EAFIT Children's University

  •  Colombia, Medellín, Antioquia
  •   2005
Time frame
  • Continuous
Categories
  • Career Orientation
  • Children's University
  • Creative STEAM (STEM + Arts)
  • Non-Formal Education
  • Inclusion
  • Stakeholder Engagement
Level of Schools
  • Primary School
  • Lower Secondary School
  • Upper Secondary School
  • Special School
External Partners
  • Company
  • NGO
  • Public Authority
  • Museum
Type of Schools
  • Both private and public
URL
Number of Schools involved
  • 70
Number of Schoolheads involved
  • 70
Number of Teachers involved
  • 70
Number of Students involved
  • 675
Number of Parents involved
  • 675
Number of External Partners involved
  • 20
Short Description

EAFIT Children’s University (ECU) is a science education program in Medellín Colombia which unfolds in three lines of action: inter-disciplinary science workshops and events; science communication contents, and science education research. The program aims to foster critical understanding of scientific knowledge by children, young people, and mediators from diverse social backgrounds. Since its foundation in 2005, ECU has engaged 7000 children and young people, 600 schoolteachers, 520 undergraduate students, 390 schools and 240 researchers in long-term science-based formative processes, besides the more than 21,000 people in short-duration initiatives.

Objectives

EAFIT Children's University aims to foster critical understanding of scientific knowledge by children, young people, and mediators from diverse social backgrounds.

Sustainability

ECU has been working non-stop since 2005. The directive board of the university is convinced of the importance of promoting lifelong learning and has witnessed the quantitative and qualitative impact of the children’s university. Therefore, ECU has gained a space in the institutional structure, within the Research Vice-rectory, and has been encouraged to become a project platform which allows the university to have a greater impact on children, young people and education and, thus, contribute to its social and economic sustainability.

Methodology

ECU has four methodological principles. Firstly, there is play, conceived as a strategy to interact with other people, to bring about joy, and to facilitate access to new ideas. Secondly, there is experience, workshops must include hands-on activities to allow children and young people to have a firsthand approach to knowledge. Thirdly, there is conversation, which allows them to recognize the ideas of others, reach consensus, and identify dissents. Finally, there are questions, which are used to encourage interest in those things that might seem obvious and promote critical thinking.
ECU promotes the meeting between researchers and children. This feature entails challenges such as institutional support and conceptual counsellling. Regarding the first one, a facilitating factor has been that EAFIT allocates the time invested by researchers in ECU activities as a fraction of their workload and department heads are plenty aware that ECU is a mission of EAFIT. Considering conceptual counselling, a protocol has been created, so the workflow is clear when they become co-designers and advisors. This protocol includes the writing of a document, participation in meetings along with workshop designers and facilitators and meetings with children and youth.
ECU has resorted to the advice of pedagogy professionals and included a psychology professional in its team. This has contributed to consolidating a formative process for workshop facilitators, which enables them to work with children and youth.

Funding

In 2004, Juan Luis Mejía, Universidad EAFIT’s chancellor, found a book titled The Children’s University, Scholars Explain the Mysteries of the World. Thereby he knew the concept of Children’s University. He encouraged EAFIT’s team to create such a program, the first one in Colombia.
During 2005, ECU was rather a marketing strategy mostly aimed at students from private schools. 200 children came to the campus once a month and participated in a workshop addressing a question selected from a focus group with children within the same age range. Every workshop was created along with an EAFIT researcher. The initiative was so successful that researchers, parents, children and schoolteachers from both participating and non-participating schools asked to continue.
However, an evaluation led to a shift in 2006: ECU started being a social inclusion program. Since then, one half of the participating schools must be public and the other half private. This measure is a way to tackle social fragmentation in a city with a Gini coefficient of 0,464 and with a lower education quality in the public schools compared with the private ones.
Since then, ECU has expanded. Two additional phases were created in which children can continue a formative process. New strategies have been implemented with schoolteachers and professors, science communication contents have been produced and a line in science education research is emerging.

Outcomes

Since its foundation in 2005, ECU has engaged 7000 children and young people, 600 schoolteachers, 520 undergraduate students, 390 schools and 240 researchers in long-term science-based formative processes, besides the more than 21,000 people in short-duration initiatives. Workshops conducted in-campus have been a living lab which have enabled ECU to apply its hands-on methodology off-campus; i) in IBSME projects developed for and with the local and national government and the private sector, including a model of city council with young people, inter-sectoral debate sessions to understand problems of national concern and school clubs for engagement with maths; ii) designing and implementing in-territory community engagement strategies with researchers; iii) promoting science in public events such as Medellin Book Festival, Medellin Science Fair and Early Childhood Festival Buen Comienzo. The science projects of ECU comprise of radio broadcasts, an annual printed publication, science stories booklets, manifestos by children, among others.

Justification

ECU is an inspiring case because it has opened the university and the schools to each other through an interactive methodology including pupils from every socioeconomic background and has enriched school teachers practice to have an actual impact in the classroom.

Didactical Concept

Waldorf pedagogy (Rudolf Steiner)
This program recognizes the seven-year stages of development proposed by this concept and adapts its pedagogical practice to the characteristics of each of them.
Constructivism (Jean Piaget)
ECU encourages the child or young person to interact with the objects of knowledge, seeking while this interaction is carried out with other participants. The activities seek to make the learning meaningful for the subject, that is, the new information is related to the knowledge he already possessed.
Multiple intelligence (Howard Gardner)
To develop the seven types of intelligence, different types of activities are carried out: creative, artistic, corporal, logical math, writing, reflective, individual and group. In workshops, it is intended that the participants do not stay in the informative dimension and reach the comprehension.
Music and movement in education (Karl Orff)
In ECU’s workshops, music is present as a form of expression: groups sing, play and dance, creating an effective climate that brings them together and entertains.
Intellectual Joy (Jorge Wagensberg)
In the workshops, stimuli are offered to arouse curiosity and move the children towards a question. Sensory experiences are provided as ways to relate to reality and stimulate.

Innovation

ECU is innovative because no other program in the city involves children in scientific activities in a way that is free of charges, inclusive, long term (from 1 year up to 5). Besides, it allows children to have an actual contact with science facilities and researchers.

Practice Orientation

ECU has four methodological principles. Firstly, there is play, conceived as a strategy to interact with other people, to bring about joy, and to facilitate access to new ideas. Secondly, there is experience, workshops must include hands-on activities to allow children and young people to have a firsthand approach to knowledge. Thirdly, there is conversation, which allows them to recognize the ideas of others, reach consensus, and identify dissents. Finally, there are questions, which are used to encourage interest in those things that might seem obvious and promote critical thinking.
ECU promotes the meeting between researchers and children. This feature entails challenges such as institutional support and conceptual counselling. Regarding the first one, a facilitating factor has been that EAFIT allocates the time invested by researchers in ECU activities as a fraction of their workload and department heads are plenty aware that ECU is a mission of EAFIT. Considering conceptual counselling, a protocol has been created, so the workflow is clear when they become co-designers and advisors. This protocol includes the writing of a document, participation in meetings along with workshop designers and facilitators and meetings with children and youth.
ECU has resorted to the advice of pedagogy professionals and included a psychology professional in its team. This has contributed to consolidating a formative process for workshop facilitators, which enables them to work with children and youth.

Involvement

Workshop, dialogue, debates and other participatory practices are used to make decisions.

Mutual Learning

ECU learns from researchers about the nuts and bolts of sciences and, the other way around, researchers learn from ECU about learning innovative methodologies and the science of communicating science.
Likewise, other university departments learn from ECU about childhood, science education and participatory methodologies and ECU learns from and leans on them in project management, reaching new clients and partners, and opening new markets. In relation to external entities, mutual learning is a key factor when it comes to local collaborative networks, such as the School Research Network or the Social Appropriation of Science and Technology Network, in which ECU exchanges learnings with other actors promoting public engagement with science in the city. Mutual learning also occurs in the exchange of communication contents with other organizations, such as Magisterio (for schoolteachers), with which framework agreements have been made.

Intergenerationality

ECU has developed projects in which different age groups converge. The most usual intergenerational encounters are between children and adult experts in certain fields of knowledge. Other such encounters occur in specific projects; for instance, in a project funded by a health and insurance company (Sura), ECU worked with children and elderly people to design a classroom education strategy so pupils can question the dominant representations of old age and conceive more comprehensive ways to relate with elderly people. Other initiatives have involved age-diverse rural communities.

Inclusivity

Regarding long-term science-based formative processes, the ECU has involved approximately 6.240 children and young people, 530 school teachers, 480 undergraduate students, 371 primary and secondary education institutions and 210 researchers. In addition, more than 21.000 people have participated in science events. ECU’s formative processes gather children, young people and schoolteachers from private and public schools, providing them an opportunity to recognize and value diversity in a city where these encounters are scarce and where there is a great gap between public and private sectors regarding education quality.

Ethical Aspects

ECU concerns ethical aspects in three senses. Firstly, there is the personal data management, which is addressed complying with all the data protection regulations and law enforced by the National Government and Universidad EAFIT. The second aspect regards the respect for singularity of every participant, to ensure this, the methodology guarantees that nobody’s principles or identity constituents are transgressed. Finally, a program such as ECU inevitably entails the possibility of conflict between the participants; therefore, the program has built a care protocol to which it can resort if it is necessary.

Interdisciplinarity

The participants experience science methodologies that involves different scientific areas.

Transdisciplinarity

ECU integrates scientific and practical knowledge from different disciplines, so it creates a bridge between education theories and education practices. This occurs based on the knowledge of science and pedagogy advisors and the practice-based knowledge produced by the research team at ECU.

Cooperation

ECU works along its partners and participants based on constructivism. Therefore, decisions are taken through dialogue and other concentration practices.

Qualitative assessment Inclusiveness

ECU develops a number of projects which start from the reality in diverse territories, including criteria like age, gender, diversity in all its forms, previous knowledge, among others. This contextualization is reflected in strategies that are tailored to particular regions or contexts, within frameworks such as rurality, post- conflict and peace building.

Democracy

As for in-house strategies, the university departments have a horizontal relationship between them and make decisions democratically. Regarding external affairs; most of them have a democratic nature while a few behave more in a contracting-contractor dynamic; it depends not just on the entities involved, but also on other circumstantial factors.

Supervision

Since 2005, ECU has resorted to ad hoc advisors on pedagogy, didactics, childhood, youth, science communication, science education, participatory methodologies, and so on, according to the needs identified by its work team.

Cooperation Quality

As for in-house strategies, the university departments have a horizontal relationship between them and make decisions democratically. Regarding external affairs; most of them have a democratic nature while a few behave more in an assignee-contractor dynamic; it depends not just on the entities involved, but also on other circumstantial factors.

Role of External Partners

EAFIT Children's University develop diverse strategies with numerous partners. These partners could adopt different roles, such as funders, co-creators, interchangers (we trade one service for another), network partners (city boards on different topics related to social appropriation of knowledge concerning science, technology and territory).

Institutional Learning

ECU conducts practice-based research to structure institutional knowledge and enable its continuous improvement.

Implementation

The in-campus permanent education strategies have a defined implementation team. Ad hoc project formulation committees and implementation teams are formed when needed.

Evaluation

As for assessment, several approaches have been adopted resulting in enriching insights which contribute to continuous improvement. Nevertheless, ECU still lacks a consensual and comprehensive assessment model that enables comparability among periodic results.

Documentation
phere

Several documents collect ECU’s learnings: systematization report, practice-based research reports, reports of assessments conducted by third parties are some instances.