Teaching with bioeconomy

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 1-Using bioeconomy to connect STEM with everyday life

Implementing bioeconomy in STEM lessons
All sciences – be it Mathematics, Biology, Technology, Engineering or Chemistry – have one thing in common. They all revolve around finding solutions to different problems. This is the key to introducing bioeconomy to STEM lessons. It is also important to spend enough time on hands-on experiments, as they are an excellent way of helping students to take ownership of their learning process. Even better if the lesson or project results in a final product that students can work towards.

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As an advice, BLOOM expert teachers Nele Deckx and Costantina Cossu suggest the following:

Let students drive their own discovery process by letting them be as involved in the experiments as possible. For example, if you plan on implementing the “Growing plastic & new life for plastic” learning scenario, then you can ask students to bring their own household waste which is rich in starch. For example: beans, pasta, fennel or potatoes. It’s a great way of involving students not only during the lessons but at home as well.

Finding a real life connection to bioeconomy

While the connection between bioeconomy and real life is rather apparent, it can be important to emphasize the issue of climate change and possible solutions to students to catch their attention. This can be done easily for example by showing educational videos about bioeconomy. Here’s what the BLOOM expert teachers think:

Even though many people are not aware of it, bioeconomy is already part of our everyday lives. Biological resources and innovative technologies are already being used to replace unsustainable products and processes that are currently produced from fossil resources. Some biobased goods may even have novel properties, which make them superior to the products we currently depend on. Check out the first module of this MOOC to learn about bio-based products.

Furthermore, it can be quite difficult to find existing research about bioeconomy. Apart from finding examples in this course (see the optional section in the first module), BLOOM expert teacher Miguel Angel Abril Lopez suggests the following:

If by any chance, you have the means, try to make school administrators and government representatives aware of the importance of this concept and if you developed educational resources related to bioeconomy, share them openly with other schools to help them extend their resources about bioeconomy.

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Using bioeconomy to connect STEM with everyday life
In the next section, we will discover jobs related to the field of bioeconomy. What kind of bioeconomy-related jobs do you think your students could already be involved in when they finish their education?

2.Jobs of the future in the bioeconomy sector

In the previous section, you not only discovered solutions to guide you when you first implement bioeconomy in your classroom, we also asked you what bioeconomy-related jobs you think your students could already be involved in when they finish their education. In this section of the module, we will uncover some of these opportunities. First, let’s explore the landscape of the changing job sector.

Jobs in the bioeconomy sector
The arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the already present environmental challenges we discussed in Module 1 – while being nothing short of life altering for the entire population of the Earth – also open up new opportunities in the form of green jobs of the future. This collection by the National Geographic details some of them. Let us also discover the jobs of the future (and present) in the field of bioeconomy!

The bioeconomy sector currently employs 18 million people in the EU. This number is expected to grow, as the bioeconomy sector expands in the coming years. Many of your students can actually be future employees working in a bio-refinery!
People with careers in bioeconomy have skill sets that make them employable in high demand jobs. Some of the job titles in the bioeconomy sector are the following:

-Production Manager
-Quality Control Systems Manager
-Marketing Specialist
-Mechanical Engineer
-Laboratory Manager
-Research Scientist
-Process Engineer
-Environmental Health & Safety Specialist
-Chemical Engineer

One of the many benefits of the bioeconomy sector, when it comes to jobs, is that it develops regions and brings prosperity to local communities for example in the form of a bio-refinery being established in an otherwise deprived sregion. Watch the video below to see some examples of this from France, Germany or Hungary:

What can I do in my own classroom to help students build careers in bioeconomy?

In this article, Carolyn Cohen and Davis G. Patterson (2012) collected some general tips on how to encourage students to choose scientific careers:

1-Incorporate both formal and informal approaches: Constantly bring career awareness into your activities and do not keep it as a separate unit.
2-Help students see scientists as real people: Students may have difficulty imagining themselves as scientists because they cannot see that scientists have a normal life, just like them.
3-Connect the dots: It is not enough just to expose students to career information; the teacher also has to directly connect career information with whatever the students are learning at the time.
4-Embed reflection: To make sure that information sticks with students, embed reflection to drive a deeper understanding.

We have also collected some tips on how to encourage students to think about bioeconomy careers:

1-Here’s this career wheel, developed specifically for the bioenergy industry. As an interactive tool, it explores the growing network of bioenergy occupations, illustrates potential career pathways, and identifies the education and training necessary for each career.

2-Encourage open discussion and raise awareness. It can put your students at ease if they know that they can turn to you for advice. Simultaneously, by sharing information about bioeconomy, you are already doing a lot to open your students’ eyes to new opportunities.

3-You can of course organise a field trip to your local bio-refinery or bio-farm/market. This will help students see how these processes work in real life.

4-Encourage school-industry collaboration. Companies are keen to work together with schools and to find future workforce. In the next section, we will discover in detail how to invite company representatives to your school!

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How does your region relate to bioeconomy?
Share an example of bioeconomy application in your country (research this if necessary). Does the region you teach in produce anything biobased? Share the results with us!

3-Encouraging school-industry collaboration

The previous section presented a number of possible bioeconomy careers. This section will guide teachers on how to explore regional and national bioeconomy industries and potentially connect schools with them.

Why?

School-industry collaboration has a two-fold benefit. First, it is increasingly important for teachers and schools to help pupils see what opportunities lie ahead for them. Secondly, as part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR), companies increasingly seek to reach out to schools to help foster necessary knowledge and skills in students.

How?

If you are thinking about inviting an industry representative of a regional or national bioeconomy-related company, let us see which simple steps you could follow!

In order to create a pleasant and educational experience for both the industry representative and you students, here are some tips to guide you:

1- Find and contact a visiting professional. For this, you can always use the PGBS tool.
2-Appoint a contact person. In most cases, this is a teacher, who keeps in contact with the visiting professional. Why not take on the role yourself?
3-Decide on the main objectives. In collaboration with the visiting professional agree on a simple set of objectives. These objectives can be related to:
I-Topic
II-Finding the link with the current curriculum
III-Agreeing on key messages and expected outcomes
4-Develop the agenda for the day.
5-Prepare the students. Once the visit is confirmed, the school needs to ensure that the participating pupils are well prepared in order to get the most out of their interaction with the visiting professional.
I-Connect or introduce the visit as a part of a lesson. Depending on the expertise of the visiting professional, you could embed the visit in your bioeconomy project.
II-Students’ interest for the professional should be cultivated. In collaboration with the visiting professional, use photos, videos, brochures, a small bio to get students excited about the upcoming visit.
III-Discuss the “code” for the event. Tell students what is expected of them in terms of behaviour and learning. You can read more here.
6-Obtain consent. It is important that both your students and the visiting professional consents to being photographed.
7-Start disseminating! The promotion of your event is very important, especially if the wider educational community is involved.
The above information was taken from the “Professionals Go Back to School Scheme”, developed under the Systemic and STEM Alliance projects. If you would like to find out what steps to follow during and after the event, check out this guide.

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For the activity below, please use this template.
Encouraging school-industry collaboration
Share below a brief plan of an industry representative of the bioeconomy industry visiting your school! This could happen, for example, within the framework of a career day. Use the template shared above this Padlet to prepare your plan.

1-BIOECONOMY KNOWLEDGE IN SCHOOLS
2-BIOECONOMY IN THE CLASSROOM
3-TEACHING WITH BIOECONOMY
4-ASSESSING LEARNING OUTCOMES

From: MOOC teaching bioeconomy

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