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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N° 43 - November 2004   
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SCIENCE AND SOCIETY
Title  An educated awareness of risk

Ignorance is a poor counsellor, and although education does not remove a risk, it can make it more manageable – by increasing awareness of the danger, improving prevention and promoting an organised response. The EU-backed Eduseis project aims to explain the earthquake phenomenon in schools and science museums.

seismography workshop at the citta della scienza in naples.
Seismography workshop at the Citta Della Scienza Museum in Naples.
The idea first took shape in the United States in 1994, in the form of the Princeton Earth Physics Project (PEPP), a network of educational activities in the field of physics concentrating on earthquake risk. In Europe, Eduseis (Educational Seismological Project) was launched in 1995 as an EU-supported partnership (through Erasmus), with specific support in France, Italy, Germany and Portugal.

The project employs an original approach by providing schoolchildren with access to authentic seismographs, ideally, in their schools. In this way, teachers, backed up by scientists, can develop a lively training in the geosciences and earthquake risk, in particular. The project also requires a computer infrastructure, not only to permit interactive interconnection between schools and access to scientific data via the Internet, but also to be able to draw on the data gathered by existing seismological networks. The aim is not simply to offer initiation exercises. In fact, Eduseis stations are genuine observatories which are linked to those that manage the earthquake risk.

The Naples example
Based in the Naples region, an earthquake risk area, the Italian component of the Edulseis project immediately took a distinctive turn. From the very start (1996-97), the Citta della Scienza Museum decided to support the project actively, thereby enabling it to reach a much wider public outside the schools. In technological, methodological and educational terms (especially through teacher training), the active co-operation between Naples University and other geophysical organisations in the country served to harness valuable expertise.

About a dozen seismological stations are part of the observation network made available to the Eduseis project. In schools, the experience is centred on the Liceo Scientifico Copernico in particular, the site of one of the seismographs. The Citta della Scienza Museum also has a seismograph and has invested in the Seismolab, a genuine interactive educational laboratory for geophysics and seismology. The project’s dynamic educational activities are, today, well and truly up and running at the sites of the accessible stations and via the Eduseis website, where all the network’s scientific observations are stored and reported on in the electronic daily Il Sismo

Spreading the message
South eastern France (the Côte d'Azur region) has participated in Eduseis since 1995, through the academic workshop known as Aster(1). Set up by the Institut Universitaire de France, the GeoSciencesAzur laboratory is responsible for the scientific aspects, and the Centre International de Valbonne (CIV) is in charge of education. These two bodies have developed prototype seismological and computer equipment that has been installed at five schools in the area attended by students aged between 13 and 18. Two mobile stations visit various schools to support thematic projects. The CIV also provides the network’s scientific and educational coordination.

The movement has now started to spread to other French regions (Alpes, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, Alsace), a move that is being coordinated by the Sismo des écoles network. In April 2003, this network linked up with Eduseis to organise, at the Valbonne centre, a European Edulseis meeting that was attended by about 50 teachers, engineers and researchers from seven countries. 

"The sharing of experiences, data and practices is becoming increasingly important,” stresses Jean-Luc Berenguer of the CIV. “The need for competent people (technicians and engineers) to manage the networks alongside the teachers is becoming vital. We hope that, by drawing on Eduseis’ experience, the Union will become more involved in developing educational programmes on earthquake risk throughout Europe.”

(1) Animation Scientifique et Technologique pour l'Education au Risque majeur (Scientific and technological workshop for major risk education)

    
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