SPOON Project : Live a week of science in Split 🇭🇷

By Annabelle Lecointre – Maison pour la science en Alsace FRANCE

Singularity of a science week for young people in summer.

I didn’t expect to see children and teenagers working for a week during their holidays on scientific subjects, brought in a playful way but requiring reflection and concentration like in a classroom.
The method? Support the learning of these young people, aged 7 to 15, by older and experienced tutors: doctoral students, science students or retired teachers.
Why do young people register with Summer science factory ? I asked myself this question because the situation in my country is different. In France, activities are offered to children and teenagers during the holidays. They are implemented by private or public associations (of the extracurricular type) and are mainly oriented towards sports or artistic practice (painting, photography, pottery, theatre, dance, etc…) or outdoor activities. I have learned that in Croatia, science education, except mathematics, starts late in the Croatian student’s schooling: usually around 13 years of age. Before this age, students are introduced in a very general way to biodiversity and the history of the planet. This is an important difference with science education in France, which is part of the school learning programme from kindergarten onwards.
In Split, young people who want to learn more about science can satisfy their curiosity at the SSF. They were nearly 80 kids !

Moments of reflection to move forward on the Spoon project: think about how to implement the site in resources.

On the corner of a table, Tessa, Tim and I put on paper some ideas to structure the content of pedagogical activities for teachers.

  1. An architecture proposal: group the activities according to their duration:
  • “Super-short”: a few minutes
  • “Short time: 1 to 2 hours
  • “Long time: a few weeks to a few months
  1. A proposal on the types of content that must be formalized for all activities:
  • Title and summary of the activity in a few lines (objectives)
  • The progress of the activity in class or with teachers
  • The material elements necessary for the activity
  • For whom and for what purpose to do this activity
  • Reflective aspects: proposals for the evolution and improvement of the activity.

An example of activity for trainers : “The mystery tube”

  • First part of the activity: discover the contents of a small cylinder about ten centimetres long.

Bojan’s instructions: make hypotheses about the content of the cylinder without opening or touching it, then write and map the steps of the process undertaken, in groups of three (15-20 minutes).

Blowing, feeling, lighting the object, overturning it, using a magnet… Bojan insists: “the important thing is not to know what exactly the object contains but what can be done to get closer to it, to adopt a rigorous approach. ».

After about twenty minutes, new instructions: Bojan allows us to touch the object and asks us to make a hypothetical diagram of the cylinder content (15 minutes). We are then invited to open the tube to verify the accuracy or otherwise of our hypothesis.

Interest, from my point of view: this activity is stimulating (collective search for solutions) and rich on the epistemological links to be made. It perfectly illustrates how sciences works : by trial and error, starting from observations and descriptions that are constantly confronted with reality, by verifying / demonstrating (by opening the cylinder). The approach to solving science is not linear, it is made up of going back and forth on the real objects it questions (results leading to new questions), and also going back and forth between members of a team. It requires imagination and creativity and is based on testable hypotheses (methodological materialism) and logical and parsimonious reasoning. There is nothing magical or mysterious about science. It is clear in its intentions and its way of seeking to understand reality. It is based on a method, specifications and cognitive expectations that are common to all scientists.

  • Second part of the activity: how to sell/promote an idea, a concept?
    This part is brought by Jelena who comes from the field of literature and who then turned to marketing.
    Jelena explains some principles in project management, and key steps:

The objectives:

  • it’s the precise direction: which data? which traces?
    The tasks:
  • identify and search for the target
  • identify the key message
  • select communication channels and tools
  • campaign
  • give people something of value (emotion or material object…)
  • The tactics:
  • develop activities with a schedule
  • the tasks to be performed: what, where, when, how much?
  • the persons responsible: who?
  • the deadline

Jelena’s instructions: develop a communication strategy to sell the concept of the “Mystery tube”. Sell the idea to whom? Three target audiences are defined by Jelena:

  • an audience of young people who need to be motivated to make STEMs
  • an investor public that must be convinced to invest in STEMs
  • the general public that it is necessary to convince them of the interest and importance of STEMs

Each group draws its target audience at random and must write a communication campaign (15-20 minutes) and then present it.

Interest, from my point of view : this association between science and marketing disturbed some participants in the sense that science is not a commercial activity. However, there is no denying the importance of communication in the field of science.
First, it is at the heart of the drafting of research projects, financed by public policies and possibly private investors. Scientists must convince that their project is relevant, more relevant than that of another team. Unfortunately, this race to finance research projects has created a competitive climate that forces scientists to “sell” in a certain way the relevance of their ideas, to develop effective communication strategies.
Secondly, communication has played an increasing role in the dissemination of science. For better or for worse. For the best, when it allows scientists to meet a diverse audience and improve their knowledge of the world, but also to better explain the approach and challenges of science. For the worst, when everyone is convinced that they are relevant and competent to talk about science and now have at their disposal tools and channels of communication through which they express what is really only an opinion or a belief and not a knowledge.

The communication of the contents and approach of science must be the responsibility of scientists who are experts in the field concerned. However, the use of communication and marketing strategies can make science more visible and better adapt the discourse to the target audience.

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