BLOOM is an EU Coordination and Support Action implemented from 2017 to 2020. The project aims at raising awareness of bioeconomy. To achieve this, the BLOOM project brings together partners from across Europe to debate, communicate, and engage the public in an open dialogue on the potential of bioeconomy. Furthermore, the project strives to build and strengthen a community of bioeconomy, to reach a common understanding of the subject and importantly, to foster education and learning. An economy based on biomass has great potential to mitigate climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Bioeconomy in the classroom can be an excellent source to raise students’ interest in STEM subjects. Among other aspects, we will aim to discover this in the following module.
Across Europe, five regional hubs (communities of practice who share a passion for an issue, which they learn about, based on regular interaction) are being established to foster public engagement in the bioeconomy and to create a space of exchange and debate. The hubs are focusing on different areas of bioeconomy important to the regions. They enlarge their regional networks with Civil Society Organisations and engage young European citizens, science communication networks, NGOs, media and – crucially – the general public, through a series of co-creation workshops and outreach activities. In addition to increasing engagement, the project recognizes the vital role played by education in training the workforce of the future and understanding and reaching today’s society. BLOOM is present in education via its School Network, involving 17 schools in ten different European countries, working on integrating bioeconomy in the diverse European school systems.
If you would like to find out more about the BLOOM project, watch the video below:
The BLOOM School Box – a collection of bioeconomy learning scenarios – was created as a driver for integrating bioeconomy in classes. Twenty expert teachers from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden worked together for over a year to develop the BLOOM School Box. Then, they returned to their classrooms to test and improve these learning scenarios. The School Box covers a wide range of topics, from plastic pollution, through waste management to the thermal properties of bio-based building materials. In this module, we will dive deeper into understanding these resources.
Physics may not be the first subject that comes to mind when thinking about bioeconomy. However, knowledge about the connection between Physics and bioeconomy is essential, especially when learning and teaching about energy saving, architecture, combustion (heat and gas), fossil fuels and their alternatives. In this section, we will discover one of the BLOOM learning scenarios that aims to involve students in examining the thermal properties of biobased building materials.
This learning scenario, developed by Nikolinka Fertala, Elzbieta Kawecka, Lucas Sylvester Glaz, and Bernhard Weikmann, BLOOM expert teachers form Austria and Poland, aims to connect bioeconomy to temperature and heat flow. The “Examining the thermal properties of bio-based building materials” learning scenario is divided into three lessons. The first lesson, Knowledge Café, aims to encourage students to provide a definition on bioeconomy. The second lesson, Experimental Laboratory, aims to introduce students to thermal insulation. Students undertake experiments to investigate the thermal insulation of biobased and non-biobased building materials. The third lesson, Mathematical Analysis in PC-Lab aims to teach students how to conduct empirical analysis using suitable mathematical techniques. Apart from a Physics class, the learning scenario can be implemented in Mathematics, Chemistry or Biology classes as well. The learning scenario is developed for students aged 16-19.
By the end of the lessons, students should have a practical knowledge of temperature and the flow of heat from areas of high temperature to areas of low temperature. They should be able to connect the modelled and real heat flow while using biobased building material.
In the above learning scenario, the BLOOM expert teachers suggest the use of a “Knowledge Café”, let’s see what this pedagogical method entails!
What is a Knowledge Café or World Café?
Knowledge Café or World Café is a method often used in education that involves participants discussing a topic in smaller circles, with one participant periodically rotating to the next circle, where they are introduced to the previous discussion, by the “table host”.
When using this method with students, it is important to encourage each of them to speak by creating a physical and mental space where they feel comfortable to share opinions. You can starts the lesson by sharing pre-defined questions to guide the discussion or just let the discussion enfold. Note that solutions and outcomes should not be predefined.
Watch the video below to find out more about what the teachers who developed this learning scenario experienced:
2.3 Explore bioeconomy in interdisciplinary classes
Most processes, ideas and things in the world cannot be explained through a singular approach. For example, many natural systems – such as the Earth’s climate – cannot be fully understood and investigated without an interdisciplinary approach, since there are so many subsystems that contribute to it, like the oceans, the atmosphere, solar radiation, land cover, carbon dioxide emission, etc.
An interdisciplinary approach relates to more than one category of knowledge. In education, interdisciplinary teaching refers to teaching across different subjects. It is based on incorporating knowledge and skills from more than one subject in order to enrich the overall educational experience.
Benefits of interdisciplinary teaching and learning
Interdisciplinary education allows students “to learn by making connections between ideas and concepts across different disciplinary boundaries” (Open Edu, 2015).
One of the main benefits of interdisciplinary learning is that students tend to have a better understanding of the connection between what they are learning and the real world. It can also enhance confidence in subjects that are deemed more difficult by students, especially because they are taught not as separate, but in tandem, therefore, different skills of students are made use of. These are just the first benefits, interdisciplinary classes also improve collaboration skills in students and carry a lot of professional development value for teachers and staff. What is more, it encourages students to –learn in a playful manner.
Interdisciplinary learning therefore:
-Helps students to think critically,
-Develops their lifelong learning and problem-solving skills
-Increases passion for learning and develops communication skills and creativity.
This learning scenario, developed by Costantina Cossu, Nele Deckx, Seppe Hermans and Caterina Mura, BLOOM expert teachers from Italy and Belgium, demonstrates how well can bioeconomy be taught via an interdisciplinary approach.
The “Growing plastic & new life for plastic” learning scenario, aimed at students aged 11-18, combines Biology, Technology, Engineering, Environmental Education, Chemistry and Statistics as its topics. The scenario tackles the issue of plastic pollution and aims to familiarize students with bioplastics. First, students analyse pictures about plastic pollution. Then, the class identifies a solution to plastic pollution: biopolymers. Students investigate bioplastics and their properties in the lab. During this activity, students acquire practical knowledge by creating plastic from potato starch and other foods. Then, students investigate the effect that adding a plasticiser has on the properties of the polymer that they make. Finally, the class creates a 3D model, using a 3D printer.
Let’s see below how this learning scenario provides engaging activities for all the above mentioned subjects: Biology and Environmental Education: students study the effect of plastic pollution on the seas and oceans of the world. Statistics: students investigate on a nearby beach. After learning about the different types of plastics, they search for plastic residue on the beach, identify the different categories and make a tally. Chemistry: in the lab, students create bioplastics form food residues, potatoes and starch. Technology and Engineering: the final step of the lesson is to give new life to plastic. The class first designs, then prints shapes from plastic, using the software Tinkercad and a 3D printer.
Watch the video below, in which the expert teachers share their experiences of implementing this learning scenario:
Where do students lose interest in STEM? Studieshave reported that early childhood education matters greatly when it comes to students enjoying STEM and later choosing STEM careers. This interest can be fuelled, for example, by practical exercises, experiments (Turner, 2011), but it also proved important for teachers to show confidence and enthusiasm when teaching science (Tytler et al., 2008). Another solution can be to bring topics in the classroom that are connected to real life, such as the topic of bioeconomy. What is more, the bioeconomy sector currently employs 18 million EU citizens and this number is expected to grow.
Bioeconomy can be implemented in a primary classroom as well without any difficulties. If you take a closer look, many aspects of teaching bioeconomy are very suitable for a primary classroom. Take for example the interdisciplinary approach we mentioned in the previous section. Many schools already encourage an interdisciplinary approach to science education at the primary level.
This learning scenario, developed by BLOOM expert teachers Ivan Kunac, Miguel A. Abril, Maite Valencia and Antonija Milić from Croatia and Spain aims to engage younger students in the topic of energy and ways we can produce energy. The lesson starts with a discussion about energy and about the production of energy in the future (including human waste and animal waste). In the second part of the lesson, students listen to a lecture about bioeconomy. After which they engage in an exercise: the creation of a brochure about fossil fuels, biomass and renewable energy sources. Then, they present their findings and their brochures. Finally, there is a quiz about energy and bioeconomy. While the “How poop will change the world” scenario is created for students aged 13-15, it can be implemented for younger students as well (10-12 years old). You can find information for the adaptation in the learning scenario itself.
Watch the video below to find out more about the implementation of this learning scenario:
Bioeconomy and primary school!
What aspects of bioeconomy can you think of that can be interesting to work with on the primary level? How would you start?
2.5 Inquiry in the classroom with bioeconomy
Many teachers face obstacles when aiming to teach their students the method of scientific research. Many students feel that science or learning science is only for people with a further academic interest. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is an excellent remedy to this, as it aims to teach student the scientific method while letting them be agents of their own learning. First, let us learn about IBL and then let’s move on to explore through one of the BLOOM learning scenarios how bioeconomy can be used to start implementing inquiry in your classroom.
What is inquiry-based learning (IBL)?
Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is an educational strategy through which students follow methods and practices similar to those of professional scientists in order to construct knowledge (Keselman, 2003). One of the benefits of using IBL is that the students are an active part of their own learning process: they must suggest an experimental activity to peers and design it. IBL is organised into different steps, in which teachers guide the students to think about an experimental idea, design the experiment and present the results to their peers.
Banchi and Bell (2008) defined the four levels of inquiry-based learning: Confirmation inquiry: At this level, the teacher uses inquiry as confirmation for already acquired knowledge. For example, the teacher gives a lesson about a topic, then prepares an activity by posing questions, and guides students through it to an answer that is already known by them. Structured inquiry: The teacher provides the scientific question and guidelines, or structure to the investigation. Students are required to explain their findings.
Guided inquiry: The teacher only provides the research question. Students are responsible for designing their own experiments and validating data at the end of the process. Open or true inquiry: Students formulate their own research questions, design the experiment and present their findings.
There are several phases involved in an inquiry-based lesson or project, as Pedaste et al (2015) observed: Phase 1: Orientation. This can take the form of a class discussion, where students become aware of the main idea at hand. Phase 2: Conceptualisation. This phase involves student asking questions and formulating hypotheses. Phase 3: Investigation. This is where students explore, experiment and interpret data. This can happen in a cyclical fashion. First, they collect data, then they analyse it, after which they may go back to exploring, based on findings. They continue this until they enter the next phase. Phase 4: Conclusion.
You can also see the above steps in this learning scenario, developed by Marta Azevedo, José Fradique, Stella Magid Podolsky and Veronika Pelehov, BLOOM expert teachers of Israel and Portugal. The “Building a new environmental Future” learning scenario involves Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Geology and Natural Science as its subjects. It is also adaptable for both primary and secondary classes: younger students (13 -15 years old) and older students (15 -17 years old) can similarly benefit. The scenario is divided into three parts. The first part introduces bioeconomy. After watching a short clip about bioeconomy, students receive different objects that they have to categorize according to them being biobased or non-biobased. This involves the orientation and conceptualization phases of the inquiry lesson. The second part involves finding ways to use different energy sources with minimal waste. For older students, this part can also include a visit to a local industry. This is the investigation phase of the inquiry lesson. The third part for younger students involves planning an exhibition or science fair; for older students: planning a science project, together with local stakeholders. This is the conclusion phase of the inquiry learning process.
Watch the video below for more details on the implementation of this learning scenario:
Inquiry in your classroom?
Reflect on your own classroom and share how you could adapt the presented approach to your own context!
2.6 Bioeconomy and project-based learning
Project-based learning (PBL) is an excellent method to encourage students to take ownership of their learning process. It is always good to try PBL out when implementing a brand new topic, such as bioeconomy, as it will allow students to immerse themselves in the topic and develop their research skills. First, we will look into what PBL is, then focus on one of the BLOOM learning scenarios that introduces bioeconomy to students through a project.
Project-based learning (PBL) involves shifting the focus from traditional education, where students are passive receivers of information and the teacher is the (only) source of knowledge. Project-based learning simply means learning through projects. It involves learner-centred decision-making: students are able to plan their own project, instead of following a set of instructions. PBL can and should be based on student inquiry. Note, that PBL can be implemented with many different pedagogical methods, such as inquiry-based learning (IBL). Ideally, it also includes peer and self-assessment, rather than only relying on teacher assessment. Finally, the ownership of the project ultimately belongs to the student, as opposed to the teacher, whose role is that of a moderator.
The Buck Institute for Education identifies the following seven steps of PBL: Challenging problem or question. The project has to start with something that is considered truly engaging for students.
Sustained inquiry. Students are continuously involved in asking questions, finding answers and researching.
Authenticity. It’s advisable to choose a topic that students feel close to, but also to take their chosen project seriously. For example, having an exhibition for the school’s community at the end of the project, as something to work towards.
Student voice and choice. Students need to be able to guide their own project.
Reflection. Apart from the final assessment, it is advisable to have reflection activities along the way.
Critique and revision. Students have to receive and give peer critique and revise constantly.
Public product. At the end of the project, students should have an end-product they can exhibit.
This learning scenario, developed by Preeti Gahlawat, Kiki Liadaki, Efi Papageorgiou, Eirini Siotou, BLOOM expert teachers form Sweden and Greece, is an excellent example on how to introduce bioeconomy as a project in the classroom. The “Bloom your school with your biofuel and a soap lab” scenario was developed for 13-16 year old students.
This learning scenario aims at an overarching understanding of bioeconomy by connecting everyday life examples to the topic at hand, then developing further into an entire project. First, learners create a poster on bio-based products they found in the market. Then, they are involved in experimental laboratory work. Students conduct three experiments, collect data and make conclusions according to the instructions given in three worksheets:
1st Experiment: Making your Biodiesel 2nd Experiment: Testing your Biodiesel 3rd Experiment: Making your Soap
Finally, students produce a 1-minute-long creative advertisement. Can you spot all seven gold standards for a project-based lesson?
In the video below, you can watch the BLOOM expert teachers share their experiences when implementing this learning scenario:
Bioeconomy and project-based learning
Anticipate challenges of implementing a bioeconomy lesson as a project-based one! Share your thoughts with your peers here.