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The Warsaw Voice » Society » March 31, 2015
Institute of Geophysics Polish Academy of Science
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Science Can Be Fun
March 31, 2015   
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The Eduscience nationwide educational project run by the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics in Warsaw is an innovative undertaking targeted at elementary and high school students that demonstrates that science can be fun and fascinating.

Covering more than 1,700 schools throughout the country, Eduscience is the country’s largest education project designed to promote science. While the Institute of Geophysics is the main organizer, the project also involves the Edukacja Pro Futurocompany, which runs private schools and has coordinated a variety of education projects. Other partners include software company American Systems, which designs customized school management applications and interactive teaching aids, and Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd., a British company that designs systems to support active learning.

Eduscience was launched in 2011 and has been co-funded by the European Union under its European Social Fund (ESF). According to AgataGo¼dzik, the project’s manager at the Institute of Geophysics, the main idea behind Eduscience is to combine education, science and technology.

Before it got under way in earnest, Eduscience was pilot-tested in 250 schools nationwide between September 2012 and June 2014. Instead of extracurricular activities and science clubs, Eduscience activities took place during regular mathematics, geography, chemistry, physics and biology classes from the early grades of elementary school to the final years of high school and technical college. The test phase ran for two years and then Eduscience was launched in full.

“We could see a pressing need to promote mathematical and life sciences,” said Go¼dzik. “That took a departure from textbook-based curricula. We needed to show children and adolescents things they would find fascinating, something that would make them keen to learn. Science still has enough secrets left to keep many generations busy discovering and exploring them.”

One of the project’s key objectives is to get students actively involved in the learning process. To this end, teaching methods have been adapted specifically to take into account the students’ personal capabilities and preferences. Innovative in terms of the Polish education system, this methodology is a tool intended for use by both teachers and students, so that students can, for example, fill out self-assessment questionnaires. Other professional surveys based on intelligence type tests, neuropsychology and neurology have been used to determine learning styles that best suit different students, identifying those who are visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners, for example.

Researchers from the Institute of Geophysics have organized a range of science fairs to bring their Eduscience presentations to the most remote corners of Poland. Such one-day events often attract up to 3,000 students. The young participants have been able to take part in a variety of fun experiments, using liquid nitrogen and dry ice, for example. Science has also been promoted at special science picnics in schools. “We wanted this to be something completely different from an ordinary day at school,” said Go¼dzik.

The project has also introduced students to Polish geophysical observatories. Students can come to an observatory for a day and are free to walk around and explore the facility, watch researchers at work and ask them about anything they find interesting. The researchers have been particularly surprised to find that elementary school students, including those in the youngest grades, are often the most active and curious group of visitors.

One of the strongest benefits of Eduscience is that it has provided young people with an opportunity to interact with scientists working at the Hornsund Polish Polar Station. Eduscience students can watch live satellite feeds from Hornsund, teleconference with Hornsund researchers, and ask them questions. Six students who won science contests have been even invited to join an expedition to Spitsbergen.

The Eduscience website and a special website on life sciences are an integral part of the Eduscience project. Visitors to the websites can find a wealth of information on Eduscience projects and activities, get in touch with researchers, watch science classes, and listen to lectures on a range of topics.

After the Eduscience project comes to an end, its online database will still be available on the Eduscience website, and Institute of Geophysics observatories will remain open to visitors. The Eduscience team is also looking forward to the launch of funds available under the EU’s Knowledge-Education-Development operational program.

“All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed for new programs to which we could submit our projects and keep on working full swing,” Go¼dzik said.
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