Taking into account young people’s personal and global expectations in science engagement activities

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Taking into account young people’s personal and global expectations in science engagement activities: a research-action within the SiS Catalyst project. Tenir compte des attentes individuelles et collectives des enfants et des adolescents dans les activités de science en société. Matteo Merzagora Meriem Fresson* Vanessa Mignan (TRACES, Paris) with Sis-Catalyst consortium members. *Author for correspondence: secretariat@groupe-traces.fr

Abstract SiS catalyst – Children as change agents for science in society is a four-year, FP7 funded project under the MML scheme of the science in society program. It aims at combining the science in society agenda with the social inclusion agenda, focusing on children who are least likely to progress to study science in post secondary education for reasons unrelated to their skills or life project. Within the project, we are carrying on an investigation to identify how the voice of children and teenagers can be incorporated into science in society activities and influence higher education institutions and the way they interact with the rest of society. This research-action involved two phases. First the analysis of several types of science in society activities in terms of their capability to dialogue with their young publics. Second, a series of workshops involving teenagers held in Liverpool, Paris, Ankara and Bucharest. In these workshops we explored how the expectations of young people can be taken into account in science in society activities. By expectations, we mean both their vision for the world of tomorrow (the world they would like to live in), and their own projected educational journey in science. The possibility of linking these two aspects (that is, considering higher education studies in science as a way to build a world closer to the one they would like to live in) is going to be analyzed, together with the possible implications for higher education institution in presenting their educational offer also in these terms. We will present here preliminary results of the first phase (analysis of case studies through semistructured interviews) and highlight the main case studies in order to draw ergonomics of listening and empowering, that is, a better understanding of the key elements that make dialogue with young people possible or difficult, and of how this can influence institutional change. Keywords Listening, dialogue, empowerment, social inclusion, science and society, young people, children

Résumé SiS Catalyst – Les enfants comme agents de changement pour la science en société est un projet MML de quatre années financé par le 7e PCRD dans le cadre du programme science en société. Il vise à combiner les préoccupations de la science en société et celle de l'inclusion sociale, en se concentrant sur les enfants qui sont les moins susceptibles d’accéder à l’enseignement supérieur, notamment en sciences, pour des raisons n’étant ni liées à leurs compétences ni à leurs projets de vie. Dans le projet, une activité de recherche est en cours afin de déterminer comment la voix des enfants et des adolescents peut être incorporée dans les activités de science en société et influencer les institutions d'enseignement supérieur dans la manière dont elles interagissent avec le reste de la société. Cette recherche-action comporte deux phases. D'abord l'analyse de plusieurs types d’activités de science en société dans leur capacité à écouter et à dialoguer avec leurs jeunes publics. Deuxièmement, une série d'ateliers avec de jeunes adolescents à Liverpool, Paris, Ankara et Bucarest. Dans ces ateliers, nous avons exploré comment les attentes des jeunes peuvent être prises en compte dans les activités de science en société. Par attentes, nous entendons à la fois leur vision pour le monde de demain – le monde dans lequel ils aimeraient vivre, et leur propre projet d’itinéraire de formation dans les sciences. La possibilité de relier ces deux aspects (c’est-à-dire, concevoir les études supérieures en sciences comme un moyen de construire un monde plus proche de celui où ils aimeraient vivre) a été analysée, ainsi que les implications possibles pour les établissements d'enseignement supérieur dans la présentation de leur offre éducative aussi dans ces termes. Nous présenterons ici les résultats préliminaires de la première phase (analyse des études de cas par entretiens semi-directifs) et mettrons en évidence les principales études de cas afin d'en tirer une ergonomie de l'écoute et de l’empowerment, qui permet une meilleure compréhension des éléments clés qui rendent le dialogue avec les jeunes possible ou non, et de la manière dont cela peut influer sur les changements institutionnels. Mots clés Ecoute, dialogue, empowerment, inclusion sociale, science et société, jeunes, enfants

Context Sis catalyst (www.siscatalyst.eu) is a four-year project supported under the Mobilisation and mutual learning action plan of the FP7 Science in society program. It is coordinated by the University of Liverpool, and it involves thirty-four partners and advisors from twenty countries. Sis Catalyst aims at building a culture of engagement and listening. The approach is based on the simple idea that present decisions in science and education are significant for tomorrow’s citizens, students and researchers – who are children and young people at this time. The project is about the global change in education culture that we need to embrace for our future, through addressing the fundamental question of how we include children in the dialogue between society and the scientific and technological communities. SiS Catalyst supports science organizations to better engage with young people and to successfully establish strong ties from the earliest age possible - in particular to target those who are currently unlikely to progress to higher education because of their social, cultural or economic background. SiS Catalyst creates awareness among institutions of learning that young people are a relevant audience to be listened to. This engagement must also be reflected within the governance and institutional development in order to be sustainable. SiS Catalyst promotes the overall understanding that we need to treat young people not only as consumers of educational programs, but as contributors as well, and acknowledges the role that young people have in the modernisation in all spheres of science education: they are agents of change! One of the work packages of SiS Catalyst specifically addresses the issue of listening to young people. "Listening" is intended as a dialogue between young people and a higher education institution or a science and society activity organisers. It is considered an essential first step to empower young people and drive institutional change. We are exploring it from a very theoretical to a very practical point of view, focusing our attention on the forms of listening that involve an empowerment of the children.

Methods The action research on listening and empowering includes: a literature review, a set of interviews to organizers of science in society activities, an analysis of specific issues (ethical issues, the role of parents, etc.), the organization of a series of training workshops involving young people, the editing of a training toolkit. It is currently in its early stages and should be completed by the end of 2014. We will concentrate here on some preliminary results of the interviews. We conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with a selection of eight institutions delivering science in society activities participating in the SiS Catalyst project (in the following: “delivery partners”). The objective was to understand what listening means in specific cases, how it can be enhanced, and what are the concrete obstacles to a real dialogue with young people. Six countries (Germany, Austria, France, Italy, United Kingdom and Slovakia) and several types of institution are represented: four children universities, an association, a theatre, a children museum, a media agency (see Appendix for details). A specific focus was devoted to the impact of the listening at individual and institutional level. We also realized a series of short video interviews, currently accessible online (www.siscatalyst.eu), in which the delivery partners highlight some key stories and key issues. Five “listening and empowering” workshops involving young people were organized in Liverpool (based on the forum theatre approach), Paris (involving dialogues among researchers, teenagers, professional scriptwriter, and focusing on the relationship between scientific knowledge and teens personal and global expectations), Ankara (in the framework of the Eucu.net conference) and Bucharest (where twenty young delegates held a series of face to face encounters with official ministerial delegations participating to the 2012 Ministerial Conference and Third Bologna Policy Forum). The outcome from these workshops, not included here for reason of space, will complement the results of the interviews. Analysis The final objective of our investigation is to gain insights into the pathways that, starting from a moment of dialogue, lead to an institutional change. This should lead to the development of a sort of ergonomics of listening and empowering, that is, sharable best practices identifying the factors that favour or impede a dialogue with young people, and a real impact of such dialogue in driving institutional change. This ergonomics concerns the setting of the dialogue, as well as its institutional framing. Indeed, in most cases, listening and dialoguing with young people is not planned and occurs only through good interpersonal relations. However, in order for a dialogue to trigger an empowerment process, it is important that it is somehow institutionalized, that is, an official space is devoted to it, and both the organizers and the children know that the institution is aware that a dialogue is occurring, and is prepared to accept (if not to favour) its impact. This also means that the chain that goes from the interpersonal relation to the institutional change is as transparent as possible. The frame of mind A key factor is considered to be the attention given to the expectations of the children with respect to the activity (why are they participating? what is their agenda?), as well as the consciousness that the organizer has of what he expects from the children (why are we doing the activity? what do we want to obtain from the children? what do we want to give them? what do we expect from the dialogue?). Our panel reported that being too “output oriented” – like being obsessed with what children learn, or can produce, or “bring home” – is often harmful to the listening, for which the process is more important than the output. One example from the Zoom children museum can clarify this. In an exhibit element, children were asked to empty their pocket on a scanning table, scan the objects, tell a story related to the objects, and make a flip book. The exhibit, potentially very interesting, was not a success. Children were reluctant to tell their story. According to the director, this is a case where the reason for listening (that is, the objectives of the institution in collecting the children stories) and the reason to talk (that is, the motivations for children to tell the story of the content of their pocket) were not in tune: “We wanted something from them, but this was not what they wanted to give us” (EM, Zoom. Note: the

name of the interviewee are reported in the Conclusions section, and the profile of their institutions are summarized in the Appendix). A second important factor is the room left to the children to set the framework of the dialogue. Knowing when to step back is considered crucial. SISSA Medialab shared an experience in which children from different countries explain to other children interactive exhibits they built themselves. It shows that language is much less a barrier in children to children than in adult to children interactions, even when knowledge sharing is the objective. If given enough freedom, children find their way to be listened to and understood. Freedom The most recurring word mentioned by all interviewees is freedom. Children will dialogue if they feel free to do it: that is, free to tell what they want, but also about what they want and in the way they want. An atmosphere of freedom is a necessary condition for dialoguing. Setting the rules Freedom also concerns the idea that the rules of the activity are set and agreed with the children. In the Forum theatre approach brought into the SiS Catalyst project by Raul Araujo, one of the first activities is to collectively set and agree on the rules, so that children are empowered with respect of what will happen. The location The choice of the location sends a strong message to the children about the listening attitude of the institution. According to delivery partners, as the location is part of the message, we cannot expect every kind of dialogue to occur in every type of location, but the choice of the objective and the location must mutually adapt. For example: A lab can be the right place for dialoguing, as researchers might feel more comfortable than in a lecture hall or in a school. They will feel as if they invite children in their private space, and build a more intimate relationship. Several children universities point out that the children feel taken seriously when they receive a diploma in the main hall of the university from the hands of the rector, and keep a strong memory of the experience. A contradictory situation is observed, as a very official setting can at the same time inhibit the willingness of children to express themselves, and become a useful tool to open up a dialogue. The fact that an “important” institution offers its more high-end reception venue and the time of its highest hierarchy, can indeed testify of the importance that it gives to the event, and thus that doors are open to listening. Bratislava’s Arena Theatre staffs are convinced that welcoming the children in a place called “theatre” rather than “university” has a positive impact, because there is an entirely different spirit attached to it. As it is not an academic ground, children instantly think in terms of “play” and become more relaxed in their interactions. SISSA Medialab experience points out that a distant place and a completely informal environment (as a sailing boat or a Galapagos island), can also be extremely fruitful, as they are places where neither children nor scientists are used to work in. The dialogue can be enhanced by the fact of sharing the same otherness with respect to the location. Making yourself accessible Some practitioners recommend eye level interactions or the use of children friendly furniture (e.g., the Unity theatre in Liverpool). Others, on the contrary, prefer to avoid any intervention that, by building specific settings or language adaptations, set a clear difference between adults and children. There is nevertheless a general agreement on the need to provide clear and easily accessible channels for direct contact between the children and the institution, such as dedicated children ‘phone line’.

KI of KinderUniWien tells us a story: one day the phone rang at their offices and a 11-12 years old was on the line. He said: “I read about you in the newspaper: you prepare projects for children, and I want to make sure that you do is seriously. I want to come and see what you do.” The organizers invited him to come and asked what was important for him. After a very interesting discussion, they decided to make him their advisor, and eventually set up a children advisory board. Time All delivery partners underline the importance of the time devoted to present everyone, share informal moments and moments of intimacy. “Just like the artists, children are for a while a part of the theatre family […] They tell us everything, who is in love with who and all these secret things”. (AA, Arena theatre). In terms of longer time frame, children universities point out that in many cases children maintain a long-term relationship with the organizer of the events (facilitators, etc.), but not with scientists or the university itself, introducing a visible obstacle to the empowerment process. Trust “Everything relies on an atmosphere of trust. As the older professors trusted us [young organizers of the Science académie program], we trust the young people and their initiatives. We tell them: you are member of the association, it is up to you!” (LRS, Paris Montagne). Trust also means taking the children seriously: “One obstacle is for the researchers, especially the university managers, to take the opinion of the children seriously and not to simply say ‘oh nice!’ or ‘how cute, my grandchildren are the same age’” (CI, KinderUniWien). Personal versus institutional change In terms of the impact of the dialogue with children, most of the delivery partners point out the critical step of moving from the personal to the institutional level. “[After the activity] something changed, but mostly at an individual level. The scientists involved give us feedback that it was a wonderful experience for them, that they learned so much from the children, but as individuals rather than in their official role. The university itself doesn’t have the feeling that the university system can learn from the children…” A pessimistic view is to admit that children are considered intrinsically institutionally irrelevant. A more optimistic view would be that it is just a matter of time: it takes time for an institution to acknowledge that it has something to learn from children. In any case, it is essential to carefully consider if the actor listening has in fact some power to act according to the listening. If not, this should be very clear. There is indeed a key difference between listening to exchange and share, and listening to act and change. If someone has the responsibility to listen and someone else the responsibility to act, this usually results in frustration. EM (Zoom) states it very clearly: “Listening is also taking responsibility of doing”. Children advisory boards Several of the case studies analyzed have children and teenagers in their official advisory boards. They all point out to the need that such advisory board must have a narrow agenda and very clear objectives. Also, the limits of advisory boards should be made clear. Children often have the feelings that whatever they say, it will become real. As this is not possible, it results in frustration, and it is indeed the contrary of empowering. “We learned that the advisory board must have a very clear understanding of what they can or can’t advise on”. (CI, KinderUniWien). Several case studies consider that it is not a good idea to mix children and pedagogues: they are both important, but should seat in separate advisory boards.

Staff training Trained and motivated staffs are crucial to better take into account the expectations of children within an institution. This is true for scientists meeting the children only once, and for the staff that follow the activities over the years. Adults are often scared of children, especially when they are supposed to impersonate knowledge or institutional authority. A training phase is useful to overcome this fear, and allow them not to feel threatened by the questions of the children. “I think between 10 and 20 % of the professors are really able to do this” (MS, University of Tubingen). As for the organizing staff and explainers: “Loving dialogue is one of the condition to participate as a volunteer in the Science académie programme” (LP, Paris Montagne) The attitude of floor people is also central. A nice story from Zoom children’s museum concerns a delegation of children knocking at the door of the director to protest against the age limits of a popular area in the museum. It all started from a conversation with the explainers on the floor. It could have remained there, as it happens in many cases. It did not, as the explainer was trained to listen. She understood that these children had really something to say, and paved the way that led them to the director’s office. Outside the institution Paris Montagne expresses a lack of trust on the fact that institutions can learn and grow through the dialogue with young people. On the other hand, they proved that empowering young people and helping them identify the legal channels through which they can have impact, can force institutional change. They draw this conclusion on a practical example. Since many years the student lodging for the “classe préparatoire” were open only to boys. Everybody knew it or should have known (it is not an information you can hide!), but no one really realized it. The voice of a teenager was needed to wake everyone up. She said she could not study because she did not have any accommodation. She could not study because she was a girl. A campaign was launched soon after (Ouvrons les portes, www.ouvronslesportes.org), it made a lot of noise, a legal action took place, and the lodgings are now open also for girls. Listening to young people could ignite social change. Risk of using the children The voice of children is a very powerful marketing tool. One of the risks is to remain at a marketing level, and listening in order to collect information to ameliorate what you are doing, rather than to open up to real change. Even worse, you may start listening for the “good” of children, but you might end up collecting figures to prove that your institution has good results and to be stronger in the next bid for a grant. This is of course useful, but it is not listening, it is not empowerment, it will not help driving institutional change. On the contrary, it can often be an instrument of conservationism. Risk of creating false expectations Another risk is for the institution to use children to display a narrative about change, benefiting the institution in the eyes of stakeholders, but creating harmful false expectations for children leading to disappointment. For example, the use of role-models to fight against self-censorship among minorities underrepresented in higher education is very effective, but should be taken carefully: their role is to indicate that “higher education is also for you”, but when the young person realize that in fact s/he is, in concrete term, an alien in that context, s/he can feel betrayed. Language We will devote a specific analysis to the importance for language as a tool to empower young people or, sadly quite frequently, to disempower them, create distance, avoid the dialogue and the sense of

belonging. This was considered an essential factor by most of the interviewees and deserves a specific treatment. Conclusions For the video versions of the interviews, we asked to resume in three keywords the value of listening for each of the delivery partners. We include their answers here, as a conclusion.  “Challenging, astonishing, inspiring.” Karoline Iber and Chris Gary, KinderuniWien  “The dialogue should be open minded and at an eye to eye level. It gives you new unexpected perspectives. You can trust children.” Silvia Prock, Junge Uni Innsbruck  “Respect, honesty, taking risks” Paola Rodari and Simona Cerrato, Sissa Medialab  “Respect, honest dialogue and considering that they are intelligent even if they are young” Livio Riboli-Sasco and Leïla Perié, Paris Montagne.  “When you think about listening you have to be aware about your own expectations and the expectations of children. Both are important!” Elisabeth Menasse and Christiane Thenius Zoom Children Museum.  “It’s only by getting direct feedback, listening to what they are saying, that make you sure that the project you are doing is the best as it possibly can.” Andrew Abrahamson, University of Liverpool  “Curiosity, innovation, and… listening to children makes you happy!” Michael Seifert and Claudia Klein, Kinder Uni Tübingen

Appendix: the eight case studies Paris-Montagne (www.paris-montagne.org), Paris, France Paris Montagne is a non-profit organisation whose primary goal is to make the world of science and research more accessible to young people from underprivileged areas. Paris Montagne aims to promote the core values of scientific research, dialogue, rationality, mutual understanding and progress and by promoting these values to raise public awareness of their importance in fostering a vibrant democracy. Kinderbüro Universität Wien (www.kinderuni.at), Austria Kinderbüro Universität Wien is a non-profit company owned by the University of Vienna, which is legally independent and totally project based. They operate in an academic surrounding on the interface between universities, science, arts and humanities and society, organising in particular a children university. ZOOM Children's Museum (www.kindermuseum.at), Wien, Austria ZOOM Children’s Museum is Austria’s first museum for children. ZOOM is an independent institution, unaffiliated to other museums in terms of its structure or thematic focus. ZOOM is more oriented towards the arts than many other children’s museums, and has become a centre of interaction between children and artists. SISSA Medialab (medialab.sissa.it), Trieste, Italy SISSA Medialab is a wholly owned subsidiary of SISSA University (International School for Advanced Studies). SISSA Medialab develops innovative projects for science communication inside the scientific community and towards general public. SISSA Medialab works with science museums and science centres, by providing consultancy in exhibitions and programmes development. Tübingen Children’s University (www.uni-tuebingen.de/aktuelles/kinder-uni.html), Germany The Tübingen Children’s University is a project of the University of Tübingen in cooperation with a local newspaper ”Schwäbisches Tagblatt Tübingen”. It offers lectures, seminars and workshops by professors at the University of Tübingen for children between the ages of 7 and 12 to allow the children to have some direct experience of scientific work. University of Liverpool (www.liv.ac.uk/educational-opportunities), United Kingdom

The International Centre for Excellence in Educational Opportunities was founded to provide a focus for global thinking around the changing role of the higher education sector in the social inclusion agenda. The Centre’s work has been developed from over a decade of innovative widening participation activities. They work with potential students across a wide age range, from young people in primary schools to adults returning to education. Junge Uni Innsbruck (www.uibk.ac.at/jungeuni), Austria The “Junge Uni Innsbruck – Science, Technology and Humanities for children and young people” is an initiative of the University of Innsbruck with the goal of raising the interest and the motivation of children and young people between 6 and 18 years in science and technology, and to develop science communication activities. Detská univerzita Komenského (www.divadloarena.sk/ponuka/detska-univerzita), Bratislava, Slovakia Detská univerzita Komenského (Children’s Comenius University) in Bratislava is one of the Foundation of Max Reinhardt projects, a non-profit organisation that was established to support activities of Arena Theatre. The project has inspired the creation of five other Children’s Universities in various regions of Slovakia.