Nanoinventum, introducing nanotechnology in primary school
Nanoinventum is a scientific co-creation project, based on disciplines in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics – STE(A)M – aiming to introduce nanotechnology in primary school. The main objective is to create a model for a nanorobot, based on the knowledge of different scientific topics, such as nanotechnology, matter, atoms and molecules, adapted to the curriculum. The project uses strategies like co-creation, design thinking and concept maps.
The project seeks on one hand to involve students in the co-creation of research materials, thus getting to know a new technology for the future, and on the other hand, working together as a team, assimilating work in research and development that is increasingly based on multidisciplinarity, which favours interaction with other team members and audiences. The project’s pedagogical approach works with different areas of the curriculum through didactic demo activities that attract the interest of school pupils and enhance their competences through reasoning, deduction, play and key roles.
The project deals with a series of successive activities that are based on a didactic progression map and educational resources, with the aim of obtaining a nanoinvent based on a NANOROBOT that is able to develop an application for the future. Participants must submit a drawing or a model made with recycled materials with brief explanations of their proposals.
Steps of the project
- Teacher training: The teachers participate in a training session, where the key points of the project are explained, including the calendar and tutoring. At the same time, theoretical-practical activities are provided in order to introduce different subjects at the classroom. A concept map strategy is provided, so that teachers can better explain concepts in nanoscience and nanotechnology, starting from basic concepts related to the atom, the molecule and the properties of matter up to nanomaterials’ behaviour and applications.
- Student training: Students learn basic scientific concepts to be able to create a nanorobot. Teachers explain the key questions addressed by the activity, including: what is nanotechnology, what is a nanorobot, what are nanomaterials, atoms and molecules? The Nanoinventum Web blog serves as a platform for reinforcing the learning process, where materials related to nanotechnology are published.
- Student teams and key roles: Multidisciplinary teams of four students are created and each member is given a specific role. First, a Project Manager (always a girl) coordinates the team and presents the nanoinvent to the audience. The presentation describes the problem and its characteristics and the solution proposed by the team. Second, a Production Manager is responsible for designing the model and choosing the proper materials to create the final model. Third, a Researcher investigates the problem that needs to be solved and the scientific tools used to solve it. Last but not least, a Communications Manager compiles a document with the characteristics of the project and sends it by e-mail to email@example.com.
- Publication of the results: Each school presents a project selected by teachers. The finalists record a video to present their project. The videos are published on the YouTube channel of Nanoinventum.
- Presentation of the results (Scientific Contest): The "Project Manager" of each project presents the result to the rest of the teams, teachers and family members. The participating schools receive a kit of materials to create new models. Among the schools, the three finalists are selected using a criterion based on the projects’ viability, their scientific and innovative proposal and their design.
- Publication of the results: The created projects are published weekly on the Web and social networks of the project. Each project has a descriptive sheet supervised by a recognised scientific nanodivulgator.
The project is based on nanobots, molecular machines and nanotechnology. Today, in the young field of nanotechnology, scientists and engineers are taking control of atoms and molecules individually, manipulating them and putting them to use with an extraordinary degree of precision. Word of the promise of nanotechnology is spreading rapidly and the air is thick with news of breakthroughs in nanotechnology. Governments and businesses are investing billions of euros in researching and developing nanotechnology and political alliances and battle lines are starting to form. Nanoinventum deals with this disruptive technology and was successfully introduced in the last edition of the Spanish science festival 10alamenos9 (www.10alamenos9.es), a nanotechnology divulgation festival financed by FECyT, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology.
For more information about the project, visit its website: www.nanoinventum.blogspot.com.es.
Teaching and learning “nanotechnology” is not easy in primary school. Nevertheless, taking into account the importance of the big idea and studies that show students’ alternative conceptions and learning difficulties, the project proposes, for the first time, the idea of “nanotechnology learning progressions”. This model is a useful tool for developing a science curriculum meant to teach these concepts and designing assessment processes to evaluate students’ understanding. The learning progression for the big idea helps to predict students’ learning in a classroom context and a “level-appropriate” instruction.
This study proposes a new interpretation of a learning progression by employing a variation theory. Learning progression in the current study is defined as a construct composed of varied students’ conceptions in a hierarchical order. A progress in learning is acquired through conceptual awareness along with increasing complexity and inclusivity. Apart from this, scholars create their project following strategies of design thinking, following the following four steps:
- Leading with empathy;
- Challenging assumptions;
- Making experiments happen;
- Sharing your process.