Lights! Camera! STEAM!

By Clarisa Guerra Guerrero (This article was originally published in Spanish Science Communication Association’s blog) Last month I landed in Cleve, a small German town close to The Netherlands border. […]


By Clarisa Guerra Guerrero

(This article was originally published in Spanish Science Communication Association’s blog)

Last month I landed in Cleve, a small German town close to The Netherlands border. The reason: to take part, with almost fifty other restless minds from all over the world, in STEAM (Science + Technology + Engineering + ARTS + Mathematics), a very special summer school that pursues improvement and creativity in Science Communication.

It’s been only a month since I came back from this summer school, so I beg your pardon if I spill sentimentality all over the place, but the last time I went to a summer school was when I was around seven years old and I had forgotten how deep are the friendships one can shape within only two weeks of communal living. A coexistence that during 11 days began early in the morning having breakfast at the hostel where most of the students were living, till late at night in the living room, with seven-hour classes in between at the Rhine Waal University of Cleve.

However STEAM is not a summer school as an end itself but a long term Project co funded by the European program Erasmus +, a Project that reflects the teamwork of seven partners: four universities (Malta, Haaga-Helia,  Rhine-Waal and Edinburgh), the Greek Organization Science View, the European Union Programmes Agency (EUPA) and thSTEAM 04e European Union of Science Journalists Associations (EUSJA), who I have to thank for the grant that allowed me to attend.

So if there was something that characterizes STEAM it would be “dialogue”: we were encouraged to listen carefully to what everybody had to say and to take part in all the activities. We were continuously absorbing useful information, exploring, reflecting, expressing results and acting, we were doing so much more than taking notes. We drew a hundred colour diagrams, organized events such as the famous Comedy show ‘Bright Club’ which was completely sold out at the main café in town. Including this, we directed and starred in a science theatre show, recorded science communication videos, reproduced experiments for the public and even travelled to Amsterdam to visit Nemo Science Center. All of this was done under the invaluable guidance of a group of professors who proved to be science communication ambassadors and friends, always ready to help you with their unrivalled knowledge and passion.

One of the main messages of the lectures was the necessity to maximize the public engagement towards science and the capability of involving society not only in science results but also in the research itself. The professors showed us some examples like the Greek initiative Learning Science through Theatre or the British National co-ordinating Centre for public engagement and Wellcome Trust, who we had a really interesting chat by Skype with.

Besides the desire to connect with society and include arts in the STEM equation, one of the most valuable assets that I’ve found in this summer school was the opportunity to build a strong, international network in science communication. A unique chance to start building international teams, essential if you want to apply for European funding projects. This is something that two of the main leaders of this Project, Alexander Gerber (Germany) and Edward Duca (Malta), know well as they began to think about STEAM between conferences and coffees with other Greek and Scottish colleagues at ESOF 2014 in Copenhagen.

But as I said before, STEAM doesn’t finish here. Next year there will be a new edition, the second of the four that are planned. Next time there will be another partner who will host the school but the spirit will be for sure the same: science communication, creativity and communal living. So I can only recommend that you stay tuned so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of this brand new and yet so big family. I hope that we can visit you next year!


About Hanns-J. Neubert

Hanns-J. Neubert is a freelance science journalist. He is member of the board of the German science writers TELI, where he has been chaiman from 2001 to 2013. He served EUSJA between 2004 and 2012 as Vice-Preisident and President.