Aalto University is participating in a European research project – SySTEM2020 – aiming at bringing understanding on science learning outside the classroom as well as providing recommendations to better connect the science learning that takes place in informal and non-formal learning contexts to science education.
The project, launched in May, aims to tackle scientific literacy and STEM education – i.e. education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – of young people aged 9 to 20 years old, in order to support future citizens in the world of fast-evolving science and technology.
“We are interested in how science learning takes place outside classroom contexts, such as science museum workshops or science summer camps, but also in other contexts where young people learn on their own. In particular, we would like to understand what captures young people’s interest in science and what helps them to keep motivated”, explains researcher, project coordinator Eva Durall from Aalto University.
In the project, Aalto University is responsible for identifying main challenges regarding science education outside classroom and co-design solutions that support learners’ access, inclusion and engagement in non-formal science education. As part of the project outcomes, it is expected to produce a toolkit with guidelines and recommendations for designing and facilitating science activities outside classroom settings.
Equity and democratic access as key
Special focus is in designing for equity in non-formal science education. How to ensure that also the ones not already interested in the subject will have an access? The key aim is to establish a more balanced democracy: that children and teenagers from groups that have been traditionally sidelined in science, such as women, minorities, people with disabilities or from lower socioeconomic backgrounds could all have access to science education.
“Today scientific thinking and understanding of technology are basic skills. Having these skills for all is critical. With smart design we can not only ensure access and inclusion, but also help people to get excited, inspired and critical about science and technology. Social equity, building on humanism with understanding of multiple intelligences and growth mindset, is the core of Finnish educational model. We aim to build on this tradition to design services, practices and tools for science and technology education”, emphasizes Teemu Leinonen, Associate Professor in New Media Design and Learning at Aalto University.
The SySTEM2020 project will map initiatives and resources connected to informal and non-formal science learning across Europe, evaluating a number of transdisciplinary programmes to design best principles for educators in this field, and also examining individual learning ecologies by piloting self-evaluation tools for learners which will document science learning outside of the classroom.
The project is coordinated by Science Gallery Dublin and it brings together expertise from 22 institutions with a diversity of profiles in research and practice in science education and learning.
Eva Durall, Researcher and Project Coordinator, Learning Environments Research Group, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, [email protected]