Thursday 15

A Science Centre as an open classroom to learn, play, discuss and reflect

Posted by Ecsite on 15 Dec 2016

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

― Helen Keller

We know for quite a long time that active, inquiry-based learning is designed to help teachers build their students’ learning skills in an open environment. If we combine this learning methodology with the PBL, or Problem-based learning, we get a tantalising combination that currently young students from Tartu, Estonia are enjoying when they spend a whole day at the AHHAA Science Centre, in the context of the AHA STUDY DAY.

Credit: AHHAA Science Centre

Building upon these trends, the Aha-Study format was developed to meet the needs of students and contribute to the implementation of 21st Century learning skills through national curricula in STEM education. Liina Vaher, Head of Education, shared with us: “Companies are no longer following the traditional working schemes, where you are hired to fulfil a position. More and more, new models are being tried, basically, models that use the potential of each person to its highest levels, in terms of imagination and working capacity. For that, teams are given a task and they have to come with a solution to the problem. That is totally a new way to imagine and perform work”.

Why not making learning a fun experience? The Aha-Study approach is highly agile, focusing on finding the best organisational structure to support cooperative planning, leadership and ownership of activities instead of process-oriented orders passed down through vertical management structures. The students are confronted to a balanced combination of options and freedom to choose, with the goal of finding solutions to unsolved tasks or challenges. Once they get into their lab coats, the journey begins with choosing the theme and getting the challenges to solve. In groups and assuming active and diverse roles, they plan and try to get the best working ways to fulfil their missions.

The central principle of the format sees the science centre building act as an interactive classroom for the whole study day. It connects several subjects related to one of the following themes: human anatomy, mind and senses, health and nutrition, electricity, astronomy, geology, home yard, water, forest or mathematics.

Liina adds: “We conceive arts as a fundamental topic and approach at the same time. After they get their theoretical session and they are done with their lab work and exhibition exploration, they assist to a science show, where they participate too. In this way, they also learn by moving themselves, not only with their minds but their bodies too.”

This is a fundamental step to get into the last part of the day: the reflection meeting. At this moment of the day, they openly talk about what they liked, what they didn’t, what could have been made in different ways, or maybe better, and a deep reflection about failure and emotions.

For Liina Vaher and her team, there is no better indicator of success that the future phone call from the teacher saying she or he wants to come again with the same group of students:  “And then… we recognize among them a totally new way to relate with sciences, is like we had opened a new appetite in them, their attitude is more of a person that want to discover and learn about everything!”

The Aha Study and 8 other interesting cases from the Science Centre and Museum pitch are showcased in the RRI Quick Start Guide, edited by Ecsite and available as a PDF document in the Toolkit.

Andrea Troncoso

Andrea Troncoso works on RRI Tools at Ecsite, in Brussels, which is responsible for the mapping of stakeholders in the RRI Tools project

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