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GeoTalk: Sharing geoscience with kids and educators

GeoTalk: Sharing geoscience with kids and educators

GeoTalk interviews usually feature the work of early career researchers, but this month we deviate from the standard format to speak to Marina Drndarski, a biology teacher at the primary school Drinka Pavlović in Belgrade, Serbia. Marina has been involved with EGU’s geoscience education activities for more than five years; she is an active contributor to Planet Press articles, bitesize press releases for kids, parents and educators, and has participated in the Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshops at the General Assembly.

Thanks for talking to us today! Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your career path?

Hi geoscientific people,

My name is Marina, and I teach biology and environmental studies in primary and secondary schools in Belgrade, Serbia.

As an experienced teacher I realised that it’s not only my priority to give lectures and assess my students’ knowledge inside the four walls of my classroom, but also to give them an opportunity to get out of the box: whether that’s involving them in projects, taking part in active citizenship, exploring, researching, debating, or searching for the most improbable and unexpected solutions to problems in everyday life.

During my 25 years of teaching, I worked as an expert for education quality standards governed by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia. I have written several biology and environmental handbooks, workshops and teaching learning materials for students and teachers.

With my students I have participated in several national and international projects (such as the Global Designathon SerbiaEco Schools Serbia, the WWF European Schools For a Living Planet, Creating a School (on Mars) From Scratch, and the 2018 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate to name only a few). Meanwhile, I have also completed specialised academic studies on environmental protection and law at Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade.

After field work with Eco-Musketeers on Deliblato sands, one of the Special Nature Reserve in Serbia (Credit: Marina Drndarski)

Could you tell us about your involvement with EGU and how that has progressed over the years?

My first experience with the EGU GIFT workshops was at the 2014 General Assembly. First, I was fascinated by the huge crowds of the scientific community, rushing through the halls to be a part of The Face of the Earth (the 2014 conference theme). As part of the event, with colleagues from all around the world, I really enjoyed the inspirational lectures over four days. Although the GIFT program ended by the middle of the week, I stayed up to two more days, until the closing of the conference.

During the EGU GIFT 2014 poster sessions, I presented my work with my students, members of the Eco-Muskeeters, and enjoyed the experience of exchanging teaching methodology with other colleagues and visitors. Among the various activities and workshops that we had that year, I would single out Bárbara Ferreira’s (the EGU Media and Communications Manager) presentation about bitesize press releases for kids, Planet Press. After the presentation we were offered to participate in the translation of the Planet Press releases into our native tongues, which I immediately and wholeheartedly accepted.

After great experience participating in 2014, I searched for a new opportunity to participate again for EGU GIFT 2015, The Voyage through the Scales. This time I came with a new poster, Experiment-o-mania, and short oral presentation to GIFT participants on how I use Planet Press articles in my classes.

Although I normally do not teach geosciences, I have found many ways to use the Planet Press releases in teaching biology, especially in environmental science.

During the last few years I have translated all of the articles from English to Serbian. I can confess that I honestly enjoy in each of the new press releases.

In addition to helping review Planet Press articles, you also incorporate texts from Planet Press and GeoTalk into your own lessons! How do you use these articles to teach your students about Earth science?

Students are given different articles from Planet Press which deal with one topic, such as climate change or global warming. Each pair of students also has a piece paper in front of them, with the theme on the paper’s center. As the student pair read the received articles (two for each of them), they construct their maps.

After that, all together, we construct the class conceptual map and discuss and propose suggestions for how each of us can influence to environment based on the principles of sustainable development, such as reducing carbon emissions, saving energy and using water wisely.

At the end of the class, students take a climate change quiz on Kahoot (https://create.kahoot.it/; Planet Press) or Quizlet.

Writing a conclusion is an important part of any piece of writing, so for the next class the students write an essay overview to summarise the topic.

Example of the class conceptual map for climate change and global warming. (Credit: Marina Drndarski)

In your own experience, what have students gained from these kid-friendly posts and press releases?

Planet Press: Remove carbon dioxide from the air or risk young people’s future

In my opinion, most of the obligatory textbooks for elementary or secondary school have topics such as climate change, Earth’s structure, glaciers, landslides etc. that are explained too narratively.

Most of the main text are described as definitions which students have to learn as facts, without putting students in the center of learning, placing themselves in a position to explore the topic, perform a scientific procedure and make a discovery, demonstrate a known fact, solve problems, or suggest solutions which may be achievable.

On the contrary, all the articles from Planet Press and GeoTalk provide real examples of field research and show students that science is actually happening somewhere in the world. Most importantly for students, are that most of the articles often show how science can influence everyday life, and that there are possible solutions and recommendations for what we can do to relieve pressure on the planet.

Additionally the questions in the “Find out more” section provide me with an opportunity to develop discussions in class.

Also, the possibility that the articles can be read in a foreign language, for example in English or German (languages which are taught at my school), give students the opportunity to improve their language skills.

What is your advice for scientists that want to work with school kids?

First, it is important for students to understand that somewhere in the world a whole team of scientists zealously work to improve the living conditions of the planet. New findings can help us see the actual state of the planet and give us the big picture of what we need to see. That’s why the Planet Press releases can open new perspectives to students to explore more through the offered material and links or to find answers to some scientific questions, feeding their curiosity and helping them develop awareness regarding the problems which concern us all.

I would suggest one-hour live meetings with scientists and students, whether the scientists are directly addressing kids in the classroom or responding via the internet. Therefore, it is necessary to go over one scientific topic with the students before the meeting in order to allow the students enough time to prepare questions for discussion.

Also, students can be citizen scientists on research teams, and engage in mini projects, such as collecting information from local areas or visiting researchers in the field. Perhaps even some of the students can give new information to researchers!

I am deeply aware that many scientists suffer from lack of time, but this kind of learning can be really helpful for students.

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

Some of Marina’s representative publications over last few years

Miličić, D., Drndarski, M., Trajković J., Savić T., Lučić L., and Pavković-Lučić S. (2018). A matter of health: Evaluation of health habits in pupils in Primary School in Serbia; 4th Balkan Scientific Conference on Biology, Nov. 1st-3rd, 2017. Plovdiv, Bulgaria (in press).

Drndarski, M. and Turšijan, T. (2015). Application of case study method of the conceptual map (brain map) in the realization of the education program content of environmental protection (climate change). Book: Teacher as a researcher: examples of good practice, Ministry of education, science and technological development Republic of Serbia, p. 41-47 (usage the Planet Press articles to create conceptual maps about the climate change) ISBN 978-86-7452-064-2. (in Serbian) (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279195498_Nastavnik_kao_istrazivac_primeri_dobre_prakse)

Drndarski M. (2015). Experiment-о-mania – Abstract for the EGU General Assembly 2015 – Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, EGU2015-4692-1, 2015. EGU General Assembly 2015. © Author(s) 2015. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

Drndarski M., (2014). All for the Planet, Planet for All – Abstract for the EGU General Assembly 2014 – Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 16, EGU2014-PREVIEW, 2014 EGU General Assembly 2014 © Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

Miličić, D., Drndarski, M., Holod, A., Lazić, Z. (2014). Fibonacci and golden ratio in interdisciplinary teaching. Teaching Innovations, XXVII, 2014/4, str. 86–91. (http://scindeks.ceon.rs/Article.aspx?artid=0352-23341404086M&lang=en)

GeoEd: Planet Press – geoscience news for children

GeoEd: Planet Press – geoscience news for children

Inspiring children to be interested in the geosciences isn’t always an easy task. While dinosaurs, volcanoes and earthquakes are a sure hook (rightly so!), there is also much more to the Earth, ocean and planetary sciences!  Not only that, but new developments happen much more quickly than the lifetime of a textbook, meaning that breaking science is often underreported in the classroom.  However, distilling the complex science behind ocean dead zones, how scientists measure the height of ice sheets and the history of European droughts, into children friendly language which captures the imagination isn’t plain sailing.

In September 2014 the EGU developed the Planet Press initiative – engaging and bitesize press releases for kids, parents and educators to help them get to grips with the latest geoscientific research going on across the world. Planet Presses are primarily aimed at 7 to 13 year olds, but can be used by children in other age groups too!

How are Planet Presses made?

The starting point is a press release – a statement released to journalists to alert them about exciting and newsworthy research published in one of the EGU’s open access journals.

Example of a Planet Press Release: Studying glaciers with animated satellite images, published September 2015.

Example of a Planet Press Release: Studying glaciers with animated satellite images, published September 2015.

A Planet Press (PP), is then written in-house by a member of the EGU’s communication team (mostly by the Media and Communications Manager, Bárbara Ferreira), based on an existing EGU press release.

It is reviewed by two scientists, as well as an educator to ensure the science content is accurate and the writing is appropriate for the target age group. In addition, fun printable versions are then made for classroom use.

Because Planet Presses are intended for use across Europe, the final step of the process is to have them translated into various languages. This is done by volunteer scientists and educators.

Planet Press, two years on

Since the start of the project, 36 PPs (out of 36 press releases) have been published. You can download copies of all the existing texts on the EGU website. The texts have been translated approximately 220 times, including into Serbian, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese and many other languages too. This truly herculean task has been accomplished by a team of over 60 volunteers, without whom the Planet Press project wouldn’t be the success it is today. (All figures correct at time of publication of blog post).

“This is one of the most exciting and rewarding projects I work on at the EGU,” says Bárbara. “Planet Press has received incredibly positive feedback from both scientists and educators, and when I presented it at the EGU 2016 General Assembly, many in the audience gave constructive and useful suggestions for improvement, which we’ve since implemented in the most recent texts. Further, whenever we put out calls for volunteers on our social media channels, I always receive plenty of emails from people interested in helping out with Planet Press, and who are extremely keen to dedicate some of their time and energy to getting geoscientific news to kids around Europe (and further afield).”

Lessons learnt and challenges

The coordination of the volunteers is time consuming and one of many side projects and tasks the EGU’s Media and Communications Manager works on. Despite this limitation, the project has received praise from scientists who enjoy seeing their work being made accessible to a younger audience, as well as educators who use the PPs in the classroom.

But it is precisely distributing the texts to a wide number of educators and ensuring it reaches an extensive demographic of children which remains one of the main challenges of the project. Currently, newly produced releases are advertised on the EGU’s social media channels, as well as the EGU’s website and amongst the educators part of the EGU’s GIFT programme. However, many of those who receive the announcements are not the target audience of the Planet Presses, though we are working to change that and get Planet Press to reach more schools kids across Europe.

Not only that, once the texts have been produced and distributed, measuring their impact: how well they do, how useful educators and children find them and how well they achieve their aim of engaging children with the Earth and planetary sciences, remains very difficult to establish and quantify. This is something we are planning on improving in the future.

Languages into which Planet Presses have been translated into so far (figure correct as of April 2016). Credit: Bárbara Ferreira / EGU

Languages into which Planet Presses have been translated into so far (figure correct as of April 2016). Credit: Bárbara Ferreira / EGU

A final hurdle is the dearth of translations in a number of languages including Slovenian, Russian, Dutch, Croatian and Swedish. So, if you feel inspired to contribute to the effort of translating existing releases, or indeed reviewing the scientific or educational content of the PPs, please contact Bárbara Ferreira.

By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer

This post is based on ‘Planet Press: an EGU initiative to bring geoscientific research to children’, a presentation by Bárbara Ferreira, at the EGU 2016 General Assembly in session EOS4 – Communication and Education in Geoscience: Practice, Research and Reflection. You can download a copy of Bárbara presentation here.

Planet Press, has the support of the EGU Committee on Education. We are grateful for the help of Jane Robb, former EGU Educational Fellow, with launching the project. Planet Press is inspired by Space Scoop, an initiative by UNAWE, the EU-Universe Awareness organisation, that brings astronomy news to children every week.

 

GeoEd: New educational activities at the EGU!

In the past few months, the EGU worked particularly hard on its educational activities. The Committee on Education organised no less than three  GIFT workshops and, with the help of Jane Robb, who took part in EGU’s Educational Fellowship, the Union has expanded its education portfolio. Here Jane shares these new and exciting EGU educational initiatives, which range from action-packed online events to tools for teachers and summaries of scientific research made especially for school kids…

Planet Press

If you like engaging your kids with science through up-to-date news then this is the place for you! Inspired by UNAWE’s Space Scoop stories for kids, the EGU have developed Planet Press – engaging geoscience new stories for kids. Aimed primarily at 7-11 year olds, these are EGU press releases ‘translated’ into kids’ language, but they can also be useful if you want more digestible geoscience news. Each Planet Press is written in-house and reviewed by one of the Union’s scientist members, as well as an educator to ensure their science content is accurate and the writing is appropriate for the target age group. In addition, fun printable versions have been made for classroom use. So far, all Planet Presses are in English but, in the future, we hope to make them available in other European languages.

PP

Teacher’s Corner

There are many resources out there for teaching geoscience, but, with so many to choose from, sometimes it is difficult to find exactly what you need. Teacher’s Corner is a database of teaching resources spanning all geoscience subjects, specifically aimed at teachers. The database is searchable by age range, type of activity and subject area, making it easier for you to find teaching inspiration. Teacher’s Corner will also showcase some of the work that GIFT teachers have produced from Geosciences Information For Teachers (GIFT) workshops and while engaging with real scientists. In addition, if you’re a GIFT teacher or have a great resource of your own, you can upload your teaching ideas and resources to Teacher’s Corner for other teachers to use and share.

I’m a Geoscientist – Get me out of here!

Some of you will have heard of I’m a Scientist – Get me out of here!, which runs in the UK and engages school children with scientists. The EGU has now developed their own version of this event in collaboration with the UK company Gallomanor, called I’m a Geoscientist – Get me out of here!. I’m a Geoscientist focuses on the geosciences, with scientists from across the EGU’s broad subject areas chatting online to 500 school students from across Europe and South Africa. Although registration to take part in our first June 2014 event has closed, you can still join in by visiting the I’m a Geoscientist website (imageoscientist.eu) and watching the event take place – live! There you will be able to see the questions students are asking the scientists and the scientists’ responses. If you’re a teacher, you can use this event to engage your own classes with science or just have a look at what goes on to see if you’d like to take part in a future event. If you’re a scientist, you can take this opportunity to practice engaging with the public about your research, see your research in new light, gain wider recognition for your work and fulfil the public engagement requirements of your funding proposal.

IAG

Geolocations Database

If you like taking your family or class on field trips to explain geological phenomena, or just like to get out in the wild, our Geolocations Database could be a great place to find out about some of the best locations near you. The database is designed for teachers or parents wanting to find exciting geological locations nearby, and is searchable by country, type of location and whether it is suitable (and safe) for children. In addition, you can also upload your own favourite geological locations to the database!

That’s all for now, but we’d like to keep these initiatives going strong in the future. We need help in writing Planet Press releases, ideas for Teacher’s Corner resources and sites for the Geolocations Database. We also hope to continue to run I’m a Geoscientist in the future, to help more school children chat directly to scientists about their research and provide scientists with the opportunity to practice communicating their work. If you would like to help with any of these initiatives then please get in touch with Bárbara Ferreira at media@egu.eu.

By Jane Robb, Project Assistant, University College London