I start my story by sharing the fact that in the past complicated months of social isolation I had to go the extra mile! I had to consolidate many of the techniques that only tried sporadically. What an opportunity to learn, don’t you agree?! It became necessary and urgent to work with online tools, challenging my knowledge on them, and pushing me to perform well on them. However challenging, I must also add that I try to constantly tune into the renewal of techniques and skills through many online courses (mainly at the European Schoolnet Academy and the School Education Gateway). As teachers, we must be able to learn permanently!
I must thank the entire team of teachers at my school who, from their homes, communicated daily to ask questions, suggestions, and solve some problems. I also often have the support of many Scientix Ambassadors from my country, Spain, with whom I also maintain daily communication and share our experiences.
I am currently involved with other teachers in two eTwinning projects and one Erasmus + KA 229 project. I highlight the importance that we continue the communication between all of us despite the closure of schools and being locked up at home. It is not only essential for the projects and work, but for mental health, for keeping friendships, for learning processes and for providing support to everyone we can.
In this way we share some curious experiences made from home by colleagues and me:
(1) From our eTwinning Eratosthenes 2020 project, students and teachers from all continents cooperate and collaborate to reproduce one of the science’s 10 most beautiful experiments of all time: Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference. This is a global project in collaboration with: La Main à La Pàte, Bibliotheca Alexandria, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidade Federal de Itajubá, Astrofanaticos (Colombia), Space Adhyaan(India) and Parque Cielos del Sur (Argentina).
While doing the measurements we were not all always successful (the measures depended on the weather in each location), however, we are many partners and very often we obtained good results. We were amazed by the great imagination of our partners that used every day different objects to make measurements. My school has been part of this project it’s been around two years.
The main objective of the project is to establish communication between students from different schools and also to provide simple calculation tools about our positioning, how the height of the sun changes throughout the year, observation of solstices and equinoxes, by calculating the size of the Earth.
During normal school days, we were giving students a ten-minute break to make the measures – one class each day with students of all ages. In these days of social isolation, we resort to the will of each and their imagination to use their own instruments and send us the results.
(2) From our eTwinning Climate Change Action project, we carried out various activities made from home as well. For example, a game that reminds us of environmental protection slogans, designing T-shirts for students, or observing our “closed plant” ecosystems (which was manufactured almost two months ago). By the way, all of them resisted the season changes with enviable health!
The study of ecosystems is part of our curriculum at almost all ages. With the “closed plant,” ecosystems and observation of nature can teach us that we actually live in a very delicate closed system. An ecosystem that we must understand deeply to be able to take good care of it. Until today our Earth is the only known place where we really know that we can survive and have a good quality of life. If someday we come to live somewhere else in our solar system, we must carry our own ecosystem to be able to survive and it must remain stable and healthy.
Both in class and at home, we observe the patterns of nature and try to replicate them in our experiments. Consequently, we provide different layers of soil: stones in the lower zone, then sand, and finally organic soil on top (this includes some types of bacteria). We put several types of small plants in the same container and add rainwater. We completely shut down the system including some atmospheric air. The sun and nature in itself do the rest of the work. We only have to observe its evolution, then draw conclusions, and make proposals for improvement.
(3) While due to the crisis the mobilities of our Erasmus + project have been, for the moment, cut short, we keep close contact through social networks. Our project is called ‘A Lab in my pocket: application of the scientific method and experimentation with smartphone sensors’ and it has as the main goal to transform young people’s attitudes towards science through the use of the most widespread digital tool: the smartphone. Teachers and students from Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Hungary, and Romania are collaborating on it.
The structural lack of scientific tools and instruments in most schools (even in our schools, as evidenced by the “SELFIE” report 2019) has led us to consider ‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD) as the only alternative to the endowment of expensive scientific laboratories.
An internet connection and a mobile phone, in fact, are not just for taking pictures and shooting video stories for Instagram or watching YouTube channels of your favorite celebrities. Nowadays mobile phones are equipped with operating systems that enable them with an impressive computing capacity. We intend to find ways to enhance student curiosity and creativity by exploiting the potential of digital technologies.
Finally, this is my simple message to you: keep your hope and remember that together we can do great things, together we encourage each other and together we learn from each other. Good luck to you all!
Author: José María Díaz, Scientix Ambassador
Featured image by José María Díaz – Attribution CC-BY