Netherlands - ​Science Across the World: Using the Internet for Inter-school Communication II

Science Across the World:  Using the Internet for Inter-school Communication

Amsterdam, 2-9th July, 2006

The Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University hosted a Comenius Course for teachers on setting up and developing schools links through projects like Science Across the World.  This is the second time the course has been delivered and the group had almost tripled in size this year to 31 participants.
The participants from all over Europe, and beyond, arrived in Amsterdam for the registration and welcome meeting at the beautiful Felix Metris building, Amsterdam.  The weather was terrific outside and we met and got to know each other over a drink inside.
The colleagues came from many places including Greece, Poland, Cyprus, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, from Biology, Physics, Chemistry, IT, Maths, Teacher Training, and English as a Foreign Language.


We had to do a getting to know you activity with the teachers and it will be a challenge to remember them all, well, you have to start somewhere.  ‘Think of a word that begins with the same letter as your first name’.  Kissing Keith, Lady Lida…
The large group, 31 teachers, made the course the most popular in the Summer University programme of Comenius funded courses and the teachers brought with them a range of subjects, age ranges, and levels of education as well as their languages and cultural backgrounds.

We started the week-long programme with an introduction to Science Across the World and gave colleagues the opportunity to browse the website and get to know the materials in the project.  Colleagues also had the chance to sign up free to the programme which normally costs €30 for a life subscription.  As part of the agreement with the course organisers Science Across the World waved this fee!
In the afternoon, we also began the presentations from each of the individual participants on their home contexts and schools and started a tour around the world… there were many invitations to come and visit!

Colleagues also looked at the practicalities of implementation of Science across the World in their school or teacher training college, and the Science Across topic used as an example was What did you eat? the most popular of the Science Across topics. 
Colleagues carried out the food diary survey and then had to collate information in groups looking at staple foods, drinks, snacks, activities, breakfast.

We offered a session entitled ‘Key issues in communicating science through English as a second language’ as there is always interest in the language questions of carrying out interschool exchanges and links.

One of the activities from Talking about genetics around the world looks at heredity
... and the participants surveyed the group according to hair, eye, mid finger hair, tongue rolling, height, supertasters, and shoe size.
In the afternoon the colleagues got a chance to get to know the Science Across the World topics (16 available) in more detail in groups and the participants were given the immediate challenge to try to identify topics of potential interest to them in the Science Across programme and then identify the colleagues in the group with similar interests as part of the preparation for planning a Comenius project for school partnerships.

We also had a presentation on ‘Using graphics to represent data’ and colleagues were given an introduction to Excel and then worked in small groups to represent their presentation from this morning’s survey in electronic form of some kind using Excel.  This produced a great many wonderful presentations.
Taste Survey

The programme offered an introduction on how to create Action 1 school partner-ships with Comenius funding.
...and after more school presentations Lida presented an example of a very successful award winning Comenius 1 Project on Biodiversity across Europe as a model for colleagues to follow.    
The initial groups then divided to work on creating Action 1 school partnerships and finding other partners where necessary and then to discuss and plan for their own project proposals.

The afternoon brought the most fun part of the programme with Lida’s cosmetics workshop where groups have to work together to produce their own line of branded cosmetics, shampoo, hair gel and bath salts.
They carried out the chemistry in mixing and testing these products
...and there were more school presentations along the way...
    ...they had to think not only of the science but also of the language and their one minute TV commercial to ‘sell’ their products to the group and this presentation was to take place at Lida’s lovely house on Groenburgwal on the canal side...
With so many people we had to plan the cooking rota! 
When the presentations started on the canal side, the tourist traffic stopped to take a look!

This is in trueYoung Ambassadors of Chemistry style!  Performing Science in a public place to draw attention to Science.
The Acqua de Gracht won the first prize of Old Dutch cheese and much food and drink was consumed on a perfect Amsterdam summer’s evening.


We began with the Science across the World programme and literacy and language skills

Feedback from last year’s group led us to believe that this session wasn’t popular and so we cut it to this one hour session for this year.  It turns out that there are many colleagues in this group who are already working in English medium education or are planning to get involved in the near future.  So, despite this being the first session after the international dinner where much wonderful food and drink from participant countries was consumed, this was a popular session.

Colleagues looked at issues such as ‘listening in Science classes’, ‘creating speaking with Science’ as well as ‘dealing with vocabulary’
The next Science Across activity the colleagues did was ‘Domestic detectives’, exploring identity through a bag of rubbish, and this was followed by a discussion on what the language support could be for FL students doing this activity.

The group explored the web for useful materials and information, useful websites for CLIL and they had an invitation to join Factworld to make the most of the 2500 teachers in the group for schools linking projects.
Blackboard learning environment was also used for the purposes of communication and sharing materials and information.

Group work: a Science across the World topic as a start for a Comenius school partnership: action plan.  Groups discuss again their project proposals, identify themes, think specifically about their ‘needs’.

The social event this evening was a boat trip (starting from Felix Meritis building) around beautiful Amsterdam and to land participants at Kantjil & de Tijger Indonesian restaurant and Course dinner.


Colleagues finalised their action plans and preparatory visits and sources of potential partners.  Colleagues reading this who may be interested in working with this group can contact them through the FACTWorld yahoogroups network at or you can write to me and I'll put you in touch with them.  There focus themes are Drinking Water, Talking About Genetics Around the World, Eating and Drinking, Climate Change and CLIL Teacher Training.

The seminar wrap-up and evaluation took the form of an informal post its session on the ‘best’ and ‘what to change’ in the course for future years.
Ton Koet of the AMSU formally closed the course with presentation of certificates of attendance for the participants.  There was much kissing and hugging as is normal with Lida on such courses!


We already have some concrete projects in the pipeline to watch out for in the near future and that is a great result.  The aim of the course is exactly that.  And if all of the invitations to come and visit are taken up by the group, we’ll need a London double-decker bus to transport everyone around Europe on a tour or participants’ home towns.
There’ll be news of their success in the FACTWorld group.