For the last 15 years, the British Council in France has worked in partnership with the French Ministry of Education to implement the Science in Schools programme across the whole country.
Since 2005, UK-based researchers, engineers or university teams have been coming to French schools to deliver interactive science workshops in English on a variety of STEM topics. French pupils get to practice their English in a specific context whilst improving their knowledge of science and their perception of contemporary research.
Evaluation feedback shows that:
- 93% of pupils find that a workshop delivered by researchers in English is not a barrier to understanding the scientific content
- 40% of pupils express interest in pursuing science subjects to a higher level following participation in a workshop, in addition to an average of 25% prior to participation in the Science in Schools programme.
How does the programme work?
The British Council identifies teams of UK scientists or STEM Ambassadors willing to come to an area of France for a week to deliver interactive workshops on their research topic to local schools. The duration of workshops can vary between 1 to 3 hours depending on the level and age of each class and sessions are delivered entirely in English, even at primary level. To optimise communication and understanding, the researchers use a blend of scientific experiments, hands-on activities and interactive presentations tailored to the needs of each group.
Depending on the theme, some Science in Schools workshops are delivered in laboratory conditions at a local university. Taking pupils to a university campus and encouraging discussion with researchers as well as older students is a good way to create links and to spark interest in higher education and careers in research. Watch a French news report showing one of our Science in Schools workshops in a Chemistry Department in Lille.
Approximately 10 French local authorities per year are selected by the Ministry of Education to participate in the programme and requests from schools to get involved must be sent directly to the International Relations Office. The British Council cannot accept individual applications from teachers.
A few examples of workshops
Physics and astronomy
A UK expert in physics and astronomy explains the basic science of optics. Pupils are then set the challenge of making their very own telescope. Next, they are tasked with calculating the age of the universe and, finally, they consider ways of communicating with extra-terrestrial intelligence! Read the British Council blog about this expert’s account of delivering his workshop on the French island of La Reunion.
Electricity and lightning
An aeronautical engineer researching the effects of lightning on aircraft explains his work to pupils and refreshes their knowledge on conductivity. He presents parts of aircraft that have been struck by lightning and shows videos of lightning strikes on aircraft both in the air and also in laboratory conditions. Once the pupils have understood the science, they carry out a mock radio newsflash in English reporting a frightening incident involving a lightning strike on an aeroplane at Roissy airport. Proving that scientists have many talents, this engineer is also a radio presenter in his spare time and he records the pupils giving their scientific account of the incident – in English! Read the British Council blog explaining how this engineer developed his electricity workshop.
Music and mobile devices
A sound artist currently carrying out a PhD researching ‘Composition and Interactivity’ at De Montfort University proposes a workshop based on the principles of electronic sound and the theory of electro-acoustic music. Using mobile devices to explain and demonstrate these closely linked fields of study, pupils learn how sound is captured and synthesised and the workshop demonstrates audio visually the processes involved in manipulating and shaping waveforms as “representations of sound” - the essence of electronic music. Read the artist’s own blog, where he talks about his Science in Schools workshop on sound and music
Resources for teachers
To enable as many teachers as possible to introduce the Science in Schools approach to their classroom teaching, we have produced a science resource pack for teachers which can be downloaded from the British Council Schools Online website.
Arts in Schools workshops
In the same vein, we also deliver “Arts in Schools” workshops on themes such as the cinema or drama. Recently we carried out a Shakespeare workshop in Montpellier to mark the 400 years of the death of the bard. Download the Shakespeare education teaching resources pack.
Communicating science in schools: SchoolLab
Three years ago we launched a pilot project called “SchoolLab”, in the Lille local authority. SchoolLab is the junior version of the international science communication competition FameLab. If you are a FameLab alumni and would like to be involved in the France SchoolLab project as a mentor, please write to email@example.com.
How can I participate if I’m a UK based scientist?
If you are a UK-based researcher, engineer, or STEM Ambassador and have a passion for science communication, (NB. you are not required to have UK nationality) send us your application to get involved in running Science in Schools workshops in France!
The Terms and Conditions are:
- You must be available for one full week.
- Your workshop proposal must already have been tested and approved in the UK. You will be required to provide a DBS (ex-CRB) check.
- The British Council will cover all costs related to travel, accommodation and subsistence for a maximum 3 team members, plus costs related to the purchase of products or materials not readily available in French schools (up to a total value of £1000).
- The duration of workshops must be between 1 to 2 hours at primary level and between 2 to 3 hours at secondary level. Depending on the duration, there may be between 9 to15 workshops per week in total.
- Teams or individuals will be accompanied by a British Council France staff member and/or a local education representative throughout the week.
If you meet the above requirements and have an interesting workshop proposal, please fill in the form below and return it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We accept applications all year round.