Last week we had the opportunity to host a science discovery stage for three high school teachers. Our guests came from three local institutions: Lycée des Métiers de la Mer (Gujan-Mestras), Lycée Polyvalent Victor Louis (Talance) and Lycée General et Technologique Grand Air (Arcachon). All three of them came full of motivation and curiosity and their stay at INRA ended up being a very refreshing exchange of scientific concepts, ideas and experiences that went both directions.
On their first afternoon at INRA, we introduced them to the history of our research institution, the type of research we do in our unit and the global questions that we try to tackle in our team. Then we moved to the lab with Lisa and Teresa to get hands on. We showed our guest sevarl different techniques to estimate primary productivity from the leaf to the global scale. On the next day, we travelled to the INRA campus at Pierroton and Alex Bosc gave us a fabulous tour of the different experimental setups. We learned about ecosystem-scale fluxes between the biosphere and the atmosphere and how to trace it. One of the highlights of the day was the visit to the dendro-lab, there our teachers realised how much manual and technical preparation is behind to what a priori looks like simple straight-forward activity: counting tree rings! On the third and last day, we went back into the lab and the teachers approached the real scientific work: from the experimental part in the lab, presented by Joana, to the modelling at the global scale, explained by Thomas. This session served as great platform to establish a very interesting dialogue about how to approach science to high school students. We learned about what are the main caveats to approaching complex scientific topics in the classroom and we concluded that a more flexible interdisciplinary curriculum would contribute greatly to overcome those. We finished our day with a visit to the water extraction line with Bastian and an encounter with students and non-scientific staff at INRA.
Overall, this turned out as very positive experience for all our team. It forced us to communicate our science in a more comprehensive way and we all learnt about the difficulties of teaching science to teenagers in France. We really hope that our guests enjoyed it as much as we did!
|Measuring leaf pigments in vivo with Lisa and Teresa, below Alex shows an overview of one of the ICOS sites at Pierreton||Jérôme explains a simple approach to estimating leaf-greenness|