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Why and how research institutions should be involved with schools?
Giving the fascination for science at an age where choices and representations are not definitely made is probably among the most fundamental reasons why today research institutions should have closer ties with schools. Young people often find science boring or out of reach. Scientific careers and studies are not attractive. Many of the great challenges of today –such as climate change- generate a lot of confusion and the way the vast majority of people look at them (eg through “the day after tomorrow”) is often far from scientific reality made of doubts and uncertainties as much as from verified facts.
Science is an exciting adventure without which one cannot understand the world and its evolution: we have to feel responsible to impulse this positive feeling from schools’ age. Around this concern shared by many scientists, the CarboEurope educational activity will offer an opportunity to develop & put resources in common, circulate ideas and impulse a concerted strategy at the European level.
The approach will consist in developing an initial set of contents (educational webpages in English) to be used as a starting-point for activities aiming at helping secondary school students to better understand global change research. The impact of this investment will depend on our capacity to involve “multipliers” in reviewing/contributing, producing adaptations in national languages, promoting, training etc.
Traditional multipliers such as NGOs, teacher associations, science museums and other networks interested in science & environmental education will be approached, especially in the perspective of developing adaptations in national languages & related training & dissemination activities.
But research institutions who constitute CarboEurope can also be very efficient multipliers, in particular at the local/regional level. Research institutions anyway face demands from schools and many of them have already included educational concerns within their PR strategies in a more or less structured way. Because this CarboEurope educational activity is developed not from outside, but from inside the IP, it creates an opportunity to explore new ways of involving research institutions proactively into educational outreach around questions such as:
The suggestions presented here derive from key findings of past innovative educational programmes:
1. Encouragement of school projects run by secondary school students (ca. y. 12-18, in group or individually) supported by interdisciplinary teams of teachers, with follow-up from a CE scientist acting as a mentor. Such projects could be either group or individual initiatives characterised by a high level of motivation and involvement, with either long-term extensive (> 6 months) or short term intensive approaches (eg. Internships). They would basically aim at
(i) understanding & experiencing global change research through CE edu. website, interviews, field visits, observations & small experiments etc.
(ii) investigating global change in the local community with a focus on problems & solutions
(iii) communicating project outcomes to a wider audience by any means of communication (conference, exhibition, school newspaper, video, theatre…)
2. Exploitation of school productions as innovative contents & supports for existing PR events: e.g. open days, science week…
3. Exchange of experience, materials, tools on educational/society strategies between CE institutions
Ultimate goal: 1 “education coordinator” in each institute (as main contact-person, either from science or administration / typically, part-time from existing PR positions) + when possible assistance from university student in practice : future teachers / journalists / communicators (interesting for long duration > 2-3 months).
Examples of local partners
-> to impulse this: Workshop on CarboEurope school projects
First workshop: Die/France, 21-24 March 2005
Main topic: how to best facilitate innovative “climate change school projects” from research institutions?
Participants: education coordinators from CE institutions + interested CE scientists + experienced teachers in interdisciplinary project work (ca. 20 participants + 5 facilitators)
- 1 st session (for all participants): implementation issues (ca. 1,5 days)
- 2 nd session (focus on scientists) : capacity-building in communication skills & educational mentoring for scientists (ca. 2 days)
Follow-up of workshop through a web-based forum to post experiences & resources.
External specific funding possible? (European Science Week, RPA, Socrates/Minerva…)
-> mostly depending on the level of commitment from institutions
1. Promotional leaflet
updated by Yvonne Hofmann,