2nd Edition TalentLab: 'Near the Ocean' - workshop summary

The third TalentLab workshop, ‘Near the Ocean’, took place last wednesday (February 6, 2013) at the Institut de Ciències del Mar (CSIC), Barcelona. This workshop was dedicated to the marine ecosystem, focusing on the impact that humans and technology have on it. The session began with a visit to the aquarium facilities of the Institut. Josep Maria Gili showed us how the different marine organisms, like polyps, jellyfish, ctenophores, are maintained. He explained the difficulties in cultivating these species and the need to tightly control a vast number of parameters (light, temperature, water flows, etc.) in order to reliably mimic their natural habitat. This way, researchers are able to study them ‘in situ’ and obtain some specific data, as the growth rate, that otherwise would be impossible to get.

After this interestingly ‘guided tour’, we went back to the workroom and started the workshop itself. The participants divided into five groups and Irene Lapuente (La Mandarina de Newton) explained how the session was going to be lead. The first task was to discuss within each group the images and objects that the participants had brought. In this warm-up activity, the first group highlighted the duality of some topics: the marine monitoring systems – which importantly allow the surveillance of the ecosystems, but do not take into account the need to, at the same time, create awareness; the oil containment booms – extremely useful to minimize the consequences of oil spills, but also a huge visual impact; the cotton swabs – which are of daily use, but are also ‘destruction weapons’ for some marine animals; biodiversity vs. artificial diversity.

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The second group focused on three topics: climate change and the need to be scientifically rigorous when one promotes science; what people enjoy from a day on the beach (explore it, conserve it and memories), and what they don’t (overcrowding or bad smells); and the technology as a tool to reveal the seascapes, otherwise unreachable. The third group, inspired by the concept of the shark as a predator symbol, highlighted the impact of overfishing and pollution in the marine ecosystem which, by bioaccumulation, ends up affecting also the human population. The group also mentioned the impact of the huge floating garbage island and the lack of actions to reduce it. The fourth group focused on the waste, but also on the ‘artificialisation’ of the marine ecosystem: both the creation of new ecosystems, like the human-made coral reefs, and the ‘artificialisation’ of the shores. These concepts led to the topics of functionality and infrastructures, maximum sustainability, and the duality economy vs. ecology. The fifth group mentioned the need to recover some unfairly forgotten knowledge; the need to consider the past to understand the present and face the future. They also discussed the idea of discovering what the sea hides, as a way to reveal what has been done to it.

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From these starting ideas, the groups then identified the target public of their educational resources. Generally, they all chose a cheerful, curious, outgoing student, with multiple interests (music, sports, friends), with few changes in his/her life, and with some family problems. Some of the groups also considered the multiculturalism of our society and the consequences of technologies in the creation of new ‘languages’ (emoticons).

taller 3 006 prioritats semafor

In order to start defining the educational resources, the groups set the priorities and the points to avoid of their proposals. The first group aimed to encourage debate, the active participation of the students, the interdisciplinary, time-restriction, and to avoid the clichés. The second group wanted to encourage the debate and experimentation, to promote physical activity, teamwork, and to avoid the stereotypes, excessive competition and the lack of rigor.

The third group stressed the need to be scientifically rigorous, stimulate curiosity, creativity and teamwork, and that it should be visually appealing, avoiding it from being too technical and theoretical. The fourth group highlighted again the need to generate debate and stimulate thinking, to be fun and visual appealing, and to avoid the typical science exhibition narrative contents. Finally, the fifth group prioritized the need to stimulate curiosity, generate questions and interaction, and to refrain the exclusive use of new technologies.

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After a short break, each group started to give form to their proposals. In this step of the process, the groups had the opportunity to exchange ideas and receive the feedback from all the participants. The final resource proposal of the first group was a mobile application for the users to evaluate the condition of the beaches (services, sport facilities, preservation state). The data generated would be, at the same time, useful for the participants and for the scientific community, as they could extract it for statistical analyses. The second group proposed a collection of ‘Ocean Games’. An adaptation of traditional games to the marine ecosystems’ topic: the ‘scarf game’ with fish names instead of numbers; the ‘Guess Who’ game to identify different marine species; the ‘Who eats Who’ to promote physical activity; and the ‘Memory’ game to pair the species with some of their characteristics. These activities could be offered as a gymkhana during the cultural week, or within the program of school activities.

taller 3 014 proposta 1

The third group devised their resource as a garbage collecting activity from the beaches and its posterior analysis. The effects of waste and chemical contaminants on marine ecosystems would then be discussed in the classroom.

The fourth group proposed a game aiming to reflect on the economic and ecological questions of fishery activity. It would be a team exercise and each group would have its own fleet of boats. Using a mobile application, the groups would ‘go’ on a fishing trip during one week. After this period, the different scenarios created for each trip would be compared and discussed.

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Finally, the proposal of the fifth group was a ‘fishing blog’ to explore in the classroom the present and past of fishery activity. To start, students would have access to related contents and images and from here, they would identify a subject of interest: type of boats, type of fishes, how the fish is sold, the fisherman lifestyle, or the type of fishing tackles. The students would then divide into groups that would have to collect information about the chosen topic. It would be an online resource to promote the use of offline resources: archives, museums, libraries, markets, interviews. Then, the findings would be presented and discussed in the classroom in order to investigate how fishery has changed over the years. A summary of the activity would be uploaded to the blog and there would be the possibility of online feedback. This proposal was the one selected by the workshop participants as the ‘wining’ educational resource of this session.

This workshop extended a bit more than expected: it was almost dinner time when we finished. This was the last TalentLab activity (of this year) exclusively dedicated to teachers and researchers, since the next one will be also opened to the general public. Now, it is time to start working on the three selected educational resources of this second edition of TalentLab.

You can find more photos in our Facebook page.

For more information you can also check out the website of TalentLab.

Laura Valls. Unitat de Cultura Científica Delegació del CSIC. 
Irene Lapuente. La Mandarina de Newton S.L.


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