IDiverSE (Islands Diversity for Science Education) is an educational project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Agency of the European Union, that aggregates 9 partners from 4 different countries (Portugal, including Madeira and Azores, Spain, England and Greece).

Focusing mainly on Science education (but aggregating components from other areas like arts, history, geography, etc), it aims at promoting the use of ICT and interdisciplinary work among teachers of the same school unit, while providing collaborative Inquiry-Based activities among students from different islands of the world. Through an online collaborative science research platform – Globallab – students from different islands of the world will enroll in collaborative data collection activities, which will allow for an in class real and significant work from the students towards their community and with the contribution of the community itself. This will allow the school to develop relevant work that will promote community development and awareness, while giving students the opportunity  widen their global view of the world and connect with students from other places.

The final step of this project will be the creation of a Science Trail, by the students, which will be formed of physical stations that community members can freely access, containing references for relevant issues of the island, promoting community awareness and an increased science knowledge regarding important local topics.

In sum, during the implementation of the project, Interdisciplinary and collaborative inquiry, local culture, ethnoscience and personal geography will be integrated to finally create a Science Trail where students will explore their natural environment starting from the Water, continuing to the Land and ending with the Skies. Altogether the results will provide students with a holistic view of the factors that influence their lives, as their culture, their environment and their geographical conditions. Working in cooperation with schools from different islands in Europe and worldwide, through an online platform, students will also realise that each island has a different network of influences creating a diversity that brings value and uniqueness to each student’s homeland.

IDiverSE is in line with the key competences for the 21st century skills for students and teachers. By promoting real scientific research and Inquiry Based activities, it challenges students to become more independent and proactive, developing their critical thinking and the capacity to find problem solving solutions. For the international cooperation component it promotes the development of social and communication skills, as well as tolerance and global citizenship.

What is innovative in this project?

This project builds on past projects and experience, bringing together different methodologies that already existed. However, some of the components that IDiverSE brings are innovative and are being pilot tested. These are the collaborative Inquiry, the Design thinking done by the students and the creation of science trails, all of these being done in the islands.

1 – Collaborative Inquiry – Although Inquiry-Based education has been widely used by now, IDiverSE combines it with a collaborative data-collection framework where students from different and often remote islands of the world collect the same type of data, introduce it in a collaborative platform and analyse it comparing the differences and similarities between islands. Students will be able to discuss their findings in online forums, exchanging ideas with students from other islands and advising each other on possible solutions for their specific problems. Teachers will be integrated in a world-wide network where they can exchange best practices, share their work and seek for advice.

2 – Design Thinking – The Design Thinking methodology has been widely used in the business sector, and is now starting to be implemented in education. It works through a 4 step journey where students will dive deep into their community to discover the real issues and problems it faces (Feel – step 1), think of possible solutions together with community members (Imagine – step 2), collect real scientific data that will allow for the creation of sustainable and relevant solutions (Create – step 3) and finally share it with the community and other important stakeholders (Share – step 4). Students will be enrolled in several already-created Inquiry-Based activities that will lead them through these four steps, allowing them to gain experience in the methodology which will be used by them afterwards for the creation of their own Science Trail.

3 – Science Trails – After gaining experience in Inquiry-Based Learning and in the Design Thinking methodology, students will take charge of their own IDiverSE journey, and will implement the 4 steps to contact their local-culture and historic references and to discover what are the most relevant topics that they should address in order to make relevant and effective scientific research in order to co-create  (this means that they will create together with their community members) practicable and effective solutions for important community problems. These will be shared in a set of different physical stations where community members, tourists and other visitors will be able to learn and gain awareness, promoting development, awareness and sustainability in the heart of the community.

What motivates the project?

Islands share an element of isolation, being physically disconnected from the mainland. According to the ESPON targeted analysis (2013) most European islands suffer from low accessibility, few employment and educational opportunities and a low level of innovation compared to the European mainland. The shortage of Human Capital often leads to an underdevelopment in the education system and a lower level of education. As such, in a time where science education faces so many obstacles and students easily disengage, in these isolated islands this appears to be increased.

At the same, isolation can be their most valuable trait. Islands host a very important patrimony of natural and cultural assets. Containing specific traits of flora and fauna, their own micro-climate and cultural heritage, islands accommodate a perfect environment for science education to be promoted. One of the listed measures to diminish the impact of isolation and boost development in the islands is to promote the use of new ICT tools in education (ESPON, 2013).

IDiverSE builds on the awareness of the uniqueness and value of the European islands. It settles on the fact that with the use of real scientific research students can discover the value of their natural and local culture , while with the use of ICT they can share their discoveries with the outside world thus promoting the richness of their homelands. This project intends to bring innovation to the school environment and open the school to the community, namely based on outdoors pathways where people experience science, through hands-on activities and observing natural phenomena around us.

IDiverSE also stands for “I Diverse” and as such it aims to include an even deeper view of Diversity, integrating each student’s internal world as unique and precious, promoting awareness for civic and ethical issues for the respect of difference. The whole process will be transparent and inclusive, raising  community understanding of the importance of development and innovation in education.