The project “Il Linguaggio della Ricerca (LdR)” (The Language of Research) is promoted by research scientists of the Bologna Research Area of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and by the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), both of them active within the framework of several scientific disciplines. This project is active since 2003 and has grown over the years with new research scientists, new teachers, and hundreds of high schools students (14-19 years) (see LdR-history).
The topics proposed to schools cover many aspects of science research, from physics and chemistry to biology and geology, mathematics and astronomy.
LdR aims to turn on young people's interest in respect of scientific research and communication of scientific information through their involvement in a work of popularization.
In fact, although science is fascinating, in high schools it is mostly considered boring due to the amount of theories and formulas that one has to learn. The approach of active learning, consisting of teaching science based on facts and experiments and provable hypothesis is used in most of European and national projects and has a good impact, especially on primary school students. However, the experimental approach may have success also for adolescents who are particularly attracted by research fields, but the majority have different targets. On the other hand, two factors have to be considered: the maturity and creativity of teenagers and their familiarity with communication tools, such as internet and digital devices.
Based on these considerations, the general objective of LdR is to validate the methodological approach for science learning and communication, based on the combination of different backgrounds derived from research, school and media, which complement each other, to make science much more attractive.
LdR promotes a close collaboration between school world, scientific research, and popularisation experts. The motto of LdR is a sentence of Albert Eistein: “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”. In other words, "Scientists come out of their labs, and meet students" and "students become science popularizers" by using both Italian and English languages. Thus, the final objective of LdR project is to attract the interest of youth on the real impact of science research on everyday life and on the communication value (students are helped to communicate what they have learnt).
The project is sub-divided into several steps:
1) a classroom seminar with research scientist at the CNR in Bologna or in its high schools
2) a classroom meeting with communication experts,
3) the production by students of edu-communication material explaining the covered topics (this phase is developped at school with the collaboration of teachers),
4) an annual conference is organized in October in order to present all the students works (see Leaflet). The best work done by students during the previous year (selected by a technical-scientific committee of research and communication experts) are rewarded in presence of school classrooms and administrators, local authorities and socio-economic actors that contributed to the initiative.
More than 65 school institutions participated since 2003 until now, by involving 263 classrooms, 5300 pupils and 80 teachers of different fields.
To date, 26 topics have been proposed (see Topic list) for a total of 260 science lessons and 95 lectures illustrating to students strategies and methods of communication in both Italian and English.
In order to evaluate the real interest in the activities and the effectiveness of the proposed methodology, two types of questionnaires are proposed since 2007: one for pupils and one for teachers (see Questionnaires). The questionnaires are also useful to gather suggestions and criticism to help improve the project proposal.
The total “production” of the students have so far allowed to collect about 700 original, catchy and scientifically correct "popular products" of various kinds, properly drawn up in two languages, Italian and English.
The project was presented at national public events of scientific dissemination: the Research Scientists night (2009 and 2010) and Genoa Science Festival (2009 and 2010) (see Events).
The amount and the quality of produced artworks by students, and the attendance to the annual conference are used as indicators of the project success. The awarded artworks are of different typology, i.e. web site, poster, brochure, comic strip, videospot (see Artworks). All the best works are periodically uploaded on the project website (http://www.bo.cnr.it/linguaggiodellaricerca/).
Since 2005 the Italian Ministry of Education (MIUR) selected LdR as a valid training exercise for teachers. LdR was nominated for the Sapio Award for Comunication Science, 2008 edition (see Awards).
LdR was selected as one of the best national practices for innovative learning by STELLA (http://www.stella-science.eu/ ), an interactive web portal funded with support from EU in 2009, and by STENCIL project (http://www.stencil-science.eu/) in 2011(see Projects).
As for the follow up of the project, since 2006 a dedicated website was created and mantained by CNR staff and it still is hosted on a server of the Bologna Research Area. Edu-communication material and documents are periodically uploaded on it in order to ensure visibility and sharing of project results, methodology and strategy. Moreover, some of the student products have been gathered in a Mini-grammar of Dissemination (“Mini-grammatica della divulgazione”), published in collaboration with International Rotary Club.
Local and national financing and sponsorships by socio-economic subjects and institutions such as CNR, Emilia Romagna Regional Council and Regional Office for Education, Zanichelli Editor and COTABO service as well as the Rotary International collaboration will guarantee the project future sustainability within the local community as well as the chance to export the LdR format to other regional and/or national contexts. As for the international development and diffusion of the project, its participation to the former STELLA network, now STENCIL, will guarantee both the visibility and the sharing of experience with other educational and training European projects. The novelty of the LdR approach is also regarding the language which is maintained into two idioms, the country language and English. This ensures the chance to spread the project not only in Italy but also in Europe, by also giving relevance to other languages.