A model-training on the subject of bioinspiration in chemistry in France

Country in Focus article #8 is all about France and training teachers in Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) through close contact with researchers!

In the context of the AMGEN TEACH programme, the La main à la pâte Foundation has established a partnership with the Laboratoire de Chimie de la Matière Condensée de Paris (Condensed Matter Chemistry Laboratory). The aim of this partnership was to build and run a teacher training on the subject of bioinspiration in chemistry, with a strong focus on Inquiry, both in professionnal research and in the classroom. Let's share the spirit of this inspiring training!

A program build around the Inquiry process and the activity of a research team

The subject of the training

Living beings produce materials such as bone or nacre. These materials can combine interesting properties : miniaturization, hierarchical structure, self-assembly, etc. Some chemists study how these materials are produced in living organisms, to imagine, design and produce customized materials. The training session « When life inspires chemists » offers teachers to strengthen their competencies in IBSE, while discovering the activities of a research team working on this specific subject.

The training workshops

The first session of the training is dedicated to an inquiry workshop that participants live as adults, in groups of 3-5 participants. Each group has the mission to determine, as precisely as possible, what a crab shell is made of. Putting forward an hypothesis, proceeding by trial and error, building a clean experimental approach, analysing results and sharing them ... participants travel through the inquiry process. Some groups focus more than others on some aspects of the problem, so that their results combine nicely. During the whole process, pedagogical teachers from the La main à la pâte Foundation and researchers from the partner laboratory support participants in their inquiry, giving no answers, but sparking questionning. Living an open inquiry for themselves helps teachers better understand the difficulties of their students facing an unknown situation, and hence help them more efficiently.

A workshop using the principles of IBSE : What is this crab shell made of ? Two participants at work, trying to identify the mineral components of the crab shell.

A workshop using the principles of IBSE : What is this crab shell made of ? Purple coloring characteristic of the presence of proteins (Biuret test).

The second session of the training begins with a second inquiry workshop, centered around the structure of a crab shell. Participants build their reasoning on observations made at different scales : naked eye, hand magnifier, polarizing microscope). They also model the cholesteric organization of the mineral component of the shell. Once again, they benefit from the present and help of researchers and pedagogical trainers. A presentation from a researcher allows to put the results in an historic perspective.

A workshop using the principles of IBSE : how is this crab shell structured ? Observation using a hand magnifier.

The third session ends the day by a conference on a research program on artificial bone.This conference allows participants to better understand the time it takes to perform research and the fact that research is a social activity bringing together many players. Thay also discover difficulties and issues concerning the transposition of results from the public research, to the industry.

The fourth session is dedicated to the visit of the host laboratory, together with researchers, technicians and doctoral students. The visit focuses on methods and tools used to inquire about biomineralized structures : soft chemistry, electron microscopy, etc. Teachers have the opportunity to discover analysis and observation tools, and to enter the core of the scientific activity.

Scanning electron microscopy : an egg shell magnified.

Soft chemistry : discussing laboratory methods.

Hybrid materials : folding a demineralized bone.

The fifth and last session is aimed at launching thinking on the transposition to the classroom. At first, participants organise the main concepts encountered during the training, in the form of a conceptual map. Then, they share their first ideas about what to do next, back in the classroom.

  

From the training to the classroom : building a conceptual map to clarify concepts.

After the training session, participants and trainers keep in contact through a collaborative platform. Participants can sollicit the help and advice of the pedagogical trainers and of the researchers, about sientific or pedagogical issues.

Testimonies of participants

«An amazing training, with passionate, accessible and inspiring scientists and trainers. Let's ask for more ! The diversity of the proposed activities was much appreciated : Inquiry workshops, varied and complementary training sessions, high quality scientific content, interesting discussions with trainers and other participants. The equilibrium was perfect.»

MAURICETTE MESGUISCH EARTH AND LIFE SCIENCES TEACHER IN A HIGH SCHOOL (AQUITAINE, FRANCE) TRAINER AT THE HOUSE FOR SCIENCE IN THE AQUITAINE REGION

«An exceptional journey alongside scientists in their laboratory. I was able to collect many ideas that can be easily adapted to the classroom, in the context of Integrated Science and Technology teaching. I also realized that chemistry could be taught using IBSE, which is not that obvious, due to security issues.»

FATIMA RAHMOUN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY TEACHER IN A JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL (PARIS, FRANCE)

«A collegue of mine and myself both registered to the When life inspires chemists training, to cultivate our general culture, and because it was especially recommanded for teachers working in interdisciplinarity. We had no idea of an application in our classroom … and yet ! Our 6th grade students are farming snails, and they study science and technology questions that arise from this activity. As an example, they recently inquired about how to prevent the snails from escaping their enclosures. After the training, we sparked an idea in our students : to be able to give the snails the food they require, we need to know what their shell is made off, and how they can find the chemical elements they need to build it, in their environment. This is a direct transposition of a workshop from the training, and it worked very well with our students.»

JULIEN LE PAIH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY TEACHER IN A JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL (BRITTANY, FRANCE)

Testimonies of scientists and pedagogical trainers

«As a researcher, I have been extremely happy to share my knowledge and methodology with teachers, especially since I know their students will be the final beneficiaries.»

THIERRY AZAÏS, RESEARCHER AT THE LABORATOIRE DE CHIMIE DE LA MATIERE CONDENSEE DE PARIS.

«Participating in this training has been very rewarding : I have been able to pass my expertise on my research field, to convey the idea that bioinspiration can put us on the way of sustainability and to show how fundamental and applied research are intricated.»

NADINE NASSIF, CHERCHEUR AU LABORATOIRE DE CHIMIE DE LA MATIERE CONDENSEE DE PARIS.

Testimonies of pedagogical trainers

«The When life inspires chemists training is modeling in the sense that it combines inquiry workshops, encounters with reseachers and time to think about transposition to the classroom, in a well balanced manner. Chemistry is not an easy field of science in which to apply inquiry, due to security issues. Still, we were able to propose two full length inquiries during the 2-days program, and many participants realized, following these workshops, that they could transform the way they teach many subjects. IBSE in on the way !»

CLAIRE CALMET TRAINER AT THE LA MAIN A LA PATE FOUNDATION.

«One of the main strengths of this training is the fact that, during the two days of training, participants work with researchers whose complementary is necessary to their own research. As a consequence, participant teachers better understand a major professional challenge : the need to approach science teaching from an interdisciplinary angle. Thanks to their investment and high-quality welcome, the scientists allowed us to satisfy another founding principle of our trainings : bringing together secondary teachers and current science.»

FREDERIC PEREZ RESPONSABLE DU POLE «DEVELOPPEMENT PROFESSIONNEL» DE LA FONDATION LA MAIN A LA PATE.

Partners of the training