For secondary schools, early and final key stages: Project "Everyone's Science"
Full version of the project in pdf
Familiarity with some of the ideas and tools driving the scientific activity should never be missing in the cultural background of any citizen. However, their knowledge becomes necessary in a society invaded by technology, where mass media bombard every day citizens with flood of information.
Building up a scientific culture does not only mean divulging the results of research or explaining specific topics of science, but also, and mostly, giving the wannabe citizens all the tools allowing them to consciously participate to decisional processes.
Day by day scientists shape up their mind on their scientific training. For this reason they are particularly suitable to present, share and illustrate in a critical way science as a tool for investigation and knowledge of reality.
The project "Everyone's science" aims to bring into contact the schools and the world of scientific research, in order to let scientists give their valuable contribution to teaching and spreading methods and practise of science among youths. Beyond the specific contents of their scientific practice, scientists know as well the mechanisms of publication, communication, discussion peculiar of scientific community, without which it is difficult to make a correct use of popular scientific information.
For this reason, the project does not aim to provide any demonstration of experiments or lecture on specific scientific topics but it rather suggests a procedure hinged on a deep and practical thinking about what we can call scientific method from a historical, philosophical, technical and human point of view, with special references to reality, which has, among the objectives, a critical reading of scientific news on magazines and newspapers.
The project has been carried out in collaboration with the
Department of Physics of University of Rome "La Sapienza".
Meetings during school hours
As a first activity, we offer a series of meetings taking place during school hours.
The meetings do not require any kind of scientific or mathematical knowledge, so they are suitable for an audience coming from all types of secondary school, at any key stage.
Our classes are constructed to be very interactive, with a lot of space dedicated to debates and use of practical experiences. Through immediate application of what they learn, students are guided to discover problems and solutions always new.
This way of proceeding is motivated by a learning strategy focussed on the students' active elaboration of information. In order to achieve a deep and long lasting learning of the scientific method is necessary an individual and collective reasoning aimed to uncover the problems and the contradictions which call for the existence of such a method. We believe it is extremely important that students participate actively in building up the rules of the scientific method, keeping in mind the special needs that these rules are called to satisfy.
In this perspective, the debate is a key moment; furthermore, gathering the students' opinions allow us to evaluate more efficiently their difficulties and meet the best strategy to match their special needs. Especially with classes at final key stages, one can often come across a concept of science already developed and often affected by prejudice. In order to change attitudes and habits, it is necessary a slow radical process stemming from the approach and the understanding of others' point of view.
The content of the meeting varies according to students' age and education. Examples of topics which may be covered in the meetings are
- Galilean experiment as a basic check of a hypothesis;
- Non definitive character of any scientific thesis;
- Errors and uncertainty in measures, instruments and their limits, experimentalists and their limits: the role of statistics;
- Creativity of scientists;
- Concept of modelling and differences with describing reality.
We learnt from our experience that when the meetings during school hours are over some students still show a great curiosity for the subjects presented in the meetings. However, they do not have time to satisfy it.
The need for a specific space dedicated to the discussion of scientific topics is a very common issue among students who are interested in science.
For this reason, we offer the more interested students an afternoon workshop, as an activity which is meant to be independent on the school meetings, and can incidentally encourage participation to the latter.
The workshop is an important moment of the educative process and for sharing ideas and resources and aims to the preparation of a final event involving all the schools participating to the project, such as organizing an exhibition in a museum, meeting scientists, publications etc.
Programme for teachers
An effective intervention on the students' concept of science can only stem from the joint educative proposal of teachers and researchers. The course for teachers aims to the identification of the fundamental ideas behind scientific thought, that one should keep in mind at all times when teaching science, at any level.
Some of these ideas are for example:
- Looking at science as an everlasting process of revision and analysis which does not produce absolute certainties;
- Ability of the scientist to make predictions and guarantee the reproducibility of results within certain limits;
- Subjectivity of science as of any other cognitive process.
Since it is subject of a current epistemological debate, one of the objectives of the course will be revising the different opinions about the concept of science existing in contemporary culture, avoiding abstractness and specializing to the applications to science teaching at school.
Many of the concepts and ideas behind scientific thought are common to different subjects of the national curriculum, such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Natural Science, History, Philosophy, thus a multidisciplinary work would be very welcome in order to give more harmony to the material taught to students.
Possibly, one of the biggest challenge of this project is pursuing such a multidisciplinarity, by establishing a bridge between the so-called "humanistic" and "scientific" areas and thus overcoming a division which, at the present time, sounds out-of-date.
To learn more
of the project available in pdf format (ITALIAN)