Thanks to an EU grant of EUR 2.5 million, Science LinX, the science centre of the Faculty of Science and Engineering (formerly known as the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences) of the University of Groningen, will be launching a three-year project that will have scientists, secondary school pupils and science centres in eleven European cities working together. The aim is to give the pupils a better understanding of how science works and scientists a better understanding of the societal impact of their work.
The name of the project is ‘Irresistible’, and its official start will be marked with a conference in Groningen on 25 and 26 November. Jan Apotheker, who as a lecturer in chemistry education is involved in the Science LinX teacher training programme, is one of the brains behind the project and will be project manager. ‘I am really pleased that the EU has chosen to invest the sum of EUR 2.5 million in building a bridge between education and science.’
The aim of the project is to use formal (at school) and informal (at a science museum or festival) teaching to familiarize pupils with science. Fifteen other partners in 11 European countries are involved in the project alongside Science LinX.
‘All participants will form a community of learners (CoL),’ Apotheker explains. These groups will comprise not only school teachers but also educational experts, specialists in the field of science communication and the staff of the science centres.
Within the project, these 11 CoL’s will develop materials that the teachers, each with some 30 to 40 pupils, will use at their own schools. Groups of pupils will visit universities and translate a scientific result from a partner university into an exhibit for a science centre. The exhibit should be focused on the relationship between research and society. Each CoL will consequently produce a teaching module that has been tested in five to ten classes.
This approach is in effect a reflection of how Science LinX already works. From within the Faculty of Science and Engineering Science LinX provides ongoing teacher training and activities for schoolchildren in the fields of natural sciences and technology. These activities include the science exhibition at the Bernoulliborg building on the Zernike Complex and temporary exhibitions such as in the Der-Aa Church during the annual Night of Art and Science.
Once they have completed their teaching module, each teacher will train five colleagues, thus ensuring that the impact is five times greater in the following year. ‘The teaching modules will also be available on a special website,’ says Apotheker. The best exhibits from the project will be presented to the European public during a closing ceremony.
Ultimately, this project will teach almost ten thousand pupils to consider the social impact of scientific research. ‘The participating academics will be able to learn from it as well.’
Among the partners is a prominent research university – the Weizman Institute in Israel (which has produced five Nobel Prize winners) – as well as the IPN, a renowned teaching institute at the University of Kiel. ‘And Bogazici University, the leading university in Turkey, is also taking part.’ Each academic partner will work together with a local science centre. The University of Groningen forms the exception here, because Science LinX is both an academic partner and a science centre. Apotheker: ‘That is why Science LinX and this project is a match made in heaven.’
Science LinX is blazing a trail in Europe. Alongside Irresistible, Science LinX represents the city of Groningen alongside 70 other ‘cities of scientific culture’ in the project PLACES (Platform of Local Authorities and Communicators Engaged in Science). The mid-term brochure, which has just been published, lists the Groningen approach as one of the six examples of clever networks in a city. Science LinX is described as taking a ‘fresh and varied’ approach and providing a ‘tailor-made’ programme to reach out to teenagers, teachers and talents.
The project will begin with an opening conference, which the press is welcome to attend on Monday 25 November 9 a.m. For further information please contact Jan Apotheker
Further information on Science LinX: Bart van de Laar and www.rug.nl/sciencelinx
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