Savanturiers- Science Mentoring the French way
Coming from India, I studied in an education system that did not really promote scientific thinking or experimentation. We not just have a funny accent but also a rote-driven education system, thanks to the system developed during the colonial times, which lacked scientific aptitude . But this did not stop me from dissolving some of my fallen teeth in Coca-Cola to study the bad effects of aerated drinks and thus, realised my calling for science. So now as a postdoc, I would like to impart the knowledge that I gain every day as a researcher and share my experiences with young ones so that they could discover the beauty of nature, develop a critical thinking and learn by experimentation at an early age.
Moving to France and my enthusiasm for scientific mentoring led me to Savanturiers. This is my first academic year! And coincidentally, I am working with a French school based in Pondicherry, India.
So more about Savanturiers, if you are French you might have heard of it. For the rest of world, it is an organisation housed at Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires in Paris, striving to educate primary and secondary school students by the means of research and experimentations. Here, they want to provide education by developing the habit of critical analysis, exploring the unknown, observation of nature and collaborative thinking, all aspects that are part of the everyday life of a scientist - and the entire humankind.
They work on - a) organising Savanturiers research projects with the help of scientific mentors in schools, b) teacher training and MOOCs and c) conducting research and studies in educational institutes - to identify novel practices within the school premise around the theme of education through research. For more details see their website.
Like scientists, the students of the project Savanturiers participate in an annual workshop where they present their work and meanwhile also publish their project progress on the blog of Savanturiers.
As for me, I am part of a project Savanturiers this year, working on understanding the folding mechanism of the Touch-me-Not plant. This plant is cool! It closes when someone or something touches its leaves. Thus, we have a range of themes to cover- defence mechanisms of different plants, movement of water and ions, osmosis, electric potential and also memory in plants. Hopefully, would stimulate the brains of the 6 year olds! Enabling them to pose questions, searching for answers by themselves and testing their hypotheses by experimentation!
For biologists, we have three subject options like life sciences, neurosciences and health. If you are not into biology, don’t lose heart, at Savanturiers, you can work on a wide range of subjects including climatology, engineering, digital technologies, astrophysics, law, history and sociology. If you don’t find your area of work in the list, contact the community manager, they can get in touch with you and find something suitable for you!
As the mentor of the project your job is to interact with the teacher to make them aware of the scientific method.
Observation - Question – hypothesis – experiment/investigation/simulation – interpretation– results – publication
You help the teacher, help their students to become the next Rosalind Franklin, Albert Einstein or Marie Curie! One could set-up their own “tiny lab” in the school to help them understand the concept of a research institute. You could make the famous French baguette or smelly cheese as a biotechnology project! Also, it would be interesting to develop the notion of an “Idea Diary”, a doodling book, where you could fill in all your ideas, observations, experimental set-ups and theories. They help you visualise the problem and help you find solutions, at least works in my case!
So if you are in France, and you feel you could kindle the flame of scientific thinking among young ones and your peers, you should really try to get in touch with the Savanturiers. If you are hesitant because you don’t know enough French, you should still contact them. They will definitely help you out, also the struggle of learning a language is a new experience on its own!