The dialogue between public and science is important for understanding science itself as an invaluable part of our modern day and age. During the Corona pandemic, this dialogue has both enhanced and worsened: while the constant statements and explanations of virologists and epidemiologists have opened the eyes to a lot of people about the process of research, publication and its importance during an issue of utmost importance, the amount of so called “fake news” and conspiracy theories has sadly increased as well. It is therefore important to teach the principles of science and its importance starting from a young age so that the children of today can make the important decisions of tomorrow based on objective facts and not on the biased and simplified propaganda of demagogues.
To contribute to this process, we figured it would be best to make science projects.
In order to bring science, scientific work and science communication closer to children at a young age, we contacted a number of primary schools. Because of the pandemic and the associated safety precautions, we have unfortunately not received any confirmations from most schools. But we were lucky with the fifth grader of the “Naturwissenschaften-AG” from the Nikolaus-Ehlen-Gymnasium Velbert.
We briefly explained to the students what synthetic biology is and how scientists can solve current problems with science. However, the main topic of the course was "Seeing". With several experiments we showed the students how vision works and why we need light, our eyes and our brain to see our environment.
We used experiments on the expansion of pupils to explain how our eyes react to different light intensities and we explained how colors are created using a CD.
In the second part we concentrated on the question "Why do we need two eyes?". By trying to fix a point with the thumb while closing one eye alternately the students concluded that our two eyes perceive different images that become one image in the brain. In another experiment, the students tried to hit a point with a pen tip with one eye closed.From this they reason that two eyes are necessary to assess distances correctly.
Sometimes the students expanded the experiments and carried out their own experiments, which shows how interested they are in science and scientific work and observation. It was a pleasure working with so many smart kids and answering questions about “the yellow thing in the eye” and “who Iris is”.
Another tool we used to reach out to the public is social media especially Instagram. Using various comics with our mascot Physco, we presented facts about GMOs and raised awareness of important topics on special days. So we started GMOnday. On Mondays we shared information on GMOs, their areas of application and how they affect our daily lives. We also gave the opportunity to ask questions about GMOs, which we answered.
We used Instagram to draw attention to certain topics on special days. On World Oceans Day, we raised awareness of the problem of ocean pollution (chemical, plastic, light and noise pollution) and coral bleaching. We also shared tips that anyone can use to protect the oceans.
The biospektrum is a German science magazine that deals with current scientific topics and discoveries. We had the honor of publishing the article “Moos zur Rückgewinnung von Phosphat” (Moss for Phosphate Recovery) in the edition of September 2020, in which we explain the problem with phosphate and the goal of Mossphate. The article can be found here.
This year we also got the chance to participate in the “journal initiative” from iGEM Maastricht. They collected research papers from iGEM teams all around the world to create a journal to assemble all the projects of the 2020 iGEM competition. Hence we published the article “Mossphate: Yesterday’s wastewater can fuel tomorrow’s crops”to draw more attention to our work. It was a great chance to practice both scientific work submission and publication.