As teachers and researchers, we have taken on the challenge of bringing young people closer to science. Also to close the gender gap and promote inclusiveness in the scientific field. The main objective is to cultivate a more conscious, equitable and informed society.
To do this, it is necessary to overcome digital distractions and generational, cultural and linguistic barriers. Sparking interest in science requires clever strategies and tools to overcome these challenges. Through personal experience, we propose some recommendations to bring science closer to the youngest.
Collaborative science at school
Our experiences suggest that hands-on workshops, tactile experiments and live demonstrations are of more interest to young people. The purpose is to inspire wonder and create an inclusive and diverse experience.
In this endeavor, we have found that creating experiments that address real-world issues, such as water purification or alternative energy generation, arouses youthful interest. In addition, they highlight the role of science as a powerful tool to confront global challenges.
It is recommended that the connection with science be established from an early age , and schools are ideal environments. In these stages, it is crucial to use manipulative materials that allow children to interact directly with scientific instruments.
These elements, along with concise explanations and practical examples, establish a solid foundation for learning in science. Likewise, group activities and experiments foster an inclusive, collaborative environment and the exchange of ideas.
Ask without fear
We also try to eliminate fears and doubts that young people may have towards scientific instruments and materials. Therefore, we ensure that the activities are designed to guarantee safety at all times. This transmits the importance of risk and error during learning and awakens their curiosity.
Likewise, in our workshops , students ask questions and comments that reflect their particular ways of learning and thinking. In this sense, it is advisable to avoid questioning the quality of the questions.
In addition, with the experiments they understand that reaching an unexpected result is not a failure, but an opportunity to learn and draw interesting conclusions. This way of thinking fosters a willingness to propose bold hypotheses, to question prejudices, and to challenge preconceptions.
This disseminating experience in educational centers encourages multilateral transfer between students, teachers and scientific disseminators. It also allows for continuous evaluation of the program and its effectiveness in each of its stages and activities.
Young people understand the relevance of science when it is intertwined with their daily lives. In our workshops, we show how mathematics and physics underpin the technology they use, and chemistry in their diet.
For example, in a series of proposals that we call “The reality that we perceive”, we ask the children to take a photo with their mobile phone of a specific object and show it. Then we ask them how the mobile has captured that image, how it processes it and transmits it to another device. They answer that it captures exactly the image and that is how it is transmitted. Then we explain the process to them .
As disseminators, our approach goes beyond providing data. It is essential to encourage their critical analysis and give them the tools to make informed decisions. Therefore, we promote the questioning of claims and the objective evaluation of scientific information.
On the other hand, we usually use narrative as a tool to strengthen the bond between young people and science. Exciting stories about pioneering scientists and transformative discoveries make science accessible and exciting.
These narratives empower those excluded from the scientific sphere. Stories of forgotten scientists from diverse backgrounds can serve to reveal scientific diversity and offer inspiring models.
Inspirational role models and diversity
The presence of models for young people is very important to bring science closer to new generations. It is necessary to eliminate the erroneous notion that the scientific world is inaccessible or reserved for a privileged few.
This is possible with the influence of renowned scientists, passionate popularizers and leading figures of diverse backgrounds and genders. Their achievements in overcoming obstacles in terms of gender and diversity are an example. They send young women the unequivocal message that their aspirations in the scientific field have no limits. In our workshops we promote synergy between young people from different cultural backgrounds and abilities, creating a unique space.
With all this, women continue to overcome barriers in various areas and stages of their scientific careers. In this sense, we have been able to observe that inspiring female figures play a role of fundamental importance. Presenting concrete examples of success and effort empowers young women to transcend stereotypes on their path in the scientific world.
Science communicates in a formal and technical language full of jargon and complex concepts. This intricate and precise communication allows experts to explore and explain the mysteries of the universe. It is advisable to start children with simple terms and gradually introduce them to formal language so that they become familiar and are able to identify and understand it when they see or hear it in other contexts.
This communication skill is particularly relevant for young people, who are in the process of building their perception of the world and honing their capacity for reflective analysis. When they can access scientific information in a clear and engaging way, a solid foundation is established that encourages exploration, nurtures their intellectual growth, and stimulates their engagement with society.
Technology and visual media
In today’s society, technology and visual media are essential allies in scientific dissemination. Through meticulously crafted educational videos and interactive animations , the most complex can be simplified . In addition, scientific knowledge is presented in a visually attractive and easily assimilated way.
Online platforms, ranging from social networks to YouTube channels, have given way to a new era of disseminators: the “edutubers”. These digital innovators have taken on the challenge of transmitting science in accessible and engaging formats that spark the imagination and interest of young people.
Therefore, it is essential to encourage the proliferation of edutubers and thus expand the purpose of scientific dissemination. To do this, it is necessary to develop educational programs and provide necessary tools to teachers and researchers.
Only by offering accessible, enjoyable and inclusive information do we guarantee that every young person feels attracted to the scientific world. Ultimately, technology and visual media have opened a door to the democratization of knowledge. This is possible by taking science communication to new heights and forging connections between science and curious minds.
Author Bios: Rosa María Martín Aranda is a Full Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, Hassan Hossein-Mohand is Professor-Tutor of the Associated Center of Melilla also at UNED – National University of Distance Education, Hossein Hossein-Mohand is Assistant Professor Doctor in the Department of Mathematics Didactics. Faculty of Education and Sports Sciences and Nabil Mohamed Chemlali is Professor of Didactics of Mathematics both at the University of Granada