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Outreach News

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Nanoscience and nanotechnology enter the classroom thanks to the NanoKit project

by Àlex Argemí

The NanoKit is a briefcase containing nano experiences linked to different high school subjects, with the aim of incorporating nanoscience and nanotechnology to the contents that are taught in classrooms. On Thursday 22 December that first NanoKits have been delivered to representatives of CESIRE, a centre of the Catalan Ministry of Education, which will coordinate the distribution of this educational material in Catalonia. In the coming months, over 70 NanoKits will be deployed in Catalonia and some more will be shared with other Autonomous Communities thanks to a project of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT).

This morning, the first delivery of NanoKits to the educational community took place through CESIRE and the Pedagogical Resources Centres of the Catalan Ministry of Education. During the scholar year 2016-2017, over  70 NanoKits will be deployed in Catalonia and some more will be shared with other Autonomous Communities. The NanoKit is a briefcase with a series of experiences designed for young people about an expanding area of knowledge: nanoscience and nanotechnology. Each activity is related to different curricular areas to facilitate their use in the classroom. Currently, nanoscience and nanotechnology do not formally appear in students’ curricula.

The NanoKits project is comprised inside NanoEduca, a program designed to introduce nanoscience and nanotechnology to high school students and teachers. The program wants to provide tools to understand these disciplines, which now have a huge impact in our lives, and also will have in the near future. Apart from NanoKits, NanoEduca includes training sessions for active teachers and an annual competition aimed at students who have reflected in the classroom on the implications of nanotechnology. The drivers of this initiative are the University of Barcelona (UB), the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Specific Pedagogical Resources Centre for Supporting Innovation and Educational Research (CESIRE) of the Catalan Ministry of Education.

The NanoKit is an interdisciplinary proposal that encompasses activities closely related to theoretical science and basic investigation (for example, with an experiment on the conducting properties of graphene), but it also has direct relation with technological applications (the design of a piezoelectric sensor). The briefcase is accompanied by educational records to support the development of the activities and offer some context, with specific contents for students and teachers. The NanoKit includes experiences with microscopy, nanoencapsulation, nanomedicine and even a role-playing game, among others.

‘Nano’ is a multidisciplinary field. This vision of interconnection and complementarity between disciplines, very close to the concept of STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics), is one of the main ideas expressed by the NanoKit. Nanoscience and nanotechnology is also a discipline in which direct discussion with society is especially encouraged by applying the principles of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). It should also be noted that the project brings digital platforms to education, as it plans to interact with schools through content and chats that will be available at www.nanoeduca.cat

The new edition of NanoKits is an improved version that draws on previous experiences with more than 500 students. The production of 100 NanoKits has been possible thanks to a project funded by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT). This initiative has also received financial support from the ICN2 Severo Ochoa Excellence Program, the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRi) and the UB. The Catalan Ministry of Education, through CESIRE and its Pedagogical Resource Centres, supports the deployment of the kits to maximize their impact on scientific literacy of students and their ability to form an informed opinion.