Education and Public Engagement
Science communication is increasingly recognised as a duty for scientists. Thus, apart from the scientific innovation of our project, we have also set focus in the social outreach of it. We have taken this matter very seriously, as we think that disseminating scientific knowledge can be almost as important as the research itself.
Exploring new educational strategies
First, we believe it is highly important that the general public understands basic scientific principles. This understanding can help the society to have a critical opinion and thus help them to make informed decisions, which can influence not only the science research itself and its funding but also the life quality of the people. In this context we have held talks in several schools and explored more engaging and interactive means of teaching lifesciences to young students through different workshops about skin microbiota and nucleic acid extraction. This workshops took place in events such as YOMO or Recerkids.
Furthermore, we have participated in Hands-on Science, an international conference focused on teachers that aims to debate on the active learning of the sciences from various perspectives. In this context, we have established guidelines and encouraged school science teachers to use practical experiments with basic material as pedagogical tools to consolidate and integrate the theoretical knowledge that students receive in class .
Promoting science in youth
In addition, we strongly believe in the possibility of using this educational approach to increase interest in science. We have performed several motivational talks at Biojunior to young students that are about to decide which bachelor degree to study or that need advise for the High School Research project which is implemented in Catalan school. This way, we could achieve one of our priorities, which is inspiring and promoting scientific culture in young students to increase their scientific vocation. We believe that this talks might trigger the interest in science of students and inspire them to follow a scientific career.
Establishing a public dialogue
Finally, we believe that for a more responsible research, an open and collaborative way of doing science must be established. This way, there must be a two-way process involving both the scientific community and the general public. We have worked together to promote a public dialogue about synthetic biology in public events such as Pint of science or Science Week. More specifically, we have also focused on raising awareness of cancer and metastasis development and how synthetic biology can prove itself useful to prevent metastasis among other health conditions. Finally, we have also set focus in raising awareness of the iGEM community amongst our socio-economic region.
Activities for Education and Public Engagement
Youth Mobile Festival 2018 (YOMO)
The Youth Mobile is a parallel congress to the Barcelona Mobile World Congress, aimed to kids from 8 to 18 years old. There, we performed an strawberry DNA extraction workshop with basic equipment and introduced them to DNA, its functions and pplications in research. We also set focus on the microbiota, discussing about the bacterial-human interactions as well as the implication of the microbiota in our skin.
Schools and High Schools
We visited high schools in our area in order to explain our project and introduce iGEM and synthetic biology to teenagers from 15 to 17 years old. Two high schools of our region were visited are: “Col·legi Sant Miquel dels Sants” and “Escola Vedruna”, Barcelona.
Biojunior is a congress that takes place in a research centre in Barcelona, the PRBB (Barcelona Biomedical Research Park). In this congress several researchers present their work to highschool students. The event was not only focused on the research of the scientist speaker, but also on their career in science. We gave a motivational speech and explained our project, and how the university environment can provide them with the opportunity to investigate by the hand of initiatives like iGEM.
During an entire week, the Barcelona City Hall sets up activities with the goal to promote the scientific interest of the general public. We took part in this event by teaching kids and adults how to extract DNA from strawberries and bananas with basic products.
Second Catalan Biology Society Congress
We assisted to the II Biology Congress organized by the Catalan Society of Biology. There, we had the opportunity to explain and discuss our project an ideas with the scientific community. This led us to a two-way dialogue thanks to which we could improve and integrate this knowledge to our project, but also introduce the iGEM community to the Catalan and Spanish research community.
Pint of Science
In an attempt to reach the general public, we participated in Pint of science. This event consists on an informal activity in which short talks are performed by scientists in a pub. This way, accompanied with a cold beer, people could understand what synthetic biology is and how we can use it to prevent metastasis.
Hands-on Science is an international conference focused on teachers that aims to debate on the active learning of the sciences from various perspectives. There, we had the opportunity to expose the educational tools we had developed in the framework of our project to the teaching community, encouraging teachers to implement more engaging an interactive ways to teach science. We also had the chance to introduce iGEM to science teachers, who might encourage their young students to take part on it.
Recerkids is an educational program organized by the General Directorate for Research of the Generalitat de Catalunya and Eduxarxa with the aim of bringing scientific research closer to students. There, we performed several workshops, in which students extracted their own DNA and saw how agarose gels work.
Hands-on Science (HSCI). (2018). Hands-on Science 2018. Advancing science. Improving Education.. [online] Available at: http://www.hsci.info/hsci2018/images/pdfs/eBookHSCI2018.pdf [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].