After a long overdue absence due to preparing and presenting my research in a couple of conferences I’m back to blog writing. One of the conferences I presented in was the Irish International Conference on Education that went on for three days in Dublin last week. It was a really interesting conference with speakers representing the four corners of the world. The session that most interested me was, of course, the one related with science education. It was yet another opportunity to realize that science outreach and formal science education are as connected as ever. In four talks that composed this session, three were related with objectives that are at the heart of science outreach (encourage students to choose a career in Science and a more fun and autonomous learning of science) Apart from my own presentation in which I discussed a bit of my research work the other two were very interesting as they talked about two realities that are not as known to me as I would desire: a south American one with a presentation from Brazil, and an Asian one with a presentation from Thailand.
The presentation from Ana Cristina da Palma Camargo and Marina Schwarz , showed a brilliant work developed by two second level biology teachers, that are doing themselves science outreach. As passionate biology teachers, knowing the reality of not enough students following science, they took the matter in their own hands and initiated a project with their students. The projects runs for a school year in which their students have, once a week, meetings, taking part in lectures related to different fields of knowledge (Biotechnology, Geography, Chemistry, Bioethics, Social Entrepreneurship and Marketing); attend classes about basic knowledge in Cytology, Genetics, Chemistry and Molecular Biology; visit University laboratories (University of São Paulo) and Research centers and take part in practical activities organized by experts. What I find amazing in this project is that, contrary to what you see in a lot of outreach projects, in this case it was the teachers that initiated the project and contacted the research institutions, and not the institutions that went to schools with volunteer scientists or outreach officers. This is definitely an example of passion for teaching and for science.
The other presentation was of a different nature but equally interesting. It presented the research work from Peeranut Kanhadilok from the National Science Museum in Taiwan. It showcased how building and playing with toys can be relevant to the learning and involvement with science but also bring value to local community knowledge. Specifically Peeranuts’ project relates with the general assessment of learning in some particular aspects of school science such as force, energy, work, power in physics through the creation of traditional Thai toys within the Traditional Thai Technology gallery of Thailand’s National Science Museum. The gallery is designed specifically to inspire learning about the relationship between scientific knowledge and local Thai wisdom. After her presentation we were able to see and play with the toys and it was very funny to see how an audience of academics was completely engaged in the playing zone that this project aims to achieve.
The two examples I brought here showcase how getting youngsters involved in science is happening throughout the world. Furthermore, it evidences the variety of different approaches that represent different realities. It contextualizes science and science involvement with the local.