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Outreach

The Dark and Bright side of the force: using microbes for science education and communication

This project, financed by the Agora program of SNF, aims at creating a link between science and society through the concept of Service Learning.

Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates community service with civic responsibility, fostering the dissemination of scientific knowledge. This learning strategy allows university students to get involved in the local community and to obtain new competence in communicating to the wider public and in teaching.
Additionnally, this approach has a positive effect on the communities by promoting scientific knowledge, its dissemination and scientific careers.

Our aims are…

  • To introduce the principle of service learning in Switzerland and bridge the gap between universities and schools.
  • To popularise service-learning among teachers, pupils and parents.
  • To create teaching material adapted to different levels of educatin (Kindergarten, primary and secondary education) and to make it available in all three national languages.
  • To secure funding for this approach by raising funds for the longterm support of this project
    (e.g. crowdfunding).

What we want to achieve is…

  • Encouraging and stimulating scientific vocation in students
  • Transferring tools to communicate to the wider public to future scientists
  • Distributing essential scientific knowledge concerning current social problems.

Service learning can be used to directly communicate about societal issues in which both the scientific community and the target population have a common ground of interest. For this, we propose to focus on two timely societal issues:

The Dark Side of the force:
Projects: Pilot 2019, APP 2020 & Service learning)

Antibiotic resistance usually reflects the negative aspects of microbes by associating microbiology with disease. Public initiatives underline the importance of the need for effective communication and dissemination of the scientific knowledge surrounding this issue. However, they do not address the need for education and fail to capitalize on the pedagogic potential of using antibiotic resistance as a topic for enhancing scientific literacy.

In this project we use antibiotic resistance for its pedagogic potential: this allows to acquire basal microbiotic knowledge, to discuss this important social problem and how science tries to find solutions to it and even to include the pupils directly into the search for solutions. Actually, this approach is linked to the program Tiny Earth, which is a worldwide network of teachers and students aiming to let the pupils themself find new antibiotics in soil!

2. The Bright Side of the force:
(Project: Pilot 2019)
Remediation of environmental pollution, e.g. by metals, highlights the positive role of microbes and their biotechnological potential. Actually, recycling of non-renewable resources, such as metals, that are critical to sustain the technological development of modern societies from (elelctronic) waste using microbial biotechnologies is a sustainable answer to the problems presented by mining. Using these examples to demonstrate the positive side of micro-organisms is ideal to allow a non-specialist public like pupils to get access to the scientific culture and to the rôle of scientific research for society.

If you are interested in this approach or if you have questions, please contact: microbes.ecole@unine.ch