Archive of European Projects

Matters of Matter: future materials in science education
Start date: 01 Sep 2014, End date: 31 Aug 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

We cannot hope for a new generation of scientists and engineers if we fail to allow our young students to take ownership of their scientific and engineering explorations. They need the opportunity to enjoy the hands-on cycle of investigation, design and production, implanting their creativity into a technologically friendly environment. This however calls for innovation in STEM teaching and learning methodologies as well as in the related curricula. The project topic, future materials, is particularly fit for such a challenging task. Nowadays more and more innovative materials, from nanotech to simply "rediscovered" and enhanced ones, are patented, manufactured and brought to market. Many of them are expressly designed to answer the needs of present and future society such as sustainability in building, mobility and energy harvesting/storage or the progressive integration between technologies and communication contributing to the implementation of the Internet of things, "smart" objects being simultaneously sensors and actuators applied to maintenance, health care, security,... Although promising this field is seldom approached at high school level and when it is, it's mostly episodical with little or no link to the curricula. However innovative materials offer to high school students a cheap, readily available and safe opportunity to be associated with cutting edge research topics while performing inquiry and project based experimental work within school labs. This encourages interest in science, technology and, more generally, in knowledge-sharing at international level and brings to positive synergies among education, research and manufacturing world. The project partners, four high schools from Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Germany, all have a specific interest in science education innovation since science in all its facets is a main part of the curricula. Due to this they have been developing contacts with local research centers and higher education institutions particularly active in the field of new and innovative materials from whose collaboration the project will highly benefit with an added EU value. Project activities, partly implemented within traditional subjects to impact didactical practice and enhance science curricula, will involve students - approx. 30 in each institution- along three lines also through short mobilities: 1)studying and sharing what research is up to in any of the involved countries and around the world in the two main areas of a) smart materials and the Internet of things and b) materials for sustainability. 2)experimenting with materials properties, thus complementing curricular topics; 3)devising and testing new possible applications for such materials, thus boosting innovation capability and entrepreneurship. The employment of programmable microcontrollers together with specific software during the testing and designing activities and of a plurality of ICT tools for collaboration and communication such as e-platform, webinars, web conferencing, e-mails, blogs and social media will educate students to evaluate the different possibilities available, and prepare them for the 21st century hig-tech society and its challenges. Throughout the project students will be involved in a wide range of dissemination activities, mainly 'peers to peers' within their school. In particular older students will act as tutors to the new entries during the three years project. Outreach will also target a wider public in local communities through activities such as a science show, open seminars, a materials exhibition, etc. Since teachers are universally acknowledged as key players in science education innovation, the project will also tackle their professional development in a "teachers for teachers" approach both within the partner schools and among a wider international community. Info on the project different phases will be posted on eTwinning platform. All didactical materials and protocols developed will be made available as Open Education Resources (OER) from the project website. A summer school will be organized open to interested EU teachers in summer 2017. Finally the partner institutions may host EU colleagues for short job shadowing experiences after the project end. All these actions will ensure sustainability and durability to the project results. Finally the project will have a long lasting impact on the participating institutions as a whole, leading to development of school organization and didactics in an European dimension; increased awareness of the existing EU initiatives in Education; better disposition towards international collaboration favouring further involvement; increased cultural awareness and multicultural acceptance; new contacts at both local, national and international level that may lead to future collaborations relevant also for students career awareness.
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