In Oeiras, there is a school whose Live Science Club has come to prominence due to the results achieved in bringing the school community closer to science, one of the pillars on which the municipality’s strategy is based.
With the fitting name SPACE, this club is run by Cristina Pinho, a Physics and Chemistry teacher at Sebastião e Silva Secondary School (ESSS), who has been a true “Face of Science” by cultivating young people’s interest in science and, in particular, themes related to Space.
This commitment has been so successful that, over the past few years, students who belong to this club, which is a member of the Live Science Clubs (CCV) network of Oeiras, an initiative supported by the municipality through the “Open Science to Oeiras” programme, have won several awards. Learn more about the SPACE programme in the words of Cristina Pinho.
When and in what context did the ESSS Live Science Club come about?
In 2015, I changed schools and council area and ended up in the best place to be a teacher. That year, the Club started to take form, albeit in a very embryonic fashion: 3 students supervised by me competed in an international competition on the theme of Space and Space Exploration – Odysseus II. The 11th year students built a “Rover for Exploration of Mars – LEARS Project”, with the support of a Mentor, a Higher Education lecturer. They achieved an honourable 1st place, the prize being a visit to the European Space Centre in French Guiana, where we witnessed the launch of the Ariane 5 with 4 Galileo satellites. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them and me.
My initial training is in chemistry, so it was time to learn more about robotics and I underwent training – it was the students who led me to learn and study this area. I trained at ESERO Portugal and then at the ESA (European Space Agency), Belgium in Robotics. The ESERO and ESA were very inspiring for the creation of the Robotics Room of the S. Julião da Barra Schools Group, which operates at the Lead School.
Without yet being a Live Science Club at the School (CCVnE), various activities were carried out: Celebration of World Space Week, where students had an opportunity to ask astronauts and other scientists questions; Study visits to Science Centres – CERN, ESA, Cité de L’Espace, AirBus, Pavilion of Knowledge, City of the Stars – Yuri Gagarin Training Centre in Moscow, and Rocket workshops, among others.
When in 2018 the General Directorate of Live Education and Science opened a competition for the Live Science Clubs, there was an opportunity to compete and it has been an excellent experience, where sharing between the various clubs has proved very fruitful.
What is the purpose and advantage of the existence of this Live Science Club?
The CCVnE of the S. Julião da Barra Schools Group, Oeiras, which operates under the name SPACE – Scientists, Physics, Astronauts, Creators and Educators (a name proposed by the students of the Club) in addition to involving students in scientific activities, has a very unique aspect: volunteering, in which secondary school students act as monitors for younger students. They learn by doing, as they invest in initial training and it is by applying what they know to the little ones that they consolidate these same lessons.
There is good linkage between the older students and students from other levels of education, and they also involve the families, in the true spirit of a school open to the community and that liaises with the family. Intergenerational activities are certainly an asset for all of us.
In the International Year of the Periodic Table, students from the 2nd and 3rd Key Stage, secondary education and, of course, some parents and grandparents participated in the construction of a Human Table in an idyllic setting – Marquês de Pombal Palace Gardens. The School can and should also be a centre of linkage and liaison with the family. These activities are widely supported by the Municipality.
How many students have joined your Club?
Early in the year, secondary school students enrol and membership has been very good. Students from the 10th, 11th and 12th years participate very enthusiastically. This year, we have around 60 volunteers who leverage their learning with the younger students.
These students are trained in robotics, programming, 3D printing and later are robotics monitors for the students of the 1st Key Stage – WeDo on Mars Programme. Before the pandemic, students from the Municipality, even outside the Group, participated in our 90-minute workshops, which were registered through Oeiras Educa. This year they made contact with students from a distance and promoted a Contest that was a success – 1st key stage students built robots during the Christmas holidays and received support from their parents.
What are the main initiatives carried out at the Club?
At CCVnE – SPACE we have an interdisciplinary team, which involves professors from the four departments of the Exact Sciences grouping, Expressions, Social Sciences and Languages and Literatures.
In the first period, we held for the second time the workshop “The journey of Ferdinand Magellan 500 years ago with the help of today’s technology”, an electronic activity considering principles of Physics and Geography associated with the Magellan Expedition to Circumnavigate the Earth, in which all 7th year students participated.
The Club’s students participate in several international competitions run by the ESA – AstroPi, Cansat, Moon Challenge and also by CERN – Beamline for Schools (BL4S), having last year obtained a position on the BL4S short list.
This year they are participating in the project “Space Messenger” by the artist Agnes Chavez which involves students from the 9th and 12th years of our school and a school in New Mexico, in the United States. This project, entirely in English, has been of great value in the training of our students, as in addition to the scientific component, it has the advantage of offering a major opportunity to develop language skills.
We are also participating in the Carbon Tree, a project that originated at the first International Forum on Climate Change, which took place in Helsinki in August 2019 and in which I had the opportunity to participate. This project was supported by the IGC’s More Citizen Science Project, ITQB and sponsored by the Municipal Council of Oeiras. During the first period, 20 secondary school students from CCVnE were trained in Arduino, sensors and climate change, built air quality monitoring stations with low-cost materials and put forward a proposal to carry out a team study. In this project we received technical support from the company InovLabs.
These two projects have been promoters of real learning, contact with researchers is essential for the students to understand how science is done locally and internationally, and the development of a critical approach is certainly an asset for their futures.
We also have students participating in a competition on Space – the European Space Design Competition, which will take place online on 10 and 11 April and the students form part of international teams, along with French, German and Spanish students.
How do you assess your experience at the Science Club?
It’s been a two-way learning. You learn a lot from students! They are the soul of the Club and make me want to learn more and more.