Science Across the World in Teacher Training

Written by: Lida Schoen, educational consultant,
former teacher trainer, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Science Across the World is an exchange programme between schools world wide, based on two pillars: existing resources for students (age 10-16) and a database with participating schools.

Amsterdam Teacher Training College offers Science Across the World as an elective course to Dutch and European Erasmus students. They work in international interdisciplinary groups. They study the Science Across the World website  and write an implementation plan for their teaching practice school.

Science Across the World in Teacher Training

‘Says Bas, teacher student in Amsterdam, the Netherlands:

‘Exchanging facts and opinions about renewable energy with teacher students from the University of Teheran in Iran is quite exciting. We learned that Iran constructed 77 big dams in different rivers to be used for building hydropower plants. Most of the references we received were in Arabic. A real challenge to get translations, so we could check! It wasn’t easy for the Iranian students to exchange, their English was insufficient, so their professor had to help with translations, wonderful he invested so much time to help his students. We also exchanged with teacher students in Ireland, with them we discussed how to introduce the Science Across the World programme in our schools.’

This paper deals with introducing Science Across the World in teacher training. With increasing globalisation in the next decades the largest, easy to use, global exchange programme Science Across the World can help to achieve aims of modern education in all countries. Teacher Training can help with training student teachers in international collaboration on school level.

Science Across the World: exploring science locally – sharing insights globally

Science Across the World is a global internet based exchange programme for students (age 10-16): www.scienceacross.org. It provides a forum for students to exchange facts and opinions with young people in other countries through a unique series of compact resource topics on science, environmental issues and social science in up to eighteen languages.

Each topic has clearly defined aims and includes clearly laid out student and teacher pages. The students work by collecting information, data and forming opinions about the different topics and exchange their findings with other schools worldwide, through a common Exchange Form available on the website.

Most topics offer extensive help for language teachers and for science teachers to use English as a working language.

Students are asked to bring into class information, data and opinions about the topic under study, based on their own personal experience and research in their own town, neighbourhood and families. Information is collated and summarised on the Exchange Form. This form is then sent to the schools, which have been selected from the database of registered schools. This communication may be performed in the mother tongue or a foreign language.

Follow up sessions take place after Exchange Forms from other countries have arrived. Discussions usually reveal many cultural differences.

The Science Across the World programme started in 1990. On 31 October 2007 the website counts 5800 registered teachers in 132 countries.

Topics

Of the 13 subjects available at present, 10 are meant for secondary education, 2 for primary.

  • Acid Rain
  • Biodiversity around us
  • Chemistry in our Lives
  • Climate Change
  • Domestic waste
  • Drinking Water
  • Eating and Drinking (for primary students)
  • Global Warming
  • Keeping Healthy (picture from topic)
  • Plants and me (for primary students)
  • Renewable Energy
  • Talking about Genetics
  • What do you eat?

All Science Across the World topics can be used in cross curricular education. This has obvious applications for language learning. The language teacher can use authentic texts, authentic messages between students in a foreign language and this can be helpful with translating data on the Exchange Form.

Science Across the World in the Netherlands

Amsterdam Teacher Training College offers Science Across the World as an elective course to Dutch and European Erasmus students. These students work in international interdisciplinary groups with the support of an electronic learning environment. They undertake an introductory study of the Science Across the World programme using the website and then choose a particular topic which they study in more detail. The entire course and the work of the students are presented in English. In the second part of the project,  the students write an implementation plan for their teaching practice school.

Apart from the weekly meetings with the whole group, an electronic learning environment is used and this provides opportunities for a mutual agenda, chatting, emailing, organising a group archive and collaborating on a document.

Topic groups

A group of students chooses a topic, carry out all activities (from either the student pages in English or from the translation in Spanish or Dutch) and fill in the Exchange Form.

Ellen (Gent, Belgium): I collaborated with Jaskara from Curaçao. We compared our diets and we concluded there are many differences.

Because of Estel (Barcelona, Spain) all teaching, presenting and communication was in English.

Estel: This was a real challenge for me. Sometimes I didn’t understand a concept, but it was a chance to polish my English.

After completing, the students look at the topic with (future) teachers’ eyes. They search the web for useful additional links for the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

This phase of the course ends with a (PowerPoint or web) presentation about products and the process with the students of other groups as a critical audience. The picture shows Ellen and Jaskara preparing their joint presentation.

During the second part of the course the students write a realistic implementation plan for a real school with e.g.:

  • how to convince the school management to take part in the programme (subjects, costs, history);
  • collaboration with (a) colleague(s);
  • benefits for the school, teachers, students;
  • what to do with the results, apart from discussing the Exchange Forms from other countries (exhibition, open/parents days, regional media coverage);

and after approval from the management a concrete scenario for the lessons with e.g.:

  • substitute or enrich part(s) of the curriculum;
  • class management;
  • evaluation (related to aims).

Julie’s reflections on the course (Brugge, Belgium: primary education)

At the start we got a lot of information. I had to get used to this way of teaching. The teacher students in the Netherlands get more independent tasks and less class room teaching than Belgian students. In Belgium the teacher explains everything in 30 teaching periods a week. I felt very insecure and ‘stupid’. This was a real concern, but in the end I got answers on all my questions!

I learned to produce a PowerPoint presentation and other computer skills: e.g to collaborate on one Word document. I could even introduce illustrations and links to Internet sites, related to ‘Eating and Drinking’ for Belgian primary schools, in our final presentation. I was so proud…. During the presentations we learned about the other student’s subjects. Afterwards we had to ask questions about the content and had to offer improvements, also about the (computer) technique used in the presentation and about the presenting. That was not easy.

The good thing about Science Across the World is the ready made materials, as well as for the students and for the teacher. The students carry out their own investigations and exchange information with other students in countries all over the world. A wonderful idea!

In the 2005 course students from the math and history departments joined, so we worked in a cross curricular group. The history students wrote additional exchange materials for the ‘What did you eat?’ topic: the history of food since the Middle Ages till now. teachers and students exchanging on this topic can decide together to use this extra subject, eg to learn how to consult historical sources. For math we explored possibilities to handle data received from exchange forms from other schools statistically, so the math teacher can join the cross curricular Science Across the World team in the end phase of a project. The pictures shows the ‘Food’ group with a lot of Belgian input. We also explored possibilities to use the Science Across the World programme for subjects related to citizenship, which is an issue in many countries. Too many subjects to study them in depth, we just made a start and will go on!

Tags: , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.