By Désirée Böhm and Kathryn Spickermann
Gaëll Mainguy, Executive Vice President of The Learning Planet Institute, shares his goal with the International Year of Science Engagement (an initiative to become a United Nations International Year in 2027) #IYSE2027: promoting science engagement to the general public. The Learning Planet Institute specifically targets a younger demographic in order to help motivate kids from a young age and to nurture the innate curiosity inside. In this interview, Gaëll Mainguy explains projects and initiatives that reach young people. He discusses why science engagement, as well as the methodology of new approaches to science education, is important.
What does Science Engagement look like at an educational level?
We could summarize it by the FIDS acronym, which means you Feel, you Imagine, you Do, then you Share. What brings you strong feelings? As a teacher, you discuss that with the kids and you open the possibility for them to imagine what could be different, and what they could do to mitigate that feeling. Then after that, they try to do it in real life. This is a very generic method and there are all kinds of tools to equip the teachers. You start from the kids’ needs and then from there you go on and you build up a sequence where they can actually do something, so they can have the feeling of trying to contribute to their community and make it better. This method has been developed by Design for Change and applied to thousands of schools across the globe.
Recently, the Institute deployed Bâtisseurs de Possibles, the French adaptation of the Design for Change program. The project contributes to the transformation of the educational system and to the construction of a learning society for a more sustainable world: it is thus fully in line with our strategy and strengthens the youth action of our Institute.
So, the children will have an intrinsic motivation to discover the world afterwards?
Exactly, that is the perfect transition. Another program born in the Institute is called Savanturiers, which can be translated to “adventurers of knowledge”. The program is about pairing a classroom, a teacher and their children with a researcher, or a master or PhD student to foster inquiry-based science. It can be started with kids as young as four years old. The first step is having the children reflect on what they would like to investigate, what they are interested in.
By doing this, we focus only on the methodology, which is developing critical analysis skills as well as scientific methods. So, whatever the subject, the question is: What do you see? How can you discuss it? Can you try to imagine potential settings where you could test the hypothesis that you have formulated?
In their quest to advance understanding of the phenomenon they are interested in, the kids realize how difficult it is, and how it is important that everyone is pitching in with hypotheses and propositions to test the mechanisms. It is about doing and realizing the set up for testing abilities, but it is also about discussing the results. What can we do with what we have obtained? Do we need to have other experiments? All these subtleties that make science what science is.