Even though immigration is relatively new in Ireland, 10% of the students in Irish primary schools are immigrants. Having to manage culturally diverse classes is therefore a new challenge for Irish schools and to avoid social exclusion and underachievement, support is needed at different levels: on the development of proficiency in the school language; on pupils’ acceptance of their bicultural nature; and on advancing pupils’ bilingual potential.
On Saturday, the 7th of October, a group of 4 expat researchers from Portugal and Brazil working at the APC Microbiome Institute, University College Cork, took their lab coats off to inspire Portuguese-speaking pupils to do science and celebrate their bilingual nature.
During this Native Scientist workshop, which took place at St. Peter’s Cork and was organised by Dr Ana Almeida in collaboration with the Education and Public Engagement team at the APC Microbiome Institute, scientists talked about the immune system, the gut microbiota and the gut-brain axis.
Ana, the coordinator of this project, says “the workshop exceeded all our expectations. The children were very enthusiastic and fully engaged in the activities.” Furthermore, Eimear Ferguson who coordinates the APC’s Education and Public Engagement activities added “the students were invited to embrace their abilities in speaking Portuguese in a new environment. Oftentimes, their native tongue is used only at home with family. This was their opportunity to realise their rare talents in multilingualism in a completely new setting while learning and being inspired by researchers who served as role models.”
This was the first time that Native Scientist organized a workshop in Ireland. On average, almost 50% of pupils are inspired to become a scientist after a workshop and 70% feel prouder of speaking more than one language. Native Scientist is a non-profit enterprise that connects immigrant pupils and scientists to tackle educational disadvantage and promote science and language literacy. Since its foundation in 2013, 100+ workshops have been organised, reaching over 2000 pupils.