Native Scientist expands to Switzerland


Switzerland became the 8th country to host Native Scientist workshops

Last month, two Native School workshops took place in Bern, the Swiss capital, with the support of the Instituto Camões - Coordination for Portuguese Education in Switzerland.

Eight Portuguese-speaking scientists working in the University of Bern brought their science into the classrooms of Schulhaus Schwabguit. The participants, ranging from 11 to 16 years old, learnt about a wide range of topics, from animal behaviour to genetic information, global warming and planetary sciences, in Portuguese.

Dr Marta Marialva, our Project Manager for Portuguese in Switzerland and a Scientific Assistant for Outreach Initiative at the University of Bern (as well as Gingko-Educa co-founder), remarks that: “In Switzerland, the percentage of Portuguese-descendant pupils enrolled in advanced secondary school classes is still 27% lower when compared to that of Swiss students. I thought that the interaction with role-models speaking in their mother tongue was exactly what these students needed in order to increase their self-esteem by recognising the value of their heritage as well as by extending their perspectives for the future.”

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.

This was the first time that Native Scientist organised workshops in Switzerland. The event was featured on a programme from RTP, the public service broadcasting organisation of Portugal, which can be seen here (in Portuguese).

We hope that these workshops are only the first steps of a wonderful journey of Native Scientist in Switzerland for the next couple of years. More photos of the workshops are available here and here. And find the impressions of some of the scientists who participated below!

Impressions from participating scientists

Laura Silva, a scientist studying the behaviour of ownerless dogs.

“I loved this experience and certainly will try to repeat. Using my mother tongue to explain the work I do to the little ones, and feeling their enthusiasm, was an extremely enriching experience.”

Olga Sin, a scientist exploring why people forget things.

“I rarely speak about the science I do to the little ones, especially in my mother tongue, because I do not have the knowledge or the resources. Thanks to Native Scientist, I had lots of fun sharing what I do and I hope to repeat this experience.”

Miguel Almeida, a scientist operating a telescope in Mars orbit.

“The workshop was great. The organisation was beyond my expectations as everything was already set up in a way that we could maximize the time talking with the students. Marta and the teacher also did wanders in setting up the stage so that scientists and students were ready from the start. I always hope for a bit more interaction with the kids, but that’s mostly on me to find ways to engage them.”

Joana Duarte, a scientist studying mineral reactions happening under our feet.

“Explaining science to the pupils is a challenging task, requires a lot of creativity and capacity to guide their thinking in a very intuitive way. I believe this is not only an excellent opportunity for the pupils to have these hands-on activities held by real-scientists, but also for us, the scientists! Looking at their googly eyes attentive to what we are explaining, thus replying “Ah, that’s why..!” is totally rewarding. (...) Speaking with kids in Portuguese while being in Bern was just lovely and touching... and brought me back to the old times in my elementary school. Would be very happy to participate again and totally recommend it to other native scientists living abroad.”

Michael Brilhante, a scientist studying whether bacteria that cause infections in animals are able to spread to the environment and to humans.

“It was a very nice experience to actually see how some kids get excited when they understand all the interesting things they could do if they become a scientist.”

João Barros, a scientist trying to understand how systems with many particles interact to create the world we see.

“I found the workshop very positive. In particular, I found the speed dating format rather good both for students and scientists. The students have a more dynamic experience, the scientists can improve their speech in "real time", after each round.”

About Native Scientist

Native Scientist is an award-winning European-wide non-profit organisation that promotes cultural diversity in science, education and society. Native Scientist provides science and language workshops, science communication training, and bespoke projects for various institutions, including schools, universities and embassies. The work developed connects pupils with scientists to foster science and language literacy through role modelling and science and language integrated learning. Founded in 2013, their work reaches over 1,200 pupils a year and they count with a network of over 1,000 international scientists.

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