Europe’s longer-term capacity to innovate will decline if young people’s interest for science, technology, engineering and mathematics related studies continues to decline, as many studies have shown in recent years.
In today’s society which is increasingly dependent on the use of knowledge, the acquisition of essential skills is also under threat and will continue to be so, unless a radical change in people’s and especially in youth’s interest in science and technology is made. Since this interest is fostered and culminated in youth during their primary and secondary education ages, radical changes, innovative practices and methodologies are the significant key elements to achieve reversal of trends and attitudes. Our schools should be incubators of exploration and invention. They should be accelerators of innovation. They should promote Open Schooling. School leaders should set a vision for creating learning experiences that provide the right tools and supports for all learners to thrive. Teachers should be collaborators in learning, seeking new knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills alongside their students. A holistic approach to innovation is needed. An open school that effectively introduces innovations in science education is an engaging environment not only for the students and teachers. Progressively it brings families, community groups, local businesses, international experts, universities, and other stakeholders into what we term an “Open School”. An Open School culture imports external idea that challenge internal views and beliefs and, in turn, exports its students – and their assets – to the community it serves. Such an engaging environment makes a vital contribution to its community: student projects meet real needs in the community outside of school, they are presented publicly, and draw upon local expertise and experience. The school environment fosters learner independence – and interdependence – through collaboration, mentoring, and through providing opportunities for learners to understand and interrogate their place in the world. An Open School Culture recognises the important part that students can play as peer enquirers/researchers and welcomes their active involvement.
Natural disasters and more specifically earthquakes cause great concern to the citizens mainly in the South Eastern Mediterranean basin, which has the highest seismic rate in Europe. However, in these countries there is little knowledge on earthquake disaster prevention and mitigation. In recent years education on the phenomenon of earthquakes has entered the classrooms of primary and secondary education on a global scale and school networks studying earthquakes have been developed for exchanging earthquake related information and teaching methods on the subject.
SNAC project, building on the concept of Open Schooling, aims to perform an extended proof of concept experiment to a) transform schools in South Eastern Mediterranean basin countries to local hubs of education, innovation and information about earthquakes and disaster prevention, connecting them with local authorities, local civilian protection agencies, local business, research and science centres and other local stakeholders in the process and b) engage students in real-life projects that are proposing innovative solutions adopted to the local conditions by employing real‐problem solving skills, handling and studying situations, and participating in meaningful and motivating science inquiry activities on earthquake disaster prevention and mitigation. The objective of this combination is on one hand to increase children’s and students’ interest in science and how it affects every-day life and on the other to stimulate teacher motivation on up-taking innovative teaching methods, subjects and practices to enrich and renew the science curriculum. The SNAC project also provides increased opportunities for cooperation and collaboration between schools across different areas and countries and encourage relationships between stakeholders of both formal and informal education. Teachers are key players in the renewal of science education and being part of a network allows them to improve the quality of their teaching and supports their motivation. Networks can be used as an effective component of teachers’ professional development, are complementary to more traditional forms of in-service teacher training and stimulate morale and motivation which then is passed to learners and have long-term implications for the individuals and for the society.
In this framework the proposed project promotes open education and innovation in schools and their communities, promotes the development of key competences for students who are developing projects and activities serving their communities and presents innovative whole-school approaches which are supporting teachers’ professional development through collaboration, networking and good practice exchanges.