The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is one of the largest forums in the world for exchanging ideas on the forefront of research, education and industry, and brings together scientists, science educators, students, early career scientists, policymakers and businessman for one whole week. This year it was held in Manchester, UK, named City of Science for its strong history of successful scientific innovation and cutting-edge research.As part of this year’s exciting programme, the MARCH team participated with a session called: "Wow! Making science attractive in schools" on July 24th 2016, where the input will serve to foster a better discussion at the final MARCH conference in November and increase the impact of the project. The session started with a short introduction to the MARCH project and its key outcomes, and carried out three simultaneous roundtables covering (a) the most engaging STEM practices, (b) how to improve STEM teaching, and (c) careers in science.
More than 50 participants from various EU and non-EU countries took part, including 7 teachers, researchers, professors and policymakers. Among the key findings for each table are:
(a) Usually interest in STEM is fostered not in school, but by parents; Schools often do not have laboratories and, even if they do, teachers are not qualified and/or interested enough to work with the equipment; The interest in STEM often lies in “doing forbidden things” at home, e.g. breaking the clock into parts to see how it works; Most of the lessons in STEM classes do miss real life connections; Good practices for connecting STEM with real life situations should be developed and extended since they have a large impact to young people.
(b) A good approach will be for teachers to have mandatory one or two day trainings per year at actual research labs; On the other hand, it would be good to have mandatory one-day teaching period per year for all scientists to meet school pupils and teachers; Every school should have a dedicated laboratory for science experiments.
(c) Teaching is often not seen as an appealing career; Usually teachers do not have PhDs in science, which limits their expertise; Usually scientists are not train in science communication with limits their ability to teach, even if they want to, which is not always the case; Media lacks science expertise – often cutting edge science is wrongly interpreted due to lack of knowledge; A significant problem is also funding: science, industry and policy makers often speak different languages.
Lastly, there was an open invitation for anyone wishing to implement pilots up to the first week of October, and to attend the final MARCH conference in November.