BRINGING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH INTO THE CLASSROOM
The IZSV-edu project was realized within the framework issued by the European Union, along with the strategy for animal health and public health 2007-2013, which aims to ensure public health through the reduction of food risks, providing clear and transparent information to consumers. In this context, the Istituto Zoooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe), in collaboration with the Regional School Office for the Veneto Region (USR), has designed and implemented the 2-years project " IZSV-edu", directed at high school students. The first edition was held between November 2011 and May 2012, and the second was held between November 2012 and May 2013, in 3 different Regions of North-Italy.
Aims and methodology:
The project was designed to promote health education, to improve students’ knowledge and to develop technical competencies in the context of food safety and risk communication, within the methodological framework of “learning by doing”. In addition to these educational goals, scientific data were collected on knowledge, attitudes, intentions and habits of the students, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of an integrated "theoretical-practical" approach, compared to a classical one. All the lessons were given by experts and researchers from the IZSVe, paying particular attention to the development of science and risk communication skills.
The 1st edition was attended by 850 students (35 classes, 140 lessons). Teachers and students could choose among more than 20 different didactic modules, including microbiology, chemistry, hystopatology, parasitology, virology, molecular biology, epidemiology, risk and science communication. In this edition, from an initial situation of correct knowledge equal to 63.1 %, after the introductory course it passed to 89%. The general learning scored a satisfactory result, with 83, 1% of correct questions after the intervention.
The 2nd edition was attended by 175 students (12 classes, 18 lessons), and it was focused on chemical risks in food and risk communication. The classes were divided into two laboratories, virtual lab and practical lab. A risk communication lab followed. The learning evaluation shows that the mean number of correct answers is higher after the intervention; comparing the two methods there are significant differences in the mean number of correct answers given in the questionnaire ex-post: virtual = 15,54; practical = 14,86 (F=4,386; p=0,038).
For both the editions students were required to realize effective science and risk communication products.
Discussion and conclusion:
The project succeeded in transferring knowledge and skills to students and schools have demonstrated a keen interest in the proposal. The satisfaction was generally high: 97% of teachers have expressed a “good” or “very good” preference, while among students was 94.5%.
The didactic modules attracted considerable scientific interest in current issues, and they proved to be essential for learning contents, providing an added value with respect to the traditional teachings. On the other side, the science communication modules resulted innovative and challenging, for the proper understanding of the relationship between science, media and society.