Native Scientists – Connecting Students and Scientists from the Same Migrant Community
Native Scientists engages underserved migrant communities across Europe in meaningful dialogues about science. This initiative brings together students and scientists from the same migrant community through exciting, multidisciplinary, hands-on workshops, where science is communicated in a common heritage language. These workshops build upon the shared culture and community ties of the participants to foster scientific and language literacy, as well as a common sense of belonging.
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Germany
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: France
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Spain
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Austria
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Ireland
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Hungary
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Netherlands
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Sweden
Member State(s), Western Balkans and other countries: Other
It refers to other types of transformations (soft investment)
As a representative of an organisation
Name of the organisation(s): Native Scientists Type of organisation: Non-profit organisation First name of representative: Afonso Last name of representative: Bento Gender: Male Nationality: Portugal Function: Programme Manager Address (country of permanent residence for individuals or address of the organisation)<br/>Street and number: Rua Bela Vista à Lapa, nº98, 2ºAndar Town: Lisboa Postal code: 1200-614 Country: Portugal Direct Tel:+351 936 002 474 E-mail:email@example.com Website:https://www.nativescientist.com/
Native Scientists fosters scientific literacy, multilingualism, and a sense of belonging amongst migrant pupils in Europe. These students – approximately 5.4 million – are in disadvantage in relation to their peers, not only because they underperform academically, but also because they show higher risk of feeling alienated from the surrounding community and society. This risk increases if the language they speak at home is different from the one used at school and in the country at large. Our initiative tackles these issues by organising science workshops that connect scientists and students from the same migrant community. International professionals from STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) provide hands-on scientific activities to migrant children while speaking the same native language (LANG). These workshops, based on a novel concept that is centred in STEMM+LANG, complement the school programmes in the usage and teaching of the home language, as well as of scientific concepts, promoting scientific and language literacy. This innovative format that connects pupils with socially and culturally relevant role models, makes language classes unique and attractive. Furthermore, these workshops implement a relational approach: by drawing upon a sense of shared history, culture and community, they make science a part of meaningful connections. Founded in 2013 in the UK, Native Scientists has organised 200+ workshops in 13 different languages, with 20,000+ migrant pupils in 12 European countries. Our organisation relies on a network of 3000+ international STEMM educators and role models, who encourage ethnic minority pupils to use and develop their heritage language while learning about new scientific concepts. Evaluation of our programme’s long-term impact shows that 3 out of 4 students learnt five or more new words during a workshop, and 2 out of 3 pupils feel prouder of speaking more than one language.
Sense of Belonging
In terms of environmental sustainability, the key objectives of our initiative are, on the one hand, to have as little environmental impact as possible, and, on the other hand, to promote environmental sustainability consciousness through STEM education. Our team and practices are informed by the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals, namely 11 and 13, and we take into account the 5 R’s policy. The team of this initiative works remotely and all the initiative is managed digitally using online videoconferencing and project management tools, which means that travel is reduced to the minimum.When implementing the workshops in loco, public transportation is preferred and air travel is not used (we bring together migrant students and scientists that live abroad in the same city), and providers are chosen conscientiously. Workshop materials, like stationary and scientific materials for hands-on activities, are carefully selected in order to avoid using disposable, single-use materials, and to prioritise reusage. Importantly, many of the workshops directly address topics related to sustainability, climate change, environmental pollution, circularity, biodiversity, and also inclusion and access to natural resources. Scientists are encouraged to talk about their work addressing the world’s most pressing challenges and topics.
In terms of aesthetics and quality of experience for people, the key objectives of our initiative are to ensure students participating in the workshops create positive connections with the scientists, learn new scientific concepts and gain a new appreciation of multilingualism. We also aim that scientists and teachers participating in the initiative rate their experience positively and recommend it to their colleagues. Native Scientists’ workshops aim to transform classes into a unique and attractive moment for students, where science is made beautiful and appealing through visual, interactive, and hands-on activities. Every year, we train approximately 150 new volunteers in science outreach to make sure their activities are exciting and engaging. Training happens via webinars and online group training (2 hours). We also provide one-to-one offline support on how to prepare the activities that each scientist takes to the workshop. The scientists bring into the classroom a host of material and exercises: games, lab items, samples, prototypes, tools, models, illustrations, or videos. We help scientists to develop activities that fit their purpose and personality. Besides making science beautiful and appealing, we aim at fostering positive emotions and cultural benefits among all participants. Our workshops connect migrant pupils with role models who share a mother tongue and cultural heritage. For migrant pupils, we are providing a fascinating and exciting experience in their home language - usually associated with less exciting activities such as “have you brushed your teeth?” - by showing them it can also be the language of science and discovery.
In this initiative, our objective is to promote scientific and language literacy among migrant children and adolescents, inspiring them to pursue higher education, value their mother tongue and foster a sense of belonging both in school and in the community at large. This initiative mainly targets migrant children. The main reason for this is underachievement. Reports from the EU show that in science and maths, 40% of migrant pupils underachieve compared to 16% of non-migrants. Multiple factors account for this educational inequality: language barriers, the low science capital - i.e. the amount of exposure to science that a person has -, the issues of prejudice and perception towards their heritage culture and the lack of adequate support in schools for these children. Another issue to take into account is migrant student’s sense of belonging, which, beyond impacting school performance, can also be considered a value in itself which directly impacts one’s well being. European reports show that students who, at home, don’t speak the language of instruction show a lower “sense of belonging” and are at a higher risk of being victimised at school. The whole organisation as well as this initiative are built on equity, diversity and inclusion values. At an organisational level, our goal is to have a diverse team, and to promote decent work conditions along with work-life well-being. In line with EU policies, we are conceptualising and implementing an equity and diversity plan for the organisation and we have a policy to make sure that our activities are always free for students and their families. To ensure viability and financial sustainability we rely on a mix of fees-for-service paid by municipalities or regional governments, private contributions from individuals and corporations, and grants/prizes such as this one that can leverage strategic growth and maximise impact.
The citizens benefiting most from this initiative are the students and the scientists. They were involved in this initiative from the start, through interviews, all the way to implementation, through workshops, and evaluation, through questionnaires and focus groups. With this initiative, children realise that “people like me can be a scientist” and develop positive attitudes towards science. Scientists have the opportunity to give back to society as they act as role models and receive training in science communication. The teachers are also involved and impacted, as they are mediators and host the scientists in their classroom. Our internal reporting from last year shows that our initiative benefits the groups that participate in it. Our workshops create positive connections for migrant students (99% say they love meeting the scientists), produce engaging and pleasing experiences (99% migrant students classify their experience as fun and amazing, rather than boring or difficult), successfully communicate science (99% migrant students say they learn new science concepts) and foster multilingualism (98% migrant students say they think speaking more than one language is important to them). This positive impact also encompasses teachers (100% say they would recommend the experience), and the scientists themselves (97% say they would repeat the experience). Apart from our own internal reporting, an independent study focused on our workshops using a randomised controlled trial methodology, shows that the initiative is effective in boosting children's motivation for science (manuscript accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal). Also, we often receive informal feedback; for instance, Tiago Alves, a participant in a past Portuguese workshop in London, messaged us saying that he was going to pursue a PhD in Physics at Imperial College London (UK) and cited the workshop as one of the reasons he pursued a career in science.
All stakeholders (students, scientists, teachers/schools, embassies/cultural institutions, scientific diaspora networks, and higher education/research institutions) of this initiative were and are engaged in its design and implementation. To design the initiative, interviews with 5-10 people/entities for each type of stakeholder were arranged. Following design, all stakeholders are kept engaged through regular emails, meetings, questionnaires and/or volunteering. We have a growth mindset, practice co-production as much as possible, and have a collaborative approach. Students, the heroes of the initiative are also involved. We gather information about them from the teachers and, additionally, we train the scientists to engage them in active and inquiry-based learning. Scientists are the lifeblood of the organisation. At the moment, Native Scientists relies on a pan-European network of over 3,000 scientists from many different migrant communities. They train with us on how to best communicate their work to children, and, perhaps more importantly, on how to organise scientific engagement activities all over Europe. To make these workshops happen, we must work within very different educational infrastructures and liaise with research institutions, universities, schools, embassies, and cultural organisations, as well as reach out to local associations which are specific to each context. Every workshop is, in that sense, unique, being adapted to every context and circumstance. Scientists coordinate with the teachers on how to best cater to diversity: students are often of different ages and have different educational levels and different language proficiencies. At Native Scientists, we want to avoid implementing a top-down approach, in which scientists simply visit a larger community to communicate their research; instead, we want to engage in a concept of circular education, in which community ties are forged and strengthened.
Native Scientists has always been an interdisciplinary endeavour. This initiative is an entirely new science enrichment programme at the intersection of four fields: Education (especially Science Education), Science (especially Science Communication), Linguistics and Social Innovation. It implements a novel approach that we named Science and Heritage Language Integrated Learning (SHLIL), a variation of “classic” Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approaches. It is considered a novel approach by researchers from linguistics because it emphasises the use of heritage languages instead of simply a foreign language, as is the case for the CLIL model. A study carried out by researchers from Tuebingen University in Germany and Lancaster University in the UK (manuscript accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal) corroborated its innovative quality. Our activities also expose children to different fields and subjects. Each workshop brings together different scientists from different disciplines and career stages, so students get to taste "different fields of science" in a single workshop. Usually, we have four scientists per workshop. Last year, for instance, 109 scientists participated in 29 workshops and spoke about 50+ different STEMM topics, e.g. vaccines, bacteria, yeasts, robots, cells, tissues, organs, oceans, air, architecture or linguistics. Importantly, this programme also works as a networking and meeting place for scientists from different disciplines to exchange information and we have identified so far at least two new interdisciplinary research projects that have started and were granted funding thanks to the exchanges of knowledge established via this initiative.
There is a growing number of initiatives that promote STEMM education. What distinguishes this initiative from others is that it is built on equity, diversity and inclusion values (in many other initiatives this is either absent or is an afterthought). It fosters learning by connecting children and scientists and by using novel and non-formal ways of teaching. Native Scientists is at the forefront of how to engage people with science. We go beyond a human centric approach and focus on creating meaningful connections - bringing people together with a common background and building upon that relationship. This can be a shared heritage language, culture, or upbringing. In short, we understand how to make science relevant to a community and a part of everyday relationships. Beyond this relationship-centric approach, we have been the first to develop STEMM+LANG workshops, using science as a means to teach language and vice-versa, via a concept known as content and language integrated learning. This novel concept involves international STEMM professionals in the education of migrant pupils, promoting science-related aspirations and self-esteem of migrant pupils by connecting them to role model scientists with whom they can more easily relate to due to their common language and cultural heritage.
Our workshop model is easily replicable and adaptable to different contexts. We know this because it has grown organically and so far has reached 12 European countries, across 28 cities and 17 different migrant communities, ranging from Arabic-speaking communities and Turkish-speaking communities. To achieve this, Native Scientists relies on a volunteer network of over 3,000 scientists. Migrant scientists from all over Europe join our organisation and, with our training and logistical assistance, are able to recruit other researchers and carry out workshops with children speaking a common heritage language. Until last year, we ran everything on a 100% volunteer basis. Because of the initiative’s popularity and expansion, it became necessary to professionalise the organisation and hire full-time staff to oversee everyday operations. Our intention is to strategically continue to expand the programme and continue to reach new communities and languages.
The delivery model of the same migrant community programme is based on concepts and methodologies such as science capital, carousel teaching, content and language integrated learning and hands-on teaching. With this programme, students get to taste different fields of science - hence they participate in a “science tapas workshop” - and they speak about science in their heritage language rather than the school language. In these workshops, we bring together 4 or 5 scientists to talk about science to children in a speed-dating format. Children are divided into 4 or 5 groups and scientists rotate between the groups until every child has talked to every scientist. The 4 or 5 scientists ideally come from different fields of science, so during the workshops, children get to “taste” different fields of science. This resembles the Spanish “tapas” experience, where people order small dishes of food and taste them all. We work with STEMM professionals who receive training on how to deliver scientific content to match the pupils’ knowledge and age. These educators use game-like exercises, interactive materials, infographics, models and prototypes as supporting materials, with a focus on directed interactions between role models and pupils.
The initiative is directly contributing to address three main global challenges:
- inequities in children’s access to science
- sharp decline on interest for science at the ages 10-12
- inequalities affecting migrant children
- stereotypes about STEM professionals
By implementing science workshops throughout Europe, which connect underserved students and scientists from the same migrant community, our initiative fosters local community ties among migrants to promote scientific and language literacy. Therefore, it draws upon the potential of local relationships to address inequities in children’s access to science as well as to foster a common sense of belonging. This approach is strategic as well: we target 4th grade students, as there is evidence that children’s interest for science starts to decline around the age of 10-12 years. At the same time, the initiative promotes diversity by fostering multilingualism and sponsoring a more plural perception of scientists and scientific practice. Our mission includes breaking stereotypes about scientists (i.e., the idea of a scientist being a grey haired white man who wears a white coat). By introducing scientists to children who share a common background, language and/or appearance, we provide living “proof” that science does not have to be a restricted activity.
Native Scientists was founded in 2013 by two Portuguese scientists in London. The initial goal was to organise 3 workshops in a school year and reach 50-60 students in London. Today, Native Scientists has organised almost 300 workshops in 13 different languages (Arabic, Check, Croatian, French, Estonian, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Spanish, Turkish) with 20,000+ migrant pupils in 12 European countries (Belgium, Channel Islands, France, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK). In the year following this application, the initiative celebrates 10 years and we want it to reach a new maturity level by becoming financially sustainable, having a clear growth strategy, and by making an even deeper social impact. In the programme´s first decade, we have established 23,000 connections between children and scientists from the same migrant community across 28 cities in Europe. By 2033, we envisage to triple the number of connections between students and scientists, while being more strategic regarding the communities we reach. Rather than having a growth approach based on organic demand from scientists, we want to, on the one hand, work more closely with teachers, schools and migrant communities, and, on the other hand, to prioritise migrant communities with systemic problems of underachievement. We have already identified that our programme is currently more attractive to migrant communities with a Southern or Western European background and we actively want to appeal to a wider range of communities, e.g. Eastern European backgrounds or backgrounds from outside Europe. Given how the current refugee and ecological crisis affects mostly countries from the Global South, it is vital that the initiative can help create a sense of belonging for those communities too. The New European Bauhaus prize would be an important step in helping this consolidation and expansion.
Native Scientists is committed to promoting scientific literacy surrounding green transition and sustainable development. Many of our workshops directly address topics related to sustainability, climate change, environmental pollution, circularity, biodiversity, and also inclusion and access to natural resources. We do so in an engaging way that has been proved to appeal to students from different migrant communities, skill levels and literacy levels. Furthermore, we are striving towards creating a more diverse and interdisciplinary scientific community who is equipped to approach this challenge in its many dimensions.