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Thursday, 27 December 2018

NanoEduca awarded the 2018 Premi Nacional de Comunicació Científica

The NanoEduca program, promoted by UB, the ICN2, UAB and the CESIRE of the Department of Education the Generalitat de Catalunya, comprises three complementary lines of action: Nanokit (pedagogical suitcases available for free), teacher training, and an annual poster and video competition.

Dissemination activities about the nanoscience and nanotechnology carried out within the program NanoEduca have been distinguished with the National Scientific Communication Prize (Premi Nacional de Comunicació Científica), given by the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation (FCRi) and the Catalan Government.

Nanoscience and nanotechnology have a growing impact in our lives and youngsters should be ready to understand the opportunities and challenges linked to the applications of these fields. Dissemination of these disciplines is difficult since these knowledge areas are complex, and the scientific community uses highly specialized terminology. However, these knowledge areas are essential in our lives due their impact, both in the present and in the future.

The program NanoEduca is a joint initiative by the University of Barcelona (UB), the ICN2, the UAB and CESIRE (Department of Education of Generalitat de Catalunya). This great effort aims to bring the tools, the language and the uses of nanoscience and nanotechnology closer to the secondary education schools. Since 2015, the content of NanoEduca has reached more than 6,000 students from more than 300 education centers, mainly in Catalonia but also in the Basque Country, the Community of Madrid and the Austrian city of Salzburg.

NanoEduca was created to group dissemination actions aimed at the educational community, which are carried out by several entities of the UB: mainly the Scientific and Technological Centers (CCiTUB), the Institute of Education Sciences of the UB, and the Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IN2UB) and the support of the Scientific Culture Unit (UCC+i).

After 2015, NanoEduca became a cross-sectional initiative adding the activities that were carried out by the ICN2, the UAB and the CESIRE. The borrowing services of CESIRE, thanks to a previous collaboration with the ICN2, it already had initial educational material on nanotechnology, which became the current Nanokits. The UAB, with its bachelor’s degree in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, brings high skills in training regarding these fields. The advice and participation of CESIRE, with a wide knowledge on the educational community, has been crucial to adapt the needs of the classrooms to the scientific content brought by the rest of the institutions.

The result of this wide collaboration, together with an ongoing improvement process, made the program NanoEduca to receive the National Scientific Communication Prize to be given during the second semester of 2019 and which will gather the awardees under the different categories of the National Research Prizes (Premis Nacionals de Recerca) published last December 27.

The three pillars in NanoEduca: teacher training, Nanokit and annual contest

The structure of NanoEduca is divided into three action lines: secondary education teaching training, through practical and scientific updating lessons; Nanokit, a pedagogical suitcase with experiments to carry out in class and a guidelines for teachers and students (available to borrow in Catalonia through the network of Pedagogical Resource Centers of the Department of Education); and the annual contest of posters and videos, which collects the work on nanoscience and nanotechnology carried out by the students during the school year.

According to Jordi Diaz, scientific communicator and expert from the Nanometric Techniques Unit in CCiTUB, “nanotechnology is a present reality and many of secondary education students will have jobs related to this technology. NanoEduca brings it to them in a different way, an entertaining and close way”. This is necessary because there are already around 9,000 products with nanotechnology in the market in different industrial sectors and a great demand prospect of jobs related to these technologies. NanoEduca aims to provide students and teachers with the necessary tools to understand the opportunities and risks related to these innovations.

Secondary education teacher training is mainly carried out through the Institute of Education Sciences (ICE) of the UB, but it is completed with training proposals offered by UAB and CESIRE. This offer allows improving the skills of educators and eases the incorporation of NanoEduca materials in the classroom. “Incorporation of concepts related to nanoscience and nanotechnologies in the last stages of secondary education and upper secondary education through the teachers, improves the ability of the students to understand the surrounding world, and therefore, to have an impact in the future, both at a personal and a global level”, notes Gemma Garcia, lecturer in the bachelor’s degree in Naoscience and Nanotechnology at UAB and current Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs od degree studies in UAB.
Nanokit allows discovering nanoscience and nanotechology at school, introducing concepts and “nano” applications in the existing curricular fields. The experience combines a practical methodology, with which the students experiment the effects and properties of the nanometric scale, with theoretic content, available in the pedagogical worksheets. This combination allows the students discovering and getting an insight into research and the current development on nanotechnologies.

The large scale initiative that guarantees free access to Nanokit for all Catalan schools has been carried out thanks to the economic contribution by the Severo Ochoa Program from the ICN2, completed with economic resources of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECyT), the UB and FCRi. Àlex Argemí, head of Marketing and Communication in the ICN2, says “The research centers and universities are in charge of getting closer to society and make people take part in the progresses we make. To maximize the impact of Nanokit, it was important for this material to be available for the education community”. The Pedagogical Resource Centers (CRPs) from the Department of Education have been crucial to distribute this activity around. The materials have been translated to Basque and Spanish, and there are new pilot experiences being tested with local actors in the Basque Country and in Madrid, disseminated through the European platform Scientix.

Last, the program NanoEduca includes the annual contest in which the education centers that used the didactic materials take part. “Students present their conclusions in a poster or in video, developing their communicative and team work skills. They do this after having worked on the didactic sequences that are included in Nanokit, with contextualized proposals and based on an active approach”, notes Julio Pérez, director of CESIRE. In the three editions of the contest the students present this collaborative task in front of a jury, in an activity similar to a scientific conference which combines the rigor with a festive and informal environment.

In short, NanoEduca is a remarkable initiative for the excellence of the institutions that form it and for the amount and quality of its contributions since 2015. The project has been consolidated as a pioneer initiative able to move leading research to the schools with a cross-sectional and didactic approach. The National Scientific Communication Prize is an award to the dissemination task and the distinguished teamwork for the four involved institutions in the program, its coordinators, its working teams and a wide network of collaborators. At the same time, it is a stimulus to keep on working together on the improvement, sustainability and extension of the project.