Stimulating schoolchildren to study science
Schoolchildren and students in EU countries are to be encouraged to develop an interest in science through a project launched by the Association of Petrochemicals Producers in Europe. Xperimania will raise awareness of petrochemistry among young people (from 10 to 20 years old) through science teaching and learning activities in secondary schools throughout the EU, leading to a prize-giving ceremony in 2008.
'Xperimania — from molecules to materials' is being coordinated by European Schoolnet, which is a network of 28 education ministries. It encourages schoolchildren and teachers to explore the constituents of petrochemical materials in everyday products such as sports shoes and MP3 players, so they can develop an understanding of the role that petrochemistry plays in the development of many familiar materials that we use regularly.
Three main activities are being carried out: a timeline student investigation of an everyday object made from petrochemicals, with a subsequent report; simple and fun experiments which are then written up in a laboratory report; and online debates and discussions between students and scientists on topics related to the petrochemistry industry’s relationship to society.
At the end of the project, a group of science educators will give out prizes for the best experiments and timeline observations. The winners will be awarded their prizes in a ceremony held at the research laboratory of a petrochemical company.
Xperimania was initiated to address the problem of declining interest in studying scientific subjects among European schoolchildren. This is an issue that is causing great concern to governments and industry. It is posing a threat to European industry and the scientific professions, and to Europe’s future at the cutting edge of scientific research and technology.
The percentage of graduates with science degrees varies from country to country. In Asia, 32 percent of graduates have science degrees, while in China it is 53 percent. In Europe, the figure falls to 28 percent. This scientific brain drain in Europe has a knock-on effect for business and industry: they can’t attract enough scientists to undertake research projects, and therefore they fall behind in their research and technology activities. The attempt to reverse this decline has led to many government-sponsored projects, including paying graduates to train as science teachers.
'Europe needs young, bright and creative talents in order to remain a world leader in innovation,’ says the Association of Petrochemicals Producers in Europe’s Director, Pierre de Kettenis. 'They are essential to develop innovative solutions able to address tomorrow's challenges related to healthcare, food and water supply, and environmental protection. That’s why science education has become a priority for the petrochemical industry, which provides the basic materials to most high-tech products.’