You are on the Open Note Book of the European project SPOON. You will find here all informations related to the whole project but also resources, medias, reports etc. of transnational meetings related to our common problematic: how to approach STEM at school !
Each year, around 90 youngsters, aged between 9 and 18, meet in the facilities of the Mediterranean Institute for Life Science (MEDILS) in Split to join STEM-related activities guided by scientists during six days.
This year the SPOON project partners have visited the 13th edition, organised in the coast of Croatia with an unparalleled scientific atmosphere, where we could be in contact with experts in different fields. The MEDILS facilities offered to youngsters an engaging context to take the role of a STEM professional.
The organisation crew, formed by five passionated persons in STEM Education, started preparing the new edition on January with the selection of the mentors. First, they meet personally with all the appliers, and after the interviews, those with more potential were selected. In the next weeks, the mentors prepared a proposal for a workshop, based on their expertise and interests, with the SSF crew support. Finally, the SSF organisation selected the workshops for the new edition, and they spent a weekend polishing the details of the summer camp and counseling the mentors about pedagogy, about how to adapt to the target group age, etc. The involved mentors are motivated because the summer camp offers them the opportunity to practice their teaching, and they feel engaged trying to explain difficult content and procedures to the kids.
For example, two students in the first year of Medicine taught the kids what are the basic procedures of a general practitioner, and the youngsters had the opportunity to apply what they learned on the visitors the last day’s science fair: they measured blood pressure and lung capacity, identified blood types, etc. And that is one of the strengths of the science camp: the kids have opportunities to experience both real-world science and captivating simulations about science and technology.
The content for the workshops are designed with preciseness, but they are very playful too. Moreover, playfulness is one of the cornerstones of the camps. During the day the kids are fostered to participate in amusing games to get involved and make relationships among them, so the camps offer them opportunities not only to develop STEM skills but other vital skills too: soft skills, interpersonal skills to build relations, know people with the same interests, consider failure as a part of the process, etc.
In 2019 SSF received 136 applications to participate in the SSF, 91 of them were selected. Usually, youngsters are required to send a motivational letter that is taken partially into consideration for the selection, and grades are not important because the organisers want motivated kids more than any other thing. Furthermore, the youngsters that participated in the previous edition do not have a preference to attend the next edition, because SSF aims to reach as many young people as possible.
The Spoon partners have really enjoyed the opportunity to experience on first hand the superb opportunity offered to the youngsters by SSF, and we all got very inspired with ideas to take to our countries.
That’s it, we’re finally here! The first meeting in field immersion of our European colleagues as part of the Erasmus + SPOON ! It’s always energizing to concretely undertake a project on which we have been thinking for several years, I was looking forward to getting to work for real by discovering the work of my Spanish colleagues.
With the MPLS Alsace we went to two people, myself, responsible for the project, and my colleague chemistry-physics teacher in secondary school and also trainer Jean-Daniel Hihi.
After a few hours of bus, transit and plane, we well arrive in Bilbao, well disposed to take a “spoonful” of science, with Basque sauce!
The welcome started in the presence of all our Croatian, Dutch, and Barcelona colleagues and of course with the kindness and the smile of Danel and Aitziber, our hosts of the Elhuyar Foundation of Bilbao.
We first receive the guidelines, established by Maria Heras Lopes from UOC Barcelona, built to allow to analyze the different interactions between teachers, students, organizers, and public during the Science fair. These indications make it possible to have the most constructive view possible on the subject that interests us in the context of this project : About how to create the best conditions and the most suitable environment for the development of transversal skills among teachers and students via science projects.
The stands installed inside Plaza Berria, it must be said, enjoyed a rather sublime and conducive to the opening to the general public, because beyond its beautiful architecture, and thanks to many pintxos teems happily with people, that’s make live together for a day, locals of all ages, tourists, journalists, and little scientists.
We first do a tour of the stands in the gallery of the place, held by the students, and after we went to the heart of the place of larger projects, as well as press space and institutional stands.
Despite the language barrier (most students speak Basque), we try contact ! We want to talk with the students, see their project and understand how they implemented it in class, chose their theme etc. Shyness is quickly defeated and almost all groups were able to tell us their project very clearly ! Many topics are addressed by students: ergonomics solutions for people with disabilities, food in space, antibiotic resistance, spectrometric tools to help color-blind people choose their tomatoes, useful robots, the preoccupation of increase in asthma cases, and many others.
We play the game, and participate in student demonstrations as needed.
The second part of the day, we returned to the fair, but this time we are put in groups of two, a Spooner / a local teacher who worked on a class project. This is an opportunity to deepen with them, the project management dimension, and to know more and share about the overall process for this kind of school project.
We meet a group of teachers who are more motivated than ever ! Miren, Inge and Garazi, from La Salle Beasain School, explained us that 4 hours / week are dedicated to the realization of this project for the fair. Students work in groups of 2 to 5 students of different levels. Thematics are chosen by students and validated by the teachers, the only constraint was to approach questions of science and society
The roles of the Elhuyar Foundation are to provide skills and networks of scientists and industries and laboratories available to the classes to help them to develop their projects. The implications of these professionals can be diverse: donation of materials, email exchanges, recommendations, advices about scientific methodology or site visits. Elhuyar also takes care of training for 2 days the teachers candidates to Science Fair upstream to give them the right project management tools, and insights on the scientific approach.
Miren admits to being completely thrilled to be part of this kind of initiative that puts students in action, as it helps to foster teamwork, initiative and collaboration among student groups as well as students. teachers between them. There is also naturally, at the end of the way, a sense of accomplishment, and pride in school projects and it is very important.
But they don’t hide the fact that all this remains the result of hard work throughout the year, because we must ensure order and responsibility and all year until May! It must be made clear to students that involvement and concentration must be from beginning to end, because it’s a project that engages everyone.
In general, even if sometimes the scientific accuracy is a little put aside, we noted that there is no doubt that the students developed with this fair, fundamental transversal skills to learning, in critical mind but also to everyday life in general, to name but a few I will emphasize the commitment, the faculty of adaptation, the spirit of initiative, the collaborative work, the solidarity, and especially the communication and opening to others. To be able to communicate, to present, to make envy, to make understand, to be friendly and to adapt to his public, to repeat again and again, to pass the word and take it again, to be self-managed, to be tenacious and persevering. We could cite others but this list already shows how much this type of experience is worth living, and that science and its approach are a pretext quite suitable and efficient for learning contents but also behaviors useful to build as a citizen in general, and the role of framing these meetings by Elhuyar is very important. Thank you again for this work and this welcome!
One of the major challenges of this first SPOON meeting was to discover how the Elhuyar Foundation and the teachers coordinate to carry out the projects presented at the local science fair. To better help the SPOON delegation to make good observations during the fair visit, Maria and Isabel from the UOC have prepared a guidelines tool, in order to ask the right questions on the spot and to identify the strengths and best practices of our colleagues from the Basque country.
By Maria Heras Lopes & Elena Iuliani
The main evaluation tools implemented by UOC this year in Bilbao are two surveys handed in to participant teachers before and after Elhuyar’s science fair. Complementary to that, we also took advantage of our visit to Bilbao to create an observation tool for all SPOON participants. Its goal was to structure spooners’ observations of the fair around the evaluation interests of Bilbao’s case study and provide insights for the analysis and design of the surveys.
The observation tool contained several observation questions organised around three sections:
1) Teachers’ interactions during the fair;
2) The presence of moments of critical reflection during students’ presentations; and
3) Other observations relevant for understanding the involvement of the teachers in the fair. Together with this observation tool, we also had the chance to talk directly with teachers, as we had a guided tour through the fair with one teacher during the afternoon.
Observing the fair and talking to teachers allowed us to think more accurately about our evaluation design and the questions to include in our survey. We were positively surprised by students’ autonomy during the fair and their capacity and enthusiasm to communicate their research and discuss about it with the public. Teachers’ guidance and support during the previous months was essential to this. As one teacher mentioned, the science fair was only “the tip of the iceberg”. Another teacher defined her participation in the science fair as a “shared journey” with the students, in which all of them learnt together through their research. All in all, motivation, both from teachers and students, was something we could all notice through our observations and conversations during the fair.
When Aitziber and Danel arrived on the morning of the 19 of May, they had a fresh curious look we can detect in people engaged in science education. For them, as for us at MSA, science education is a true passion.
They are partners in an ERASMUS + project which is part of MSA global project to open up to Europe. This aims at enriching our experience together with our European counterparts. In the May 19th event they were also invited to make a presentation about the Elhuyar foundation.
Our Basque parteners, Danel Solabarrieta and Altziber Lasa with Elena Iuliani
During the anniversary day I had the opportunity to meet these partners and understand the science education projects they are carrying on in Bilbao.
To better understand their work we must be aware of their context. Bilbao is the capital of the region Basque country, Euskal Herria. As Alsace, the Basque country has his own language. There, the language is learned by everybody at home and is a mandatory subject in most schools. There are many groups and associations, supporting the Basque language and culture, and Elhuyar, the foundation where Aitziber and Danel work, is one of them. Together with this goal, it also promotes science outreach, with several activities that put together university researchers and high school students. Their main event is the annual science fair, involving 100 researchers and 1155 students.
As I learnt more about their work I happily invited them to get to know the philosophy behind the MSA project. In the hall, before the conference room, there was a display of the most meaningful objects from the MSA tutoring sessions of latest f years. As we walked through the hallway we talked with some of the tutors, that explained their work. What a joy! I was really happy to introduce these amazing people, all working in this super interesting project, to our special guests.
Danel, me and Annabelle Kremer during the coffee break.
People passionate about their work, I find, are always the best. And there, at the 5th year celebration of the MSA at the Palais de l’Université, I found myself surrounded by passionate people working together to a better school. Our guests, Aitziber and Danel, seemed to share my opinion and enthusiasm, as they kept posing questions as the day went by.
Not only we talked with our tutors but we also met some of the speakers. The day was clearly too short to talk with all the interesting people there. But, then again, all the good days are too short!
Altziber Lasa during their presentation.
Thank you Aitziber and Danel for what we’ve learned from you, for your sympathy and for sharing with us this important day.
Where and when was the idea of the Science Fair born?
Elhuyar Fundazioa, a partner in the Spoon project, organises the Elhuyar Science fair that will be visited by all Spoon project partners next 11th of May in Bilbao. The Science Fair was born in 2004 as an idea-contest, with the name of “Nanoskopioa”. In 2014 it took the science fair format and the initiative that until then was itinerant was established in Bilbao for reasons of sponsorship and organization. When it became a science fair, we try to improve it thanks to the previous years’ experience and with what we had learned abroad. We decided to prioritise the life-experiences of young people instead of fostering competition, to increase the participation of the whole community, to engage more professional researchers, etc. As the initiative is organized each year, we always have proposals about how to improve the fair, e.g. how to help more to students, the inclusion of the Research and Responsible Innovation paradigm (RRI), the awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 of the United Nations or how to engage more professional and educational worlds.
Why bring young people to science?
Today’s young people will need science and technology competencies, regardless of which profession they will choose. Besides, scientific literacy should be given to all citizens, so that they have solid bases to make decisions in their daily lives. From this point of view, we should achieve an open and critical attitude towards science form society. Furthermore, more real and comprehensive vision of science and technology studies should be given to young people so their career decisions were been grounded in solid and realistic pieces of evidence. For example, they should understand that learning chemistry opens many doors to work in different jobs, not only to work in a laboratory.
How many students participate? How many centers? How many researchers? How many associations / entities collaborate?
In the last science fair, we counted on the participation of 256 groups of 33 schools, 911 youngsters (452 girls, 449 boys and 10 non-binary). We have 248 researchers from all universities willing to help young people (139 women and 109 men), while the participating researchers have been 146, of which 82 are women. We have several collaborating entities: Universities (University of the Basque Country, Mondragon Unibertsitatea, University of Deusto, Public University of Navarre, Basque Summer University, Ikerbasque, and Digipen) and non-profit organizations (Unesco Etxea, Bizkaia Talent). More information can be found on the Science Fair website. In general, we are very happy with its excellent reception.
What kind of projects do the students present?
They can present research projects and technology projects, based on STEAM fields (science, technology, art, engineering, and mathematics). Most usual topics are those related to the environment, health and technology. One of the biggest difficulties for students is choosing the topic; we always suggest them to choose a challenge that is feasible, as difficulties always appear along the way. In this sense, the experience of young people and teachers is vital: the more experience they have, the easier is to finish the project and present it in the science fair. One of our roles is to help about it directly or with professional researchers.
How is the science fair event?
The students present their projects in stands show the projects, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. The Plaza Nueva of Bilbao is always crowded, so the young people have to explain their projects on several occasions; Thanks to that, the students gain in their confidence and communication skills.
In addition, there are several activities to enhance the engagement of the public during the fair event: science experiments for children, researchers presenting their works in universities, etc. At the end of the day, there are some prizes, trying not to be too competitive; therefore, all prizes are scientific experiences: stays, opportunities to go to other fairs, scholarships, courses, etc., and the philosophy is that the prizes are as distributed as possible among the schools.
At what level does the collaboration in this project refer?
“Experiences and community” is the motto of the Elhuyar STEAM Education area, so the collaboration is at the base of the project. From the philosophy that the education requires the participation of the whole community, we make a bridge to create and strengthen the relationships between different social actors: schools, families, citizens, companies, research groups, etc. The awareness of people towards education in recent years has grown, but it is often difficult to determine the possibilities of collaboration, although there is a willingness to do so. With the Science Fair, we respond to this need.
What challenges do you have in the future?
We are clear that Elhuyar Zientzia Azoka is an educational project, that is to say, that the goal is the development of competencies by students: internalize knowledge, develop skills, awaken curiosity, form a team, bring the real models closer, spread research of young people … more than receiving brilliant projects. Therefore, we often want to emphasize that it is better to learn a lot with a simple project or to present a project that has not come up well than to present a project that has received “too much” help.
On the other hand, we have made an effort to measure the impact of the Science Fair on young people, teachers and researchers in the last two years, from the point of view of the Responsible Research and Innovation paradigm (RRI). In this sense, we want to continue to improve the project with this philosophy, by strengthening relations with volunteer researchers.
Partners from SPOON Erasmus + project gathered on January 24thand 25th, for the transnational kickoff meeting. The main goal was to outline the forthcoming events and activities of the project but there was also a little time to socialize and share many ideas.
By Isabel Guedes, MPLS Alsace
Day 1 : Thursday 24/01/2019
9h-10h Introduction and updates – François Bernier et Elena and financial / communication rules/ Handbook FAQ Camille Dieudonné ofDirection of International relations
10h -11h BB beta and Bojan presentation about Utrecht activity
11h-12h00 UOC propositions about SPOON assessment
13h30-17h00 Workshops: Define the format of each activity in each host country / workshop leading to the description of the SPOON activities included in the local event of each partner
17h00-18h00 Free visit of Zoological museum of Strasbourg
18h00-20h00 Rest break or little touristic walk in the city center of Strasbourg – 20h : Dinner
Day 2 : Friday 25/01/2019
8h30-10h Workshops: Define the format of each activity in each host country / workshop leading to the description of the SPOON activities included in the local event of each partner
10h-11h UOC propositions about SPOON assessment
11h-12h Meetings with the trainers of the House for Science
The meeting started with an early welcome coffee where all the participants were happy to meet again. Then, as several times during these two days, Bojan Marklcevic, from Tvornica Znanosti,proposed a game about science to start the works. In addition to a clue of an activity that one could use in training sessions this game allows the intervenient to get together and break the ice with some very dynamic and stimulating activities.
During these 2 days meeting we could untangle bureaucratic questions with the help from lovely Camille Dieudonne from Strasbourg’s university International relations department. Freek Pools, from Boswell-Béta, showed us a little of the training he does and draw our attention to the importance of objectivity when treating scientific data with some compelling exercises. Maria Heras Lopez, from UOC, led the group to build the subjects of the outcomes and the evaluation tools of the project with impressive efficacy and synthesis capacity. Danel Solabarrieta Arrizabalaga, from Elhuyar Fundazioa, presented us a fun practical app to make classes and trainings more interactive.
Other than that we had some stimulating and fruitful brainstorming around the creation of the 12 workshops and the next events of this Erasmus + SPOON project. Next meeting will take place in Bilbao in may with the objectives of developing soft skills through events like science fairs. As to the convivial part we could gather around some snacks that each partner kindly bought from home and taste a little of each country.
As hosts we tried to make the most of our time together carefully organizing this two days transnational meeting but also presenting all the trainers team from Maison pour la Science so our partners could get more of an idea of who we are as a whole, inviting the partners to visit the museum next door, tempting our invites with a Choucroute, the Alsatian typical food, and, despites the cold and the snow, making a small city center tour so they would not leave without knowing the famous Strasbourg cathedral .
In december 2018 we had the great opportunity to test some of the SPOON workshops at the national physics didactics conference of the Netherlands. The workshops, which were conducted in English, were well visited by Dutch physics teachers. The WND conference was combined with a work visit to Boswell-Bèta and the city of Utrecht by Bojan Markicevic of Tvornica Znanosti.
By Tessa Verboven
Bojan arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday December 13th and would stay in Utrecht for three nights. Since it was over a year ago that our organisations had met to set up the SPOON project, we met again to discuss the content and goals of the workshops. This involved a lot of brainstorming about the goals of STEM education in each country as well as the differences in educational systems and educational culture. For part of the brainstorming sessions we were joined by Ralph Meulenbroeks of the Freudenthal Institute: the department of Utrecht University that oversees the STEM curriculum for secondary education in the Netherlands.
On Friday we gathered a small group of physics and math teachers for a challenging session with Bojan. They were given several assignments all in the same setup: a set of rules, some simple material and a very shortly stated task. After that the group had to find the solutions working together as a team or individually, always with very little input from the workshop leader. Of course these teachers did not mind a challenge and got to work eagerly. Without stating any spoilers, let us say that the assignments were not resolved easily. In the end each assignment had a deeper message about traps in the methods of scientific thinking that can happen to everybody: even as teachers we are not sacred!
The next day, Saturday December 15th, we travelled to Woudschoten for the annual Dutch national Physics Didactics conference for teachers in secondary education. In the morning Freek Pols from Boswell-Bèta/Delft University of Technology conducted his workshop ‘A teaching sequence on scientific inquiry’, followed by Bojan Markicevic in the afternoon with his workshop titled ‘Interactive introduction to error analysis’. From the evaluations of the workshops we were able to conclude that the participants were pleasantly surprised by the content and left highly motivated. We received some constructive feedback about the description and the duration of the workshop, and we hope to offer an extended version in the future.