Working with different target groups, such as children and youngsters between 6 and 18 and with adults of any age, the STOL – Science Through Our Lives project has a lot of experience in tailoring different learning opportunities. However, the challenges created by the diversity of learners were overcome, says the project coordinator Alexandra Nobre.
“We do careful planning of each session which allows us to work with methods and materials adjusted for each learner group.“
To take into account the different needs, the project partners have established formal and informal discussions with the target group and the managers to see what learning methods are needed before introducing the activities in an institution.
The project aims to promote non-formal and informal scientific education. It has been carried out in care homes, war veterans’ associations, illegal drug consumers’ institutions and with pub attendees. With a policy of social responsibility, it focuses on democratisation of science on topics such as environment, health, food, as well as justice, equity and gender equality.
“We want to communicate experimental science to all kinds of non-specialised publics,” Alexandra Nobre says.
Scientific knowledge in an informal context
The project includes a number of non-formal learning activities, such as videos and podcasts, games and demonstrations, constructed devices and models adapted to the needs of each target group, focusing mainly on hands-on experimentation.
The activities have been performed with a collaboration of over 70 public and private institutions in Portugal: schools, libraries, museums, associative centres, pubs, town halls and NGOs.
“We accomplished to promote interdisciplinary scientific knowledge, and also brought science in an informal context with PubhD, in pubs,” Alexandra Nobre concludes.
The activities are evaluated on an ongoing basis and modified accordingly. The results are analysed through statistical methods and, in some cases, through content analysis of individual interviews or semi-structured inquiries. The partners also utilise written qualitative and descriptive evaluation.
“The evaluations have been very positive and have also brought to light interesting conclusions, for example the power of learning in a team and the personal empowerment that results from learning. “
The project: STOL – Science Through Our Lives – Portugal
- Award category: National projects (Portugal)
- Learner target group: Different groups rarely participating in learning
- Innovative practice: “If you cannot communicate your message to someone, change your methodology and never give up!”
- Organisation: STOL – Science Through Our Lives / University of Minho
- Contact: Alexandra Nobre
The article series shares good practices on engaging new learners by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2017.
Text: Lou-Andréa PinsonPhotos: STOL project