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Inspirational education for budding scientists [Print to PDF] [Print to RTF]

Science for children these days has gone some way beyond old-style rote learning of formulas and chemical compounds - now it is about encouraging more active learning, invention and creativity in a quest to inspire.

EU-funded kidsINNscience ('Innovation in Science Education -...
Inspirational education for budding scientists
Science for children these days has gone some way beyond old-style rote learning of formulas and chemical compounds - now it is about encouraging more active learning, invention and creativity in a quest to inspire.

EU-funded kidsINNscience ('Innovation in Science Education - Turning Kids on to Science') aims to develop this approach further with children in Europe and Latin America.

The aim is to get children from pre-primary school right through to upper secondary school, more involved and interested in science and to consider it as a possible career. For example, in Austria, Italy and Slovenia teenagers have been investigating alternative energy by designing their own cookers. Swiss and Dutch students have looked into ways they can connect physics and sports by running and jumping to measure, calculate and improve both their physical abilities and their abilities in physics.

The project is collecting innovative practices in science education with the aim of also closing the current gender imbalance in science. Currently, male scientists outnumber female scientists by a wide margin.

Nadia Prauhart from the Austrian Institute of Ecology, the project's coordinator, explains: 'Many teachers in the partner countries were not aware of any gender differences amongst their science students. So we have raised their awareness of the issue so they can make sure there is not a divide and that girls and boys are addressed individually to ensure they are given equal chances to get enthusiastic towards science. This is especially important at the secondary level.'

In fact, the project found girls fully embrace scientific activities, which have been traditionally seen as male domains.

She adds: 'What we found that girls especially seemed to be interested in experiments which involved growing things. For example pupils have been learning about where and how potatoes grow, as well as their variety and their cultural context. '

Focusing on teaching that is centred on learners and hands-on activities motivates children to continue with science. For example, the project's approach includes working with everyday materials such as common household items.

A first step was to collect innovative practices in all partner countries. About 80 innovations were documented in a catalogue. From these, teachers selected by the project picked those they wished to carry out as field trials within their classrooms.

The field trials were then evaluated to determine what motivates teachers and students alike. Teachers then developed these ideas in the classroom, with support from a network linking them with kidsINNscience researchers and experienced teachers.

The kidsINNscience consortium unites research partners from universities and research institutions, who are experienced in new methods in science education. The EU provided EUR 999 224 of the total funding for the project.

After operating for four years, the project is due to end in the summer of 2013. However, the partner countries plan to carry on supporting inspiring science teaching.
Source: KidsINNscience - Interview with Nadia Prauhart

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Record Number: 35859 / Last updated on: 2013-07-04
Category: Project
Provider: EC