Teaching coding is currently gaining momentum across the world to help young people develop technological fluency and deeper understanding of how the digital world is created, how it might be used to meet our needs, how we might repair or modify it. At the same time, the maker movement of independent innovators, designers and tinkerers has dynamically entered the landscape of innovative education and non-formal and informal learning, offering an unprecedented opportunity for educators to advance a progressive educational agenda. Across the spectrum of these emerging creative learning activities, the elements of fun and playfulness are dominant harnessing children’s sense of joy, wonder and natural curiosity, achieving high levels of engagement and learner’s personal investment in learning. The links and contributions of these creative learning approaches and activities to science education are strong and obvious, albeit still only little explored and understood in depth.
The COMnPLAY SCIENCE project aims to help Europe better understand the new ways in which non-formal and informal science learning is taking place through various coding, making, and play activities that young Europeans (children, adolescents and young adults) are nowadays increasingly engaged with, outside school and higher education science classrooms, beyond the formal boundaries of science education.
The project started on the 1st of June 2018, has a 3-year duration and has received 3,1M€ funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Carefully positioning the research within the context of the overarching contemporary discourses on Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts) and Mathematics (STEM/STEAM) education, Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), and science capital, the project’s main objectives are to:
- Develop an appropriate conceptual and methodological framework integrating all aspects of the project into a unifying conceptual map.
- Setup a European-wide community of stakeholders, including learners, educators, facilitators and policy makers from diverse fields, to contribute, guide and help assessing the conducted research.
- Identify, pool and analyse diverse existing coding, making and play-based practices taking place outside formal science classrooms which bear some promise for non-formal and informal science learning.
- Conduct in-depth learner-centred participatory empirical research on selected practices.
- Gain a deep understanding of the impact that this kind of non-formal and informal science learning has on formal science education, traditional non-formal and informal science learning interventions, young people as learners and citizens, as well as, on society.
- Communicate and disseminate the messages and outcomes of the project widely, and enable the exploitation of the findings of the research through the development of relevant guidance for practitioners and recommendations for policy development and further research.
In the short term, the project will identify good practices in terms of science education outside the classroom and consider the impact this information has on formal and non-formal and informal science education for students and citizens. Through in-depth research, the project will gain valuable new knowledge on the nature and impact of this kind of non-formal and informal science learning, which it will then apply to shed new light on all of the practices identified at the outset.
In the medium term, the results of the project are expected to help the EU to better understand the effects of science education outside the regular education institutions and increase the range of innovative products in science education that reflect societal needs. Additionally, concrete project outcomes will open up ways for the development of further relevant initiatives – already in the course of the project and sustainably after the end of the funded project period.
In the long term, the results of the project are expected to contribute to considerations on accrediting the available information. Paving the way to achieving an accreditation of non-formal and informal science education through coding, making and play activities in the future.
In addition to the above contributions, the project constitutes a much needed, very timely intervention with an important wider impact on the worlds of science learning, scientific citizenship, and on society at large. The new understandings and knowledge generated by the project also create new market opportunities, as they enable European societies and economies to develop innovative initiatives, products and services, readily available to enrich and innovate formal science education and traditional non-formal and informal science learning interventions.
The main results stemming from the project include:
- An online inventory of all the identified and pooled practices, appropriately categorized and annotated in the light of the findings of the research, available to stakeholders and the public.
- A set of community building methods and tools for everyone wishing to get involved in community building linked to the project.
- A Web-based game promoting and supporting the continuous prolonged engagement of learners and their facilitators in the field research.
- The COMnPLAY-Science Knowledge Kit, a modular set of reader-friendly, practice-oriented publications, encapsulating the findings of the project.
- The COMnPLAY-Science Roadmap for Europe, a detailed concerted account by the consortium, the stakeholder communities and policy makers of the potential for short-, medium- and long term impact of coding, making and play-based non-formal and informal science learning.
Numerous public events (workshops, training seminars, conferences, contests, fairs), often combined with training activities (winter and summer schools).
The project will compile 13 quality-assured public deliverables, diligently prepared as reader-friendly edited documents meant to inform not only the consortium in the next steps of the project, but also the interested average reader outside the project. They will be made available in electronic form through the website of the project.
The project’s public deliverables include (month of delivery in parenthesis):
- D1.1 CoM’n’Play-Science Conceptual and Framework (Oct. 2018)
- D1.2 CoM’n’Play-Science Research Instruments and Tools (Jan. 2019)
- D2.1 CoM’n’Play-Science Identified Practices and Research Sample (Jan. 2019)
- D2.2 CoM’n’Play-Science Online Inventory of Practices – First Version (Oct. 2019)
- D2.3 CoM’n’Play-Science Online Inventory of Practices – Final Version (May 2021)
- D3.1 CoM’n’Play-Science Research on Learning Interim Report (Oct. 2019)
- D3.2 CoM’n’Play-Science Research on Learning Final Report (Aug. 2020)
- D3.3 CoM’n’Play-Science Research on Impact on Science Education and Society Report (Aug. 2020)
- D4.2 Community Building Methods and Tools (Aug. 2018)
- D4.3 Proceedings of the First COM’n’PLAY-Science Research and Innovation Workshop (Oct. 2019)
- D4.4 Proceedings of the Second COM’n’PLAY-Science Research and Innovation Workshop (Aug. 2020)
- D4.5 Proceedings of the COM’n’PLAY-Science Final Conference (May 2021)
- D4.6 COM’n’PLAY-Science Knowledge Kit and Roadmap for Europe (May 2021)
Numerous dissemination and exploitation activities and events will be realised in the course of the project.
Local events: Initiatives addressing people within the partner institutions, as well as communities of stakeholders at the local level, e.g. learners, educators, facilitators, policy makers in the context of a town or city in which a project partner develops community-based activity for the project.
Major events: Nine major communication events will be organized in conjunction with corresponding major project consortium meetings. More precisely:
- Introductory Workshop (June 2018)
- Community Workshop (Oct. 2018)
- Grand Launch Event and Winter School (winter 2018-19)
- Community Workshop and Contest Launch (spring 2019)
- First Research and Innovation Workshop and Summer School (summer 2019)
- Community Workshop and Contest Launch (winter 2019-20)
- Second Research and Innovation Workshop and Summer School (spring/summer 2020)
- Key Stakeholder Workshop (autumn 2020)
- Final Conference and Fair (spring 2021)
The consortium consists of 11 distinguished members from 10 European countries (Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, UK) bringing together the multifaceted necessary expertise required for the project, complementing each another, representing the stakeholders in the world of innovative non-formal and informal science learning, and reflecting the geographical, cultural and socioeconomic diversity of Europe.