Since 2015, we have established the interdisciplinary science outreach course LERNfeld on the challenges of climate change and biodiversity for agriculture for young scientists of the departments D-USYS and D-BIOL. The young scientists transfer their discipline-based knowledge to schoolchildren and cooperate with professionals from other fields (teachers and farmers). Participants train their communication skills and their performance as an expert. Both skills are important for scientists to interact with the public.
The course LERNfeld (751-9100-00L) is part of LERNfeld, a science and education program for primary and secondary schools, organized by GLOBE. LERNfeld provides learning activities for schoolchildren, based on an inquiry-based learning approach, about agricultural subjects in the context of climate change and biodiversity to promote systems thinking on challenges of food production.
The participants act as tutors and teach good scientific practice in the field, e.g. on how to collect comparable data, how to analyze and interpret them, and finally, how to contextualize the results within biodiversity and climate change. Since the results of the inquiry-based learning approaches differ each time, the young scientists – together with the farmers, the teachers and the schoolchildren – act as partners in a learning community.
The students improve their ability to work independently (preparation of the topic and the experiments, communication with teachers, etc.). Additionally, they serve as role models to promote STEM fields to schoolchildren.
The course for young scientists has three parts: an introduction, a practical part, and a reflection and feedback part.
Introductory course at the beginning of the semester:
The students participate in a half-day introductory course. After an introduction into the LERNfeld project and before we clarify all organizational aspects, we execute one of the learning activities, during which the participants slip into the roles of farmers, teachers and schoolchildren to exercise different situations and reactions. At some points, we interrupt the activity with a movie clapper to switch to a meta-level for analyzing, discussing and coaching the situation from an outside perspective.
Practice learning activities in the field during the semester:
The participants then execute independently 2-3 learning activities with school classes and their teachers on farms. During their whole participation time, students fill out a time and task sheet to document their effort. Additionally, after the successful collaborations, the teachers sign the sheet. This serves as a performance assessment to get the credit point.
Reflection and feedback round at the end of the semester:
During a one-hour class, the participants meet again to exchange their experiences with their peers and with the lecturers. The students get 1 ECTS and a personal certificate that attests their participation, their role in the project, and their practice in communication and collaboration. Their feedback to the lecturers is incorporated into the following year’s LERNfeld course.
- How can I participate in the LERNfeld course?
- Sabina Keller:
- When you are a student or a scientist with an environmental related background, such as biology, geography, soil sciences, environmental sciences, or agricultural sciences. You have already gained research experiences (e.g. with a bachelor thesis), which means, you are either a master student, a PhD student, or a post doc. Then, you are interested in outreach and environmental education and you are curious for meeting schoolchildren. Plus, you should be fluent in German.
- What will be my role in the project?
- Sabina Keller:
- As a participant you will slip into the role of an expert. You are a dialogue partner for the farmer and the teacher. You will educate scientific method to schoolchildren, coach the learning activities in the field and discuss the results in the classroom. Not least, you are a role model for potential future scientists.
- Which skills do I get and what is my benefit?
- Sabina Keller:
- You will obtain experiences in environmental education and you will exercise yourself in communicating complex topics such as climate change and biodiversity in agriculture for a non-academic audience. If you are a student, you will get 1 CP (ECTS). Additionally, every participant gets a LERNfeld certificate. I hope, I could inspire you to participate!