and at large events, volunteers are the face of the university and the Let’s Talk Science program. They must be given proper training on workshops before they educate students on topics of Science. Volunteer training occurs in 20 – 30-minute sessions two days before the visit, but can extend to 1 hour if consecutive training is booked. Proper training cannot take place if workshops are not stocked and organized before the session. The deadline of having workshops organized one week before the visit cannot be completed by the assistant alone. Volunteers may also drop by for training unannounced. The assistant must ideally be able to run through everything from the workshop without having any missing items.

            

2.2 Communication

   There can be a lack of communication in the workplace caused by a large list of tasks to be completed. Communication is key in this position as it allows both assistants to divide up responsibilities. However, experiencing many interruptions such as surprise volunteer training or unexpected visits due to lack of volunteers can cause static. If assistants do not have clear communication, tasks can be rushed which can cause multiple mistakes to be made.  At least one assistant is attending visits multiple times during a week. Figure i compiles the number of times an assistant is required to attent workshops for a week. The data shows the name of workshops, time of visits, and number of volunteers helping out. Visits can take up to four hours, as they did for the afternoon visits for November 22 and November 23. You may be asking “why did the assistant go out on these visits if volunteers were attending these visits as well”. Two reasons, first is that there were not enough volunteers for some of these visits. We require a minimum of two volunteers attend visits. Second, not all volunteers have their G license. For safety and insurance purposes, the university requires all university vehicles be driven be G license carriers, which many of our volunteers are not. A day for an assistant can include both full day visits, training, and preparation of workshops.

Interruptions can last for an entire day for an assistant. This causes a lack of communication between co-workers which reduces the efficiency of the workplace. Best stated by Dickinson and Mcintyre ‘the exchange of information is vital to the success of two or more individuals working as a team’ (Fletcher and Major, 2006). Communication through devices can help convey information, but face to face communication helps relay the urgency and understanding of information. Direct ineraction between co-workers is also useful for spontaneous brainstorming for upcoming events. The assistant out on visits can miss out on vital discussions in the office that they could have had ideas on. Delegating workshop preparation would help reduce some of the workload off assistants and help them be more involved in the office.

3.0. Method

Volunteers will be able to sign up for organization sessions for workshops. These sessions will be one hour long and will include snacks as incentives for volunteers to work. Another incentive will be session hours being recorded into volunteer profiles. These hours are to be used at the volunteer’s request for achievements on resumes and applications. This new system will allow assistants to focus on other responsibilities.

3.1 Organization

   First, comes preparation. Assistants must look through which workshops need the most organization and look at which materials volunteers need to be provided. If materials are not available, assistants must acquire them before organization begins.

   Second, comes scheduling. Assistants will use SignUp to create a system where volunteers can make their own choice of when they would like to come in to organize workshops. SignUp is a scheduling website used to easily organize volunteers for different events at different times. SignUp is used as a scheduling system for Let’s Talk Science visits, so volunteers are already familiar with the system. Volunteers can access this site through the provided Google calendar link. SignUp allows assistants to assign times and number of volunteers required for visits. The same system will be used for organizing workshops. The name of the workshop and time required to organize the workshop will be stated on the website. Volunteers will sign up using their emails. Reminder emails will be sent to volunteers one day before the session. The email will consist of the workshop and time volunteers are required to come in. When volunteers come in they will be placed in areas that are most convenient for them to prepare workshops. For example, the materials for the Earthquakes! Workshop requires the use of a large cutter located in the Earth Sciences and Chemistry building.  

Assistants will have the added responsibility of double checking workshops. As this will be the first time volunteers are allowed to restock and organize workshops, cautiousness is required. As an example, for Let’s Talk Science visits it is a requirement for experienced volunteers or outreach assistants to attend visits with inexperienced or new volunteers. Assistants can start to reduce the amount of checks once volunteers can be trusted to fully organize workshops by themselves. Another reason to implement this system is to track if volunteers will feel more involved with Science Outreach.  This system will introduce more transparency into the workplace, allowing volunteers to understand the responsibilities of an outreach assistant. This system can be expanded to larger events. Preparation for community events such as Science Open House can be made easier if tasks are delegated to trusted volunteers. Volunteers for larger events must be experienced in the organization of workshops and have knowledge of where materials are located.

3.2 Data

   Data to test the efficiency and effectiveness of this system will be collected through direct feedback from volunteers. Volunteers will be given an evaluation form. Feedback will allow assistants to alter the system. Another source of data is Let’s Talk Science national. National keeps records of which universities have volunteers running the program and which have employees. The national office will be used to help direct the assistants towards universities that use volunteers to run the program. The system will also be discussed with the manager of Science Outreach to see how it can be improved to better cater toward both volunteers and assistants. This method of organization will need to be monitored for more than one term in order to fully integrate it as an official responsibility of the outreach assistants. Further upkeep will also increase awareness of the system among volunteers.

Two testing dates were used for volunteers to come in and prepare workshops. In total four volunteers came, two for each date. To market the new volunteer organization system a mass email was sent to existing Let’s Talk Science volunteers at the University of Waterloo. Two testing dates were posted on SignUp, each requiring two volunteers. The spots were filled not long after the email was sent. The first testing date was November 21st, 2017 and volunteers were required to prepare materials for the Building Bugs workshop. Volunteers were asked to work in EIT 1010, the storage space where most resources are kept. They were given a brief description on how Building Bugs runs to get a better understanding of how they needed to prepare materials. Volunteers were then guided through how to prepare materials and what materials needed to be prepared and were given an example of how the finished materials should look like. They were then given the rest of the hour to work.

The second testing date, November, 24th 2017, the two volunteers were asked to prepare the Earthquakes workshop. The workshop was summarized to the volunteers, just as for Building Bugs. They were again given a sample of what the materials for the workshop should look like. They were placed in the ESC mail room this time because the resources needed for this workshop were in that room.

Figure ii of the appendix shows the questionaire volunteers were given at the end of the hour. It is clearly shown from their responses that volunteers enjoyed this experience. All volunteers said that it is a good idea for them to help organize the workshops because it helps them gain extra hours if they have schedule conflicts with the visits. Other reasons inlcude helping the outreach assistants and having a better idea of how workshops are prepared.  

4.0 Conclusion

This system can increase the efficiency of the Science outreach office if implemented properly. With the help of volunteers assistants will be able to focus more on visits, training, and other community events. Stakeholders such as the manager of Science Outreach will also benefit from this system due to the increase in efficiency and time management in the office. Hours will be added on to volunteer profiles, which can be used on resumes and applications.

5.0 Recommendation

Assistants will start cleaning the storage space for volunteers and discuss which areas volunteers can have access to with the manager. The storage space is a room where most workshop resources are kept, but is quite messy. Figure iii of the appendix plots data into a graph based on items volunteers were asked to rank on the evaluation forms. Cleanliness of workspace has the lowest score. The storage space becomes quite messy when assistants are preparing workshops or creating new ones, so it is their responsibility to make sure it is clean for when volunteers come in.

Final recommendation is to not write the name of the workshop that will be organized by volunteers, on SignUp. This way, the assistant can delegate volunters to prepare workshops that require more work. It will also allow assistants to have volunteers prepare multiple workshops if there is time leftover.

 

 

 

 

 

6.0 References

Fletcher, T. D, & Major, D. A. (2006). The Effects of Communication Modality on Performance and Self-Ratings of Teamwork. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 22(6). Retreived from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00027.x/full

 

Waterloo Science Outreach provides programs and enrichment. (n.d). Community Outreach. University of Waterloo. Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/science/community-outreach

7.0 Glossary

Building Bugs: A workshop from Let’s Talk Science which is catered towards grade 2 students and talks about growth and changes in animals.

Earthquakes:A workshop from Let’s Talk Science which is catered toward grade 3 students and talks about forces and stable structures.

Let’s Talk Science: A national organization founded in 1991, whos mission is to use interactive learning with youth to create a better understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Outreach: Going further than just personal and job responsibilities and helping out communities in different ways.

SignUp: A website that allows people to easily coordinate volunteers for events.