Meet the EGU Education Committee!

Meet the EGU Education Committee!

The EGU’s Education Committee (EC) helps to bring science to educators, from higher education funding grants and coordinating training programmes to bringing teachers to Vienna to participate in the annual GIFT (Geoscience Information For Teachers) workshop and meet with scientists at the EGU General Assembly. In this article, six of the volunteer committee members reflect on what it’s like to be a part of the EC, and why they’re passionate about bringing together science and education.


What does the Education Committee mean to you?

Teresita Gravina: Possibilities! To help science teachers fall in love with the geosciences! And, in this way, help their students to love geosciences themselves, and become aware, future citizens.

Francesca Funiciello: The Education Committee means a wonderful bridge between education and top-level research and activities in the field of geosciences. The Committee helps teachers go beyond the old, often limited, info’ they find in their textbooks and learn about the most up-to-date and challenging scientific discoveries in a uniquely exciting and immersive way! This helps to grow the knowledge and passion of the new generation for the geosciences, an essential ingredient for meeting the environmental and resource challenges of the twenty-first century.

Carlo Laj : Having been born in a family where culture and education were most important (mother, son, and grand-daughters are teachers!), being part of the Education Committee is most important to me; it is almost my second professional life since my retirement from research activities.

Annegret Schwarz: The Education Committee is, and has always been, a team of great people with scientific or educational background to work with; they have different careers, nationalities, and views, which gives a global touch to our teamwork. I find the committee to be full of inspiring ideas, professional competence, wise suggestions, and rewarding engagement!

Giuliana Panieri: The Education Committee is a committee of motivated people that decide to dedicate their free time to promoting education; “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” once said Nelson Mandela. So, the Committee is a platoon of wonderful and humble soldiers, motivated to battle for the good of our society.


What are the main reasons you were interested in joining the Education Committee?

Annegret Schwarz: Education is the future of all of us; it is the future of mankind. As a former teacher and principal, I do know how essential a scientifically substantiated and inspiring education at school is. GIFT (Geoscience Information For Teachers) workshops, with presentations and hands-on activities, are just right as excellent training programmes for teachers who then can transmit these issues in class.

Giuliana Panieri: I have had the pleasure to meet Chris King, the former Education Committee chair. He was a gentleman: passionate and committed to promoting geoscience education around the world. His personality and his work ethic were inspirational for me, and I decided that I wanted to follow his example and dedicate my spare time to promoting education. I am also deeply involved in science-education through my work and my projects, so joining the Committee was the simple result of a math exercise: 1+1=2.

Stavros Stathopoulos : It was always a pleasure for me to help people understand the world of geoscience.

Teresita Gravina: To support teachers in increasing their geoscience knowledge and skills! Searching new ways and ideas to bring into my classes and to science teachers all around Europe.

Francesca Funiciello: Education is the only weapon that can really change the world; serving the Education Committee means boosting up this weapon. The younger generations are our future and one of society’s main agents of change and progress.


What made you passionate about science education?

Giuliana Panieri: I strongly believe that science education should be provided to everyone. To understand the planet where we live, in order to protect and enjoy it, we need to know it. Therefore I am passionate about the idea of de-colonising science education and making knowledge accessible to all.

Carlo Laj: I really cannot give a single cause, but the fact is that I am passionate about science education!

Stavros Stathopoulos: Anyone interested in geoscience who wants to share their enthusiasm with others should apply to the Education Committee.

Teresita Gravina: It was not love at first sight, but I understood it was needed to work on science education if you really want to engage students and to try to help them be passionate about geosciences. Sometimes going in depth into the methodology is not my cup of tea, but I really enjoy designing activities for students. When I design the right activity this really makes my day, and I would love to help as many teachers as I can in designing engaging geoscience activities for their students.

Francesca Funiciello: As a researcher, it is my responsibility to disseminate research results to the widest range of stakeholders. This ensures that the benefits of the research are passed on to others and that it is put to good use.


What advice would you give to someone looking to be a part of the Education Committee?

Teresita Gravina: Let’s try it! The Education Committee is working on the future of geoscience: nowadays students.

Carlo Laj : My advice to this person would be to engage only if there is a very deep interest for education (clearly!), to be modest, receptive, open minded and unselfish, and most importantly to have a high sense of ethics.

Annegret Schwarz: Although there is quite some work to do, with certain peaks during the year, it is rewarding to work in the Education Committee team to achieve common goals. The team has a lot of experience and knowledge so that constructive discussions generally lead to achievements of great quality, like GIFT (Geoscience Information For Teachers).

Francesca Funiciello: Being a member of the Education Committee means being part of an international team of passionate teachers and scientists who dedicate their efforts to serving the community. Key ingredients: enthusiasm, creativity, the spirit of service, humility, and ability to work in a group.


Looking ahead, are there any initiatives you hope that the Education Committee will undertake, and why?

Giuliana Panieri: I hope it will make GIFT (Geoscience Information For Teachers) accessible to all teachers and pupils around the world. One of the big changes we have seen in recent times is that everyone can be everywhere just with a computer and a camera. I hope that the Union will support this evolution, and will give the possibility to low-income and remote countries to “be in Vienna” during GIFT, maybe creating EGU GIFT-Hubs around the world!

Stavros Stathopoulos: Even during the COVID-19 period, the Education Committee has already completed a wide range of tasks. I hope that this fruitful approach continues and that more people benefit from it.


Could you share with us the best memory from your time as Education Committee member?

Carlo Laj : I actually have TWO most important memories of my time as a Committee member!

The first was in Nice in 2003, when I opened the first EGU GIFT (Geoscience Information For Teachers) Workshop in front of some 35 teachers from different European countries, on only a small budget. What I felt was a mixture of excitement, happiness, and satisfaction for opening this workshop which I had created almost alone, almost from scratch!

The second great memory was when I got a message from Zainab Shuaibu Muhammad, informing me that she had successfully organized a GIFT workshop in her own institution in the National Teachers Institution at Kaduna, Nigeria! I had invited her to participate in the two GIFT workshops in Cape Town, from where she had decided to organize all by herself a GIFT workshop in her own country. This gave me the idea that we should help coordinate out-of-Europe GIFT workshops,  organized by the local people with our support. I spoke to Chris King and he found the idea quite fantastic: this was the beginning of the capacity building GIFT workshop programme!

Stavros Stathopoulos: I don’t have many memories as an Education Committee member, because I am a new member. But meeting the rest of the Committee in person during our annual gathering was the most enjoyable experience I’ve had so far.

Teresita Gravina: I was lucky because I participate in the first workshop for field officers together with Chris King: it was an amazing moment that I will always remember.

Annegret Schwarz: There is no single incidence in particular: each GIFT (Geoscience Information For Teachers) workshop is an inspiring and rewarding event indeed. Positive remarks, letters by the teachers, and even more, the dissemination of the GIFT workshop in different countries and schools are more than satisfying. They convey the impression that we are working for the future and give us the feeling that our work is well accepted and worthwhile.

If you want learn more about the Education Committee or get involved, please email

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Simon Clark is the Project Manager at the European Geosciences Union, where he oversee project, community, and organisational development. Simon is also the point of contact for early career scientists (ECS) at the EGU Executive Office. They have a PhD in Ecohydraulics and Environmental Engineering from the University of Liverpool, UK. Beyond research, Simon also has a strong interest in science-communication, -art, and -storytelling. You can find Simon on twitter @kelpiesi.

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