New Languages

Exploring new languages, narratives and arts in science education 

led by formicablu, fb, Italy

Not just global events and projects, but national, regional and even local science festivals are spreading as well as public events and lots of websites and social media pages.

Global changes and the transformations that contemporary scientific issues produce, like climate change or artificial intelligence, make new languages peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining.

Despite this, we are experiencing a wide proliferation of languages within society and science communication. The Climate Fiction genre is maybe the most cited example, but there is a lot more than just literature out there. For instance, National Geographic has long pioneered innovative science communication with the integration of photography, creating writings, data visualizations and educational resources. 

Not just global events and projects, but national, regional and even local science festivals are spreading as well as public events and lots of websites and social media pages.

On the contrary, science education in formal contexts still uses highly formalized, specialized and hierarchical languages that, together with being very elitist, often fail to impact imagination and equip the young generation with the thinking skills needed to move responsibly and consciously in the "society of acceleration".

The result is a sense or lack of social and personal relevance to what is taught at school (Stuckey et al., 2013) and a general sense of fear and derangement that are making our society more and more fragile, unequal and attracted by policies based on populist narratives. We believe that the fear and the sense of derangement are also signals of lack of imagination - difficulty to imagine possible scenarios - and lack of words to tell what is happening.

To nurture the ability of people to trust science and technology that help humanity to develop a sustainable and equitable future, we need a big investment in engagement and empowerment. As South African senior science communication researcher Marina Joubert writes “it is about making people care” (Joubert et al. 2019). This translates not only in making people understand science but even more in making people develop trust, an interest, and an emotional connection with science. This is why we are searching for new languages, narratives and forms of beauty in science education.

We need to equip both educators and young people. The first need to engage students and enhance their imagination, and the second need to be able to express their feelings about science, discuss it with others and speak up for their values and rights.

This is why we are searching for new languages, narratives and forms of beauty in science education.

But what forms of artistic, literary, and linguistic expressions can be elaborated for science education to trigger a cultural and imaginative change?

The most proficient way to discuss, define and collect insights, inspirations and ideas on how to foster these new creative approaches in science education is to involve creators, artists, and experts from different disciplines and fields. This action is expected to create effective cooperation between formal and informal educational contexts.

The three workshops

We conducted three workshops, bringing those people together to reflect on some major issues like the importance and meaning of keywords like “engagement”, “innovation”, and “barriers”. Those discussions converged into some main concepts:

1/

Value laden engagement

the use of any artistic expression and language can be of very high value when it not only ignites emotions but manages to go beyond. We need to look at those artistic/creative formats and languages that can foster dialogue, analysis, openness, and the ability to talk/discuss/share. It’s crucial to elicit the epistemic emotions that can contribute to developing, improving and enhancing critical thinking.
2/

Active role & focus on process

We need to get over the transmissive and normative temptation, often masked by simple and reductive storytelling. We should foster bold grassroots ideas and projects and accompany and support youths, not lead them.

3/

Taking down the walls

We need to crossover, find common areas for sharing knowledge, to go over a binary vision of the world. Young people have much more nuanced identities and their fears and emotions and thoughts reflect that. We should foster the ability to work on complexity and uncertainty, and nurture emergent systems rather than individual stories.

According to those findings, we point out some case studies:

Visit our resources section to get a wider selection of case studies.

Finally, a currently ongoing project, born inside FEDORA and carried out as a Master thesis project, is “Mockumentary for Climate Change”: it explores the use of the filmmaking genre called “mockumentary” as a new linguistic and artistic tool to engage young students in exploring Climate Change main topics and dualities.

This is just the beginning. We will continue exploring new forms of beauty for science education to reconceptualise the relationship between humans, nature and science and to nurture the ability of the young generation to trust science and technology to help humanity to develop a sustainable and equitable future.

 

FEDORA, Future-oriented Science Education to enhance Responsibility and Engagement in the society of acceleration and uncertainty, is a 3-year EU-funded project. It started in September 2020 and will deploy its activities until August 2023. It gathers 6 partner institutions from 5 European countries.
FEDORA has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement no. 872841
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