European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

POLLEN: Seed cities for science, a community approach for a sustainable growth of science education in Europe

Final Report Summary - POLLEN (Seed cities for science, a community approach for a sustainable growth of science education in Europe)

The aims of POLLEN were to stimulate and support inquiry-based science teaching and learning in primary schools, providing tools, training, coaching and assessment.

The major goal of POLLEN was to provide an empirical illustration of how science teaching can be reformed on a local level within schools whilst involving the whole community, in order to demonstrate the sustainability and efficiency of the Seed City approach to stakeholders and national education authorities, and to seek leverage effects.

In each Seed City, POLLEN provided material and methodological and pedagogical support compatible with the framework of the local curriculum.

POLLEN provides the following benefits to schools:
- Dozens of hours of teacher training per year, educational materials, specially designed activities, experimental materials for the classroom, etc.
- A permanent advisory service for carrying out the different activities.
- A European network to intensify cooperation and twinning activities.
- A unique web platform in order to access tools, contact coordinators and receive information about the development of the project.

The local trainer is somebody who is familiar with school culture and in-service training, as well as with school development processes. He / she:
- ensures and facilitates links between the POLLEN community and the school in general;
- carries out the in-service training and enhances cooperation within the local community.

The local coordinator is familiar with the organisation and the dynamics of the local community and its processes. He / she:
- coordinates POLLEN local community board actions;
- manages local budgetary and administrative issues related to the project;
- ensures and facilitates daily contact between schools and the institutions within the local community, and coordinates joint events and activities;
- ensures internal and external communications.

The local community board coordinates local POLLEN activities:
- It is headed by the local coordinator: training, instructions and suggestions for Seed City community board management are provided through general coordination.
- It helps define and implement the action plan: this includes analysis of the community's scientific needs and suggestions for activities.
- It provides a participatory framework for all stakeholders, coordinating initiatives undertaken by schools and other actors, stimulating partnerships, sharing resources and assessing the whole project.
- It maintains high visibility of POLLEN.

The work that was performed during the project was divided into four work packages:
- Initial evaluation of science education in each Seed City to define main objectives.
- Creation of a sense of partnership in and ownership of the project.
- Design and implementation of a strategic plan.
- Development of all activities and actions in the school and community.

In Amsterdam and in the district of North Holland, the aim of POLLEN was to enable primary schools to implement effective ICT use in their science and technology programmes to promote science and technology education. This resulted in the development and implementation of ICT-enriched lessons, activities and material. Sensors to measure temperature, sound and light were also used and related activities were developed.

Berlin had a high concentration of science in the academic, research and cultural fields. Since 2006, changes were made to the primary school curriculum, with the addition of science topics. The fact that the teachers were not given sufficient help to implement these changes made Berlin an excellent Seed City for starting POLLEN.

The city of Brussels was the second school organisation of the French community (Brussels and Wallonia). The POLLEN actions sought to improve children's skills and self-esteem. In addition, special after-school activities were organised for children in disadvantaged areas of Brussels.

Like most European cities, Girona faced challenges and opportunities as a result of immigration. The POLLEN actions focused on learning science in multicultural environments through the contextualisation of the topic in this city.

Leicester is the largest city in the East Midlands and the tenth largest in the country. Leicester developed creative activities to improve cross-curricular links. The environment and facilities within the city were used to enhance science. The following subjects were explored in relation to science: art, literacy, history, geography, sport, design and technology.

The POLLEN actions in Slovenia took place in the capital city, Ljubljana, which was actively involved in the scientific field. The University of Ljubljana played a leading role in researching and implementing science in primary schools in the nineties, developing new curricula in an experimental approach and providing new modules for in-service teachers training sessions.

Loures is a city near Lisbon and is the Portuguese POLLEN Seed City. It has a large community of children attending one of the local primary schools already involved in the Ciencia Viva network. As part of the community participation aspect, the POLLEN actions in Loures ensured that families in low-income communities got involved with their children in school activities and encouraged them to promote scientific culture in the community.

In Perugia and the Umbria region, the way in which children's participation in science education can promote civic values was explored through POLLEN, along with the kinds of participation activities that can help to promote child citizenship. This required the cooperation of different actors with the objective of raising awareness and generating solutions for sustainable development.

Saint-Etienne was selected as the French Seed City due to its rich scientific network of more than 800 researchers and extensive experience in the development of science teaching at school. The city approach stressed the provision of scientific and pedagogical support to teachers.

The work of POLLEN was based in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, where a number of pupils up to seventh grade benefited from a hands-on approach before moving on to secondary school. In secondary school, the hands-on approach was far less developed than in primary school.

The second largest city in the country and the capital of Southern Estonia, Tartu is the scientific centre of Estonia. It introduced guided inquiry-based learning in special needs education with the aim of helping children to develop greater cognitive skills. The field of special needs education in Estonia is well established and a great deal of attention is paid to children with different disabilities.

Hungary has a long tradition of science education at the secondary and university levels, but primary schools had not been involved in the inquiry-based approach. The POLLEN Seed City in Hungary was Vac, one of the oldest towns in the country.

A team of evaluators defined the frameworks for the entire project assessment, focusing on the following three topics: teachers' attitudes towards science, students' attitudes towards science, and community participation in the project. In addition, continuous evaluation was carried out by the local staff, with the participation of the community board and occasionally representatives of the different stakeholders.

Inquiry-based science education (IBSE) was at the core of the pedagogical approach supported by POLLEN. By combining global research, scientific learning, experimentation and evidence-based reasoning, language and debating skills, IBSE enables pupils to further their understanding of the objects and phenomena around them, as well as enhance their curiosity, creativity and critical skills.

Research has clearly established that teacher training and tutoring are the main components required for a profound change in practices, especially to combat the reluctance related to science teaching that is common among primary teachers. By providing in-service training sessions and tutoring in the classroom, POLLEN has contributed to enhancing IBSE teaching skills and has thus succeeded in achieving lasting changes in practices.

Schools are part of a broader setting, in which interaction with other local stakeholders is also important in order to strengthen educational innovation. POLLEN fostered community participation, through a board involving families, the scientific community, universities, public services, industries, and other entities on a local level to better incorporate science education policy within the city agenda, as well as to provide teachers and pupils with field experience and visits.

Equipment is a key factor, although it does not necessarily have to be expensive or based on advanced technology. POLLEN made available for teachers sets of basic scientific material for the classroom, as well as ready-to-use protocols based on this material. Usually provided in the form of kits or boxes containing all the necessary elements for teachers and pupils to start with, it helped to reduce the practical difficulties teachers are usually afraid of, as well as to structure practices around common frameworks underpinned in the teaching protocols.

A formative assessment of how teachers react and perform in the classroom is essential to educational innovation. It shows the kind of specific difficulties they face when implementing innovation and whether and under which conditions they benefit from changing their teaching practices. An overall evaluation dealing with the global impact of the project is also necessary in order to justify changes based on concrete evidence to policy-makers and education authorities. The quality of community participation in each Seed City was also assessed.