How do we (meaningfully) communicate Science today?

In the world of today, of the complex and immense quantity of information, with the global community being more present and expanded it is more critical to foster skills of scientific literacy. The basic definition of this is to continue to wonder, foster a learning environment that allows dwelling moments, teach students to tolerate confusion, recognize the vulnerability of students in that process, and hence foster curiosity. 

A systemic definition of scientific literacy would be  “the ability to use scientific knowledge and process to understand the natural world and participate in decisions that affect it.”(Lonka 2019).

According to PISA, OECD approach to scientific literacy, one should practice and be able to:

  • describe, explain, predict scientific phenomona
  • understand scientific investigation
  • interpret scientific evidence and conlusions

In today’s world of massive fake news, massive and highly sophisticated data, this sounds like practicing being a sustainable human being, in the Finnish curriculum it says: “to be a democratic citizen, able to make decisions while respecting human rights.”

“The reluctance to put away childish things may be the requirement of a genius” Rebecca Pepper Sinkler

practice with teachers, check-in No judging, open mind perspective, with gratefulness to the teacher sharing her work

The purpose of this article is to support the teacher’s process in opening up invitations to all students for being curious about science. And this is an invitation to all teachers indifferent to what subjects they teach. The inspiration was provided by the encounter of a group of teachers from a training program I offered, called New Ways and Spaces- What next (in Finnish) classroom with two young researchers and dialogue about Science Communication. 

Here are some ways for us to explore this topic:

  1. Meet them in a fun and relaxed way: It is not a matter of making learning “circus fun”, actually the opposite, “doing less is more”. Children feel the passion (their intrinsic motivation and vision of their work) of the scientists and then because scientists approach them from an equal standpoint, then we allow “the relaxed” state of mind to exist, a state in which one is encouraged to raise questions, and also encouraged to really think about what is most interesting for me to find out now and how would that help me and the ones around make better decisions, decisions that as well protect the nature around me. Encourage collecting questions and then see common threads, common interests approaching thus learning as phenomenon based. 
  2. Science has different languages: It might be that science today ‘speaks” English, most of the new materials ( existing materials about SCIENCE) are in English,  yet we should not waste any occasion to make science in our own native language, and produce materials that are exciting and attractive to students in our own mother tongue. I am thinking of this platform for such science lessons from Junior Lab Aalto, in Finnish language and not only in the Finnish language the lessons have been adapted to embed Finnish culture and history. One practice is how can we take a science lesson and adapt it to our own cultural & historical context, creating up to date attractive scientific material that as well promotes indigenous knowledge.
  3. Gender awareness: Science subjects and materials have been presented in the curriculum for a long time with gender bias, like it or not. Reflecting here, how do we invite science in the classroom so it is both an invitation to girls and boys to follow if not a carrier in science to be equally attracted to scientific thinking and literacy. It is important to invite female scientists, that of course although a model for young girls they present science equally interesting and open to both girls and boys. 
  4. Team teaching: teachers are not alone there are local platforms in each country in the case of Finland for example in the Helsinki area, Science Basement from Helsinki University, Junior Lab Aalto. Teachers shift the mindset of the “lonely wolf” in approaching lessons and curriculum to who is on my team– and invite guests in the classroom. 
  5. Practicing Beginners Mind– as teachers practice beginners mind, it becomes an invitation to students to unlearn, readiness to let go of what they think they know, and curiosity to find another path. As a teacher courageously bring in the idea that everything is ever-changing and we can all start from the beginning at any time needed, there are infinite possibilities; the invitation is not to doubt everything we learn it is not to become filtered by what we believe we already know (see reference for Beginners Mind). 
  6. Breaking down old patterns: Creating a space in which we allow “old preconceptions” to break down is important. Meeting everyday scientists and seeing the world through their eyes, that their work is very much embedded in the society and close to people, not far away in a lighthouse observing just, is important. 
  7. Multiliteracy: there are different ways of expressing science. Science is not in an ivory tower, we have different intelligence and ways of understanding and expressing science. I invite you to explore multiliteracy with science. Students’ ability to reproduce knowledge in very many different ways as well as inviting students to discover and explore their own way in expressing how they understand scientific knowledge. One fascinating example for me is the Dance your Ph.D. worldwide initiative and TED dance your presentation project both included in the reference for your documentation.
design-based thinking practice in maker space with teachers, you don t need much to invite creativity, you need the readiness to approach the process with curiosity and playfulness, many thanks to the teachers

The focus here is to not let your experiences become filtered by what you believe you already know. Jon Kabat-Zinn

Many thanks to the teachers from Portugal, Greece, Romania, Spain, Slovenia, Lihtenstain for their courage and amazing work in the New Learning ways and Spaces, as well for the amazing journals they created with their photos, present in this article.

Reference;

  1. Scientific literacy, Jari Lavonen in Phenomenon Based Learning Lonka 2019 and article https://helda.helsinki.fi//bitstream/handle/10138/304329/PISA_paper.pdf?sequence=1
  2. Using megatrends, play the game with the class, as well as creating own class megatrends, inviting “prediction” skills with scientific literacy https://www.sitra.fi/en/topics/megatrends/#what-is-this-about
  3. Dance your Phd or Science Presentation here is the Finhisn 2021 winner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdrh82RVl3M and the background information about this initiative https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dance_Your_Ph.D.#:~:text=D.%20is%20a%20contest%20which,was%20first%20held%20in%202008. Dance your presentation https://ed.ted.com/lessons/dance-vs-powerpoint-a-modest-proposal-john-bohannon 
  4. Beginner’s Mind is a practice we use in Coaching STEAM, adapted with art teacher Annika Tonts, from the 7 pillars of mindfulness, written by Jon Kabat-Zin, professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  5. Some platforms for Science Communication and suppporting STEAM https://www.thesciencebasement.org/ https://www.aalto.fi/en/aalto-university-junior

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