Scientists like Maria A. Blasco, Óscar Fernández-Capetillo or Luis Paz-Ares talk to their children about their passion for science as a means to change the world
In its 2nd edition, the educational and scientific communication project drew twice as many participants
Over 1,200 educators and students have participated so far
Although they often say adults tend to leave childhood easily behind, we keep two driving forces inside, passion and curiosity, that we have inherited from the children we were. These forms of energy were part of our lives as we grew up, moving us to change the world in adulthood.
In an effort to promote the curiosity within us, CNIO & The City, educational and scientific communication project of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), came to a close with a video where several CNIO researchers talk to their children about their passion for science. They include María A. Blasco, Centre’s Director and Head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group; Óscar Fernández Capetillo, Vice-Director and Head of the Genomic Instability Group; Ana Losada, Head of the Chromosome Dynamics Group; Diego Megías, Head of the Confocal Microscopy Core Unit; and Luis Paz-Ares, Head of the H12O-CNIO Lung Cancer Clinical Research Unit. In the video, they answer the questions posed by their children, Ariel, Emma, Paula, Bruno, Luna and Luis, about what is being a researcher like and why their parents chose this field of human activity as they perform some of the things they like: music, football, gymnastics, etc. Thus, the video, made by visual artist Amparo Garrido, who is CNIO Coordinator of Institutional Image and Cultural Activity, brings together the passions of the Centre’s researchers and those of their children.
“CNIO & The City is part of one of our strategic pillars: bringing CNIO closer to society. Other programmes in this strategy are Friends of CNIO and CNIO Arte,” says Maria A. Blasco. “It is a crucial strategy to develop greater appreciation for science in society and to pave the way for generations of researchers to come. We want CNIO & The City to keep growing in the future, with the support of FECYT,” she adds.
As Óscar Fernández-Capetillo puts it in the video, doing research is “going where nobody has been before, finding what nobody knew existed. And you do it because you’re curious. Science is curiosity with a structure. That’s what we, scientists, do.”
In children, curiosity is less structured, but passion is abundant. And data show they are passionate about science and technology: according to the latest report on Social Perception of Science by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), published in late 2018, youths show greater interest in scientific and technological topics, and they take part in science outreach activities. According to the same report, little knowledge of what scientists do is one of the main weaknesses. This could be discouraging for youths wanting to pursue a career in science. However, the report concludes that, over the past few years, researchers have become more attractive models for youngsters.
The 2nd CNIO & The City, coming to an end in June, is strengthening the bridges that connect the scientific community to society and the educational community through co-creation. Rising participation numbers attest to the programme’s success: this year, it drew twice as many participants as last year. The two main activities – EDUCACNIO, fostering creativity and scientific leanings in students, and FORMACNIO, giving new educational tools to teachers – gathered 112 secondary school students, 80% of whom were girls, and 72 educators, 75% of whom were women. So far, 1,200 educators and students have been part of the programme since it was first held.
“There was a demand for CNIO science to come to the classroom. We wanted boys and girls to see us while sitting at their desks, so that we could build knowledge together. By going outside the lab, by stepping out of our comfort zone, we were able to reach a wider audience and learn about their needs, to understand what the educational community expects of us and to help learning centres in underprivileged areas, which could not come to us,” says Carolina Pola, who is in charge of the programme.
The presence of women in all the activities reflects the programme’s commitment to bridging the gender gap in science – a goal achieved with the cooperation of the Women in Science Office (WISE) at CNIO.
In addition to training activities at the Centre, educational talks and popular science videos, the project included scientific workshops in schools for the first time. Many of these workshops were targeted at elementary school children, in an effort to foster STEM education in younger generations (6- to 12-year-olds).
The programme’s achievements would not have been possible without the cooperation of over 100 CNIO volunteers (twice as many as in the 1st edition), from unit or group heads to lab technicians or administrative staff members, who chose to share their knowledge and spend their time kindling a passion for science in the little ones.
CNIO & The City was established in 2017 with the support of FECYT, with the aim of strengthening CNIO’s efforts to reach out to the community, youths in particular, promoting science as an attractive endeavour, necessary to the development of society. The idea was to go beyond individual events (like the European Researchers’ Night or Science Week) and integrate them into an outreach programme that is active all year round.
The 2nd CNIO & The City relied on collaboration from underbau, Scienseed, STEMadrid Plan, the Madrid-Oeste Territorial Centre for Innovation and Training (CTIF), 4º E.S.O + Empresa, Somos Científicos, Diverciencia (Friends of Science Association) and STEM Talent Girl.
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Link to video: CNIO & The City: Changing the World (with English subtitles)