[appeared in Kyouiku Katei Shinbun December 1998]
This July a proposal by Christian-Gymnasium Hermannsburg, Germany, has
been accepted as a new Socrates Comenius Project (http://www.europa.eu.int/en/comm/dg22/socrates.html).
It is called "Environment and Health" and started this autumn with 20
European schools participating and several universities and teacher
training institutions supporting it (cf. http://www.bionet.schule.de/schulen/gyher/e&h.htm,
Because of the rather broad topic frame, schools from different regions and students of different grades and subjects can participate with sub projects under this umbrella. After experiences have been gained, the project could also serve as a model for a bigger European continuing education project.
"E&H" aims at increasing awareness of our common responsibility for an intact environment as a basis for the health and well-being of the individual. Although environmental problems often have a European or even global dimension, basic data can be collected and actions can be taken on the local level. Knowledge of each other's situation can then lead to joint actions, e.g. on a European level. While in the past the teaching of ecological topics at school has often been focusing on catastrophies, E&H encourages teachers to teach principles of sustainable development and a problem solving oriented ecology.
So students in this project will collect environmental data as well as
data about certain diseases from their region, observe plants,
animals, rivers and the like and put everything into a joint database.
Among the suggested sub topics so far are "environmentally induced
infectious diseases", "tourism and the spreading of infectious
diseases", "diseases caused by air pollution", "nature - a pharmacy
for health", "nature and recreation", "employing databases and
statistical methods for evaluation of environmental data".
From the different suggestions three main teams have been formed to bundle the E&H activities: "Environmentally Induced Risks of Health", "Occurrence and Usage of Healing Herbs" and "Methods of statistical evaluation using database technology across networks."
According to the students' age and the complexity of the problem,
teachers will practice different scientific methods for collecting and
analysing the data together with their students and partners.
New teachers are being coached by collegues experienced from related Bionet projects of the past (http://wfs.eun.org/schools/timeline/bionet/index.html).
To gain communication skills and enable teachers and students to the use of innovative information technology is another aim of the project, so all exchange of material, communication among the project partners and publishing of results is being conducted via the Internet. The participants will also develop material for European level teacher training courses.
Some of the participating students have already used their knowledge to submit their projects to Think Quest in 1997 (http://hyperion.advanced.org/10576/) and 1998 (http://www.thinkquest.org/library/20706.html). Although this project originated in Europe, interested schools from other parts of the world are very welcome to join!