Touching the Research Institute

Aims 

The main aims of this complex programme are to bridge the gap between scientific research and school curricula and to promote science.
It is the aim of different sub-activities carried out at Jožef Stefan Institute to explain the methods of scientific research and results in a popular way, to bring young people and their teachers in contact with young researchers, to show what research is like and how research equipment works, to enable them to investigate  different themes in natural sciences and informatics at the institute and to give them practical opportunities to do experiments at the institute’s laboratory and outdoors.

Fireworks - © Marja Pahor, Primary School Škofja Loka, 2007

© Marja Pahor,
Primary School Škofja Loka, 2007

Argument for inclusion

The programme not only promotes science but also enhances creativeness and critical thinking. It promotes a better and broader understanding of natural phenomena.

Institute’s activities include groups of interested young people from kindergarten, primary and secondary  education level students to teachers.

It is the only basic and applied research institute in the country with a science promotion programme for those ages.

Relevant information in short

Main Research Partners

Jožef Stefan Institute, The National Education Institute

Educational partners

Slovenian primary, and secondary schools, and kindergartens

Other partners

University of Ljubljana, University of Maribor

Age classes

Years 5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-22

Thematic orientation

Chemistry, Biology, Biochemistry, Physics, Informatics, Material Sciences, Environmental Sciences

Main Focus

To motivate young people towards science. To promote a scientific way of thinking and working. To help school teachers

Duration of activity

Through the whole year including holidays; more than 15 years tradition with new activities added, regarding interests of young people and teachers

Resources

Small National funding (Ministry of Education and Sport). Competing at national and local calls for applications. Teachers/researchers voluntary time, Institute`s budget for materials and transport, Publishers

Website

www.ijs.si

Contact person

Tomaž Ogrin, M.Sc. , e-mail: tomaz.ogrin@ijs.si

Context and conditions

It was in a context of a country’s situation as an autonomous entity (from 1991 on) that this REC programme started, as a bunch of several activities at Jožef Stefan Institute 15 years ago when the number of new students at technical faculties (chemistry, physics, machining, biology, etc.) fell considerably, while matriculation to other faculties such as economy, social, and law largely grew. It was in part a consequence of changing economy and a short-sighted closing of research and development departments in industry and in part a consequence of politically favouring vocations such as economists and lawyers, giving them the potential for higher salaries.
It is now stressed by politics that we need more technically educated people and more innovative products to compete in a world or European economy. We only hope that such a programme will be fully supported in future nationally, probably with the help of European funds. What is needed is systemic funding instead of a modelmostly based on good will and money from fluid sources.
This REC cooperates well with The National Education Institute and with many schools and teachers in the country.

Activities and Contents

Main activities

Measuring, problem solving © Tomaž Ogrin 

Measuring, problem solving

© Tomaž Ogrin

  1. Year-round series of courses for the interested small groups of young people, coordinated by school teachers, mostly in chemistry and some interdisciplinary related contents in physics and biology. The programme was developed for initial and advanced levels. The programme has the name School of experimental chemistry. Mentor work is also carried out.
  2. Special courses for teachers in experimental chemistry and related contents, some of them cooperating with publishers and connected to presentation of new school books; others for promoting experimental work with chemistry activities at the school location.
  3. Visits of students and teachers to specialized research groups (for example: seeing atoms with atomic force microscopy), with discussions to young researchers on their work, on needed education and knowledge, on perspectives, on salaries, and on experimental techniques and results of research in a popular presentation.
  4. Programme ‘All about radioactivity’ in the Institutes Nuclear Information Centre – one of rare European nuclear centres for informing the public, mostly pupils and students, about radioactivity, radioactive waste, nuclear energy, fission and fusion with permanent exhibition and experimenting facilities.
Demonstrating teachers, how to prepare dry ice…

Demonstrating teachers, how to prepare dry ice…
© Špela Fortuna, Modrijan

Methodologies

Problem solving methods are used in most courses. Tasks are open-ended and stimulate creativity. Critical thinking is promoting through discussions. Experimental work involves interdisciplinary thinking.

Curriculum relevance 

Pupils and students are investigating features using experimental methods in contexts that broaden knowledge gained through the school curriculum, in cooperation with teachers. New areas of science are involved, for example nanotechnology.

Other outcomes

Parents are indirectly involved through activities of their children and are interested in supporting the decisions of their children towards further study.

Mutual benefits

Cooperation of schools and research institutions seems a must nowadays, because new knowledge is growing very fast. There is no curriculum that could follow it. So, such systemic forms of the additional education are needed and are very much appreciated in a society.

Evaluation /feedbacks  

Teachers` and students` courses are evaluated by participants using questionnaires. Activity reports are prepared for the Ministry each year and for the budget source from successful applications.

Limits and possibilities

Systemic funding of REC activities is needed badly if we want to compete at the world development.

It is a problem for the research institute to try to work in an education process with young people because  Research institutes are financed in a systemic way for their scientific research work only.