And briefly…


Faszination Licht, Wanderausstellung in Europa Fascination of Light, an exhibition travelling across Europe
© LaserLab Europe

1989. Twenty-three managers of science centres and museums gathered in Heureka (FI) and decided to work as a network. This initiative, which has been given the name Ecsite, now has 385 partners – including zoos and aquariums, universities and research centres. Its membership is not insignificant, with more than 30 million visitors each year (of which over 60% are under 25 years of age) and many more via the internet. Ecsite’s objective is to encourage links between these various European centres of education which share the same desire to spread scientific knowledge amongst the general public. Their common objective is to provide knowledge in an attractive and comprehensible way, often by encouraging debate on the problems of the science / society relationship. The network facilitates meetings, ideas, the exchange of good practice and common initiatives. Many European projects presented in this issue are coordinated or placed in a network by Ecsite, such as Pencil, Hands-On & Brains-On, Decide, Wonders, Connect and Nanodialogue.

The benefits of interaction

Colourful Chemistry project presented at Heureka (FI) Colourful Chemistry project presented at Heureka (FI)
© Technopolis, Centre flamand des sciences

A combination of formal and informal education, school lessons and interaction with science centres: this is the philosophy of the Hands-On & Brains-On project, which brings together eight European science centres and museums. The European SchoolNet and Ecsite networks are responsible for linking these organisations with teachers and a number of projects have been started. For example, the coordinator of the Finnish centre ‘Heureka’, heads a chemistry group whose project, ‘Colourful Chemistry’, has been presented to and tested with its partners. The ultimate objective is to establish best practice, combining complementary methods – in classrooms and elsewhere – with providing an initiation into the sciences.

Mentoring in the Hungarian style

Péter Csermely Péter Csermely

In order to encourage the careers of budding scientists, there is nothing like the method of recognising their ability to conduct their own research. This is what made the Hungarian initiative Kutató Diàkok such a success. It was created in 1995 by Péter Csermely, a molecular biologist at the Semmelweis University in Budapest whose passion about science communication won him the Descartes Prize in this field in 2005. Each year, a thousand youngsters aged between 14 and 20 are brought together for summer training courses where they act as trainee researchers in the areas of their choice. Within a decade, registrations have increased tenfold. The best will have the chance to participate in other research programmes, in Germany, Israel, Ireland or the USA.

The super heroes of Cybernia

The Resistors form a group of four super heroes. They are fighting to save their planet, Cybernia, from invaders. Each of them is an expert in their technical field. Luc knows everything about optics, Sonia about sound, Amber about electricity and magnetism and Dig about ICT and nanotechnology. Using familiar play station formats, their site offers games, animations and other interactive tools popular with adolescents. All this allows complex high-tech concepts to be explained in cyber language. Equality amongst the genders is respected and the beautiful heroines should boost girls’ interest in science.

The old lady in the subject

1901. This was the occasion when four teachers from Eton College (UK) held a conference to shake up their public school colleagues. In their eyes, it was high time that the way in which the natural sciences were taught was changed. The move was made. Groups, debates and ideas were pursued until the Science Masters’ Association and the Association of Women Science Teachers were brought together in 1963 to form the famous Association for Science Education (ASE). Combative, imaginative, closely examining all educational methods and possible educational reforms, the ASE now brings together 15 000 teachers (from all levels of education) and 2 500 students. Its strength is demonstrated by its annual conference, which attracts 3 500 people and a reputation that extends far beyond the borders of the United Kingdom.