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Science is for everyone at L'ideatorio's summer camps

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Institutional Communication Service

18 July 2022

The 'science holidays' that L'ideatorio, USI's service for the promotion of scientific culture, organised in the last weeks of June have come to an end, welcoming girls and boys who attended the last years of primary school or the first year of secondary school to the two day camps.

The [email protected] summer camps were organised thanks to the support of the Science and Youth Foundation and SimplyScience and took place in Cadro, on the premises of L'ideatorio, involving some 20 participants each week. "We always try to mix half girls and half boys," explains L'deatorio Head of Service Giovanni Pellegri. "We know that, when it comes to science and especially technology, boys show a more immediate interest and are likely to occupy most of the places. We have therefore defined a closed number for both boys and girls, so that we always have equal participation. And so, to ensure parity, we don't simply take the first enrolments but, once we have reached half, we no longer accept enrolments from boys and we wait, to complete the camp, for those of girls who always arrive".

What is the [email protected] approach?

We follow what is basically the philosophy of L'Ideatorio: we don't offer summer remedial science courses, we don't follow notional approaches but show instead that you can have fun with science. Science is an open window on the world in front of us and we try to provide some tools for children who are curious in themselves, exploring, turning stones over, looking at the stars... all this, it is important to say, while having fun, playing and dancing.

What activities are carried out during these activities?

One might expect us to explain how robots work, how to use a microscope or that we spend all our time in the lab doing experiments... Actually, we start by sitting in a circle and singing and then continue in this dimension of joy, wonder, sharing, and friendship. We did a workshop on perfume with the extraction of an essential oil to understand how perfume is made, what the nose is like, what the sense of smell is for. Then "The first egg on Mars" – in Italian, 'man' (uomo) and 'egg' (uovo) only differ by one letter–, in which a landing system to get an egg to the surface of Mars in one piece was built and then tested by throwing it out the window. And some more astronomy in the planetarium of L'ideatorio, not to 'explain' but to show the immensity of the universe. We also went to the river to discover how much life there is in the waterways, playing and singing. Then some more games to show how, in addition to theoretical concepts, hands-on and collaboration with classmates are fundamental: we, for example, created a chain reaction, i.e., a construction that triggers a series of connected events, with a marble pushing a small piece of wood that makes another small piece of wood fall, which then starts a domino effect, etc. We also played with simple robots, not so much for a programming course, but to show that robots are part of our lives and can also be used to tell stories.

A playful approach that does not start from theory, but comes to us through experience.

The aim is this: science is beautiful, why should we bore people when we can have fun? And we see that it is an approach that works: girls and boys finish the week fascinated, happy to have shared an experience in which, naturally, there was science.

Does it work because girls and boys have discovered new things about the world, because they have explored the scientific method, or because they will perhaps study some scientific subject?

I say it works because it does not merely present science as a notion or profession, but as a culture. We should not aim for everyone to study science at university or polytechnic, but for science to be part of everyone's life, even those who take other personal and professional paths. I think being curious about life and the universe is useful whatever job a person finds himself doing.

Even if you are not going to be an engineer, science belongs to you because it is culture, and we, counting on the fact that we have a school that works very well for the more notional aspects, aim at that. So, we try to bridge the gap between science and society and perhaps attract not only those who are already interested in science but also girls with a more humanistic approach. And science needs that.