explore-it

First flight attempts – can the balloon lift the tissue?

First flight attempts - can
the balloon lift the tissue?

Aims

Explore-it aims to promote literacy in science and technology (S&T) among children and interested adults with help of learning and teaching materials that combine everyday objects and phenomena with information and communication technologies (ICT). Its new methodological approach combines education, technology, economy and public relations. explore-it intends to be established as a high-quality label for learning and teaching materials in S&T education.

Argument for inclusion

The activities provided are based on existing projects that hitherto lacked the pedagogical focus. explore-it successfully links important players from educational sciences, schools and industry and applies a new methodological approach (see aims). Furthermore, it serves as a very good example of how effective media work can promote a REC.

First flight attempts – can the balloon lift the tissue?

Relevant information in short

Main Research Partners

Teacher education colleges (Pädagogische Hochschulen Wallis, PHVS, und Aargau, FHNW)

Educational partners

Primary, lower and upper secondary schools across Switzerland

Other partners

Interest groups and foundations: Engineers Shape our Future IngCH, Zurich (NaTech Education Programme), Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Basel

Age classes

mainly 8 to 15 years

Thematic orientation

Technology, engineering

Main Focus

To improve S&T literacy among children and interested adults. To develop a new methodological approach in technology education. To establish explore-it as a widely known quality label for learning and teaching materials in S&T.

Duration of activity

15 to 40 hours, in one or several time blocks. Since 2006.

Resources

Substantial start-up funding from a foundation. Consumables ca. 10€ per pupil or student (depending on sponsoring and subsidies).

Website

http://explore-it.ch

Contact person

René Providoli, project leader

Context and conditions

A core project team of three lecturers in technology and science education at the teacher education colleges Wallis (PHVS) and Aargau (FHNW) initiated explore-it in 2006. This project is supported by interest groups for engineering and by a foundation’s start-up funding covering one full-time equivalent until 2008 (Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Basel).

Low material costs for pupils and students can be realized through sponsoring and subsidising. A high number of addressees reduces the relative costs of developing the teaching and learning materials.

Construction kit "From the permanent magnet to the electrical motor", to be ordered online

Construction kit "From the permanent magnet
to the electrical motor", to be ordered online

Activities and contents

On its website, explore-it offers a selection of learning activities for schools and leisure time together with the relevant teaching and learning materials. The project started with a first issue “From the permanent magnet to the electric motor” (Vom Dauermagnet zum Elektromotor). Within three months, the corresponding construction kit was ordered more than 50 times, mostly by primary schools and lower secondary schools. The second issue “Solar power moves” (Solar-Power bewegt) will be offered in March 2008.

Each issue consists of exploration and invention activities addressing contents that are closely connected to everyday occurrences and important fields of engineering (e.g. solar energy). So far, the explore-it team provides teaching expertise by supporting teachers, running (continuing) teacher education courses, and consulting other S&T education initiatives, e.g. the organisation of technology days at a primary school. As a next step, it is planned to involve university students in engineering and engineers to provide expert knowledge and to answer questions that come up during the exploration and invention activities. For further activities, see box case study.

Methodologies and curriculum relevance

The project explore-it involves experts from science and technology teaching as well as engineers, in order to focus on the learning process which is often neglected by other initiatives aiming to promote S&T understanding at school. If applicable, explore-it uses new information technologies to convey learning contents.

Due to the teaching expertise of the core project team and their knowledge of the educational system, curriculum relevance is ensured. Additionally, in the case of the Technology Days, explore-it collaborates with educational authorities mainly at regional level. The core project team keeps close contact to the leading interest groups in this area, e.g. NaTech Education. This initiative lobbies to integrate S&T education in the primary school curricula and the primary teacher education programmes.

Mutual benefits

Due to good media relations explore-it has been receiving high public attention from the very beginning. The project unifies professional knowledge, educational expertise and key players in the field of S&T education in a large network that is experienced at disseminating innovations. The use of modern, user friendly technologies combined with support activities for teachers lead to a successful implementation.

In addition to promoting S&T literacy, explore-it follows a new methodological approach that combines education, technology, economy and public relations. This is expected to serve as a role model for other initiatives. The project follows up real-life activities carried out from industry and adds the pedagogical component needed for technology teaching. This authenticity of the learning contents on the one hand enhances the pupils’ and students’ motivation to learn, on the other hand it promotes industry as an interesting field for a future career.

Involving (future) engineers more directly will give them a valuable understanding of how to address pupils and students appropriately.

Evaluation

explore-it conducts internal self-evaluations. Pilot classes receive the construction kits for free. In return they are expected to give feedback on the learning and teaching materials to improve their development and to provide data for future science education research projects. First results are promising: the learning and teaching materials are widely appreciated by teachers and motivate pupils to explore, to investigate and to invent themselves (www.explore-it.ch, January 2008).

Limits and possibilities

The project strongly depends on the core project team. Its limited time resources lead to a bottleneck in the amount of construction kits available in terms of the absolute numbers and the development of learning and teaching materials covering further issues. However, once a self-maintaining dynamic including sponsoring and subsidising will be reached, explore-it has the potential to become the Swiss platform for technology education at primary and lower secondary level where teachers, engineers, students in engineering and S&T education experts can exchange experiences and expertise.

At the moment pupils, students and teachers are not in close contact with engineers or researchers when working with the learning and teaching materials. However, the stronger involvement of (future) engineers is planned as are further activities in this direction (see box case study).

“Erste explore-it Erf(K)indermesse” (First explore-it innovation fair for children and teenagers)

Children and speed boat

In June 2008, children, teenagers and "real" researchers will present their work and inventions at the "Erste explore-it Erf(K)indermesse" (First explore-it innovation fair for children and teenagers). explore-it organises and coordinates the event. Additional financial support is provided by the cogito foundation.

Lego crane

Invent it and explore it! How fast does the speed boat go and what is the heaviest load this crane can lift?
– The electrical motor as basis for various applications at sea and on land.

Up to 150 children and teenagers are selected from more than 1'000 who participated in the “erfinde” (invent) programme of the learning unit “Vom Dauermagnet zum Elektromotor” (From the permanent magnet to the electrical motor). The core team of explore-it will select the participants according to the quality of their works related to the field of electrical engineering.

One highlight of the event is the presentation of real research and development projects from the area of applied electrical engineering by invited researchers and engineers. The young inventors will have the opportunity to get into contact with their adult colleagues to discuss their own work with them. Thereby the children shall recognize how engineering sciences proceed to solve given questions or problems. They will learn from the researchers about the importance of curiosity, a systematic approach and the value of mistakes. Exploratory approaches will be illustrated with examples from real-life engineering.

In the afternoon the participants are assigned to groups which have to solve small technical tasks related to the previous talks. University students in engineering will coach them. The best solution will be awarded by the invited engineers and researchers.