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Junior high school pupils discover digital sciences

Martine Reynès and Annabelle Dupuis, information officers at Paul Eluard of Cysoing (Nord) junior high school, gave pupils the opportunity to discover computational sciences. This approach took place in collaboration with the teams at Inria Lille - Nord Europe.

Why did the Collège Paul Eluard de Cysoing decide to get involved in digital sciences with Inria?

Martine Reynès: This initiative was my idea, as I liked the positive effect of meetings between researchers and school pupils. The Science Festival acted as a trigger, as I used is as an opportunity to get in touch with Inria. Two researchers – Caterina Calgaro from the Mephysto team (joint with the ULB, the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the Université Lille 1*1) and Nicolas Roussel from the Mint project team (joint with the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the Université Lille1*2) – came to present their research and it was a very positive experience. We were then involved with Inria as part of the "Semaine des Mathématiques" (Mathematics Week) and enjoyed the participation of Caterina Calgaro and Laetitia Jourdan from the Dolphin project team (joint with the Université Lille1*3).

Annabelle Dupuis: We have a very good relationship with Inria, but the key point is that the pupils are extremely interested in digital sciences! All we do is encourage it.

How have the pupils reacted?

M. R.: They were a bit surprised to start with. We gave them a brochure produced by Inria explaining the different uses of digital resources.

A. D.: The subjects were fairly demanding, but a lot of young people are very inquisitive. And the researchers are able to use concrete examples to explain complex notions. Laetitia Jourdan used the functioning of ant colonies to decrypt the optimisation of transport flows.

Why is it important for the school to invest in this type of learning?

M. R.: Digital technology is a world in which the pupils are constantly involved. The school has to act as a knowledge centre by helping them to understand these tools.

A. D.: Young people do not necessarily understand what applied mathematics is used for. Presentations like these are very positive and their teachers are thrilled that people can come and explain the role the sciences play in real life.

What educational actions are you providing in this area?

M. R.: A physics teacher has started a digital animation cinema club and robotics club. At the CDI, we teach them to sort information, carry out research, and present a document in the correct way. CAE (computer-assisted experimentation) will start in September as part of the Physics and Life and Earth Sciences programs. We will have a classroom equipped with laptop computers. We still need to invest in dedicated software in these areas, although many teachers are not trained in this software and training takes time.

What do the pupils think of their education in digital technologies?

M. R.: They are enthusiastic. I have organised documentary research, drafting and formatting work using the software tool in mathematics, physics and life and earth sciences. Our involvement has allowed us to define the most suitable methodologies: not doing things without thinking, quoting sources, presenting documents correctly and adopting a critical approach.

A. D.: Martine and I will leave the college in June. But this work should be taken up by a mathematics teacher and a physics teacher. It cannot be denied that real momentum has developed at the school in the field of digital sciences.

*1 au sein de l'UMR 8524 CNRS-Lille1, Laboratoire Paul Painlevé.
*2 au sein de l'UMR 8022 CNRS-Lille1-Lille 3-Inria, LIFL et de l'EA 2697 L2EP.
*3 au sein de l'UMR 8022 CNRS-Lille1-Lille 3-Inria, LIFL.

Keywords: Popular science initiatives Scientific mediation at school Education in digital technologies Education