Virtual event to develop a European Citizen Science project for schools and other partners

Text: Marcin Deutschmann, Małgorzata Teuber

This event was a follow up to the matchmaking workshop organized by University of Jyväskylä (JYU) by a team of academics, students and participants from local schools supervised by Prof. Petteri Laihonen – Science as a Civic Skill – Citizen Science in Schools, which you can read more about here. This time the matchmaking workshop was organized together by University of Opole (UO) and JYU  on the 31st of May 2021. The main goal of the workshop was to show the developments in the UO team and to highlight the possibility of expanding the activities, and establishing citizenscience-oriented cooperation with institutions such as museums or NGOs that aim to foster participatory undertakings with citizen science. The event brought together the research management and knowledge transfer teams of FIT FORTHEM and the collaborators who have been developing joint outputs in FORTHEM Multilingualism in School and Higher Education Lab.

A short summary of the activities of researchers from Opole

The Opole team worked on the developments of the pilot since September 2020. Researchers and students (BA, MA, and PhD) from Institute of Linguistics and Department of Sociology cooperated with pupils from 1st Secondary School in Kędzierzyn-Koźle. In the project we used an approach called “extreme” citizen science. You can read more about it in previous blogposts of Jyväskylä team e.g. here and here.

Six students, both from undergraduate and masters studies, were actively involved in our project These were Dominika Bujnicka, Wiktoria Borgul, Julia Dorabiała, Natalia Orlik, Małgorzata Teuber and Magdalena Walczak. Their actions were coordinated by Marcin Deutschmann, a PhD student and faculty member of UO. It is worth mentioning that students took part in this project voluntarily, during their free time. UO team also consisted of academic staff who, with their experience and knowledge, mentored and helped the students and pupils: Elżbieta Nieroba, Marzanna Pogorzelska, Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska, as well as Katarzyna Buczek and Dorota Brzozowska.

For four months we worked on small research-projects with a group of 29 secondary schoolers. The whole class was divided into 3 groups, each of which had two students as group moderators. There were 11 meetings in total, during which pupils could learn something about the theoretical foundations of conducting a research project, as well as a lot of practical, engaging activities.

During the virtual workshop, the UO team presented its citizen science model as well as the results of three mini-projects carried out by secondary schoolers under the supervision of Opole students. Their subject matter concerned issues of multilingualism and multiculturalism. The participants focused their citizen science activity on three main themes. The first one concentrated on the perception of the Silesian dialect. The research sample consisted of students, their parents and teachers from 1st Secondary School in Kędzierzyn Koźle. In total, responses from 167 people were collected. The second survey concerned the attitudes of high school students to Latino culture in Poland – we received answers from 69 respondents. The last conducted survey focused on students’ attitudes towards the offer of additional Romani language lessons at school. The research sample consisted of 146 students of two secondary schools in Kędzierzyn-Koźle.

Students’ engagement

One of the most important aims of FORTHEM Alliance is to involve students into various types of scientific activities, and to create possibilities for students’ engagement. To learn more about their experience within the project, the students were asked to write research diaries after each workshop they conducted. Thanks to that, we learned about multiple benefits of the piloted project and new challenges which are still ahead of us. Among the benefits there are such things as developing skills of teamwork and training in using scientific methods. The project gave students a sense of responsibility. Many students pointed out that the project let them come back to being socially active after the pandemic. However, the participants also identified some challenges: technical problems and the involvement of pupils (which was related to the lack of engagement and group processes during virtual meetings and workshops). All this should be taken into account in the upcoming stages of the enterprise.

Further possibilities

Summing up the developments of our project, professor Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska presented a few ways of expanding and applying it. Together with our partners from Finland and Spain, the Opole team plan to exchange the experiences, work on the further development of the project and also to aurhor a few publications in order to promote citizen science. Until now we have worked with schools only, but, as mentioned above, it is possible to expand beyond that and establish cooperations with institutions interested in doing citizen science projects, which was the core of our meeting. The Opole team invited several Polish and regional museums to take part in the match-making workshop (e.g., Muzeum Śląska Opolskiego, Opole Muzeum Jeńców Wojennych, Opole-ŁambinowiceMuzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, Warszawa; Muzeum Zabawek i Zabawy; Muzeum Etnograficzne w Warszawie; Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie)

Nevertheless, to make it successful we need to overcome the disadvantages related to the lack of face to face contact and work on ethical and practical strategies of dealing with data management. It is also worth emphasizing that the topic of diversity often arises in the course of international cooperation.

Horizon Europe Programme and its offer

The second segment of the matchmaking workshop focused on exploring the possibilities of joint international application for funding for citizen science-related projects from Horizon Europe Programme. Helena Humala from the University of Jyväskylä Research and Innovation Services presented the EU funding schemes and calls that could be available for our activities. The focus was on the possibilities that future Horizon Europe actions and calls could offer to the mainstreaming and implementing various citizen science projects.

Horizon Europe focuses on strengthening the EU’s scientific and technological bases at the European Research Area (ERA) and also boosting Europe’s innovation capacity. It also delivers on citizen’s priorities and sustains socio-economic models and values. The impact focus with the particular emphasis on open science is one of the main interests of the programme, which leads to many aspects that also apply to our activity. Its structure is divided into several main pillars. The second one, which is called the Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness, seems to be the most important for FORTHEM-led Citizen Science, as it is related to the Joint Research Centre and the European consortium projects.

It is also worth emphasizing that as a result of the group discussion on the Horizon Europe project and their perspectives on citizen science, several topics were established that would be of particular interest to the participants of the event in terms of research. These include the problems related to small communities, to endangered languages of Europe or the role of citizen science in language and democracy education. Thoughts were offered on possible ways of extending citizen science's activities to Hungary and including the Finnish National Agency for Education in this project.

As it can be seen, considerations on citizen science are relatively broad and indicate a great need to develop this topic. The themes that can be taken up in this matter are characterized by intersubjectivity and give many opportunities for the development of the project. The crucial aspect of such research is the need for cooperation with various types of partners. In our explorations until now, we worked only with schools and pupils, but to develop the model of citizen science further, we need to find new partners, citizen organizations and institutional entities. That is why we kindly invite NGOs, museums, libraries and other organizations interested in developing citizen science for education.

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