Other incredible school visits for the APECS Belgium team!

Last fall APECS Belgium visited the “British International School of Brussel (BISB)” and the “Collège Saint-Pierre of Uccle (CSPU)” to celebrate the Antarctica Day (1st of December). Our team met with very interested students aging from 6 to 13 years old. The main objective was to enhance outreach and education among the new generation concerning polar environments and ecosystems. A second goal was to place some pinhole cameras (also called cameras obscuras) around the school, to capture the sunlight cycle in Brussels over a period of 6 months. This project was part of an international collaboration of different APECS boards – Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands – with the Dutch artist Udo Prinsen (https://udoprinsen.com/). Our members Valentina, Sarah, Caroline, Marianna, Henrik, Benoit, Camille and Quentin managed to install up to five cameras thanks to the instrumental help of all the students and their teachers.

Six months later (June 2019), the APECS team went back to the same schools to retrieve the cameras, see the students again and talk about the difference in the sunlight cycle between temperate and polar regions. The kids were full of enthusiasm and very well prepared to discuss the topic. They participated actively to the meeting, asking many questions, and giving very in-depth opinions on the matter (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Students from first and last year of Primary School at the British International School of Brussels (BISB).

At the BISB, Caroline first explained the earth’s rotation with the help of two student volunteers, a globe and a torch (Figure 2) to show the seasonal cycle in the poles and the alternation of a period of complete darkness with a period of constant light. Afterwards, Marianna showed the different steps of the experiment and revised with the students the protocol they used to control the status of the cameras during the entire extent of the experiment. At the end, Benoit asked the students’ opinion on how to retrieve the pictures, while explaining how the cameras obscuras actually work. After that… Magic happened!

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Figure 2. Caroline explaining the the earth’s rotation with the help of two student volunteers, a globe and a torch.
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Figure 3. A very “magic” picture of Benoit. Can you spot him?

With the help of a little lens and a very dark room, the group of scientists and students put together their creativity to create a giant camera in one of the classrooms (Figure 3). The results were incredible! At the CSPU, in addition to talking about the cameras obscuras project, Quentin presented the recent Belgica121 expedition that evaluated the biodiversity at shallow depths in the Antarctic Peninsula. The students asked many questions about how the research expedition was planned and carried out. Afterwards, they did a little game-exercise to understand how the collected animals will be used (Figure 4). This consisted in an interactive introduction to animal classification where the students were encouraged to bring their own ideas about how they would classify the animals and explain why.

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Figure 4. The CSPU students trying to guess the next steps for the analysis of samples collected during the Belgica121 expedition.

Sharing science with the new generation is always an incredible experience. The children – who are our future scientists, politicians or managers – got to learn how important it is to care about nature and how it is essential that everyone give his/her own contribution to protect the planet we live on. Seeing the interest, curiosity and sensibility these kids showed for environmental matters, makes us proud of our job as scientists and eager to continue.

For the next step, the cameras will be sent back to Udo, who will develop the pictures and prepare a great online exposition about sunlight in polar and temperate regions (hosted on his website https://udoprinsen.com/antarctica-day/). The pictures coming from the schools of the three countries will be developed and exposed before the end of July.

We are all very curious to see the final results!

APECS Belgium would like to thank the BISB and CSPU, especially the teachers Jane Beverley, Christine, Jean-Yves and Adrien and all the kids, for their enthusiasm in helping us with this amazing project.

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Very happy students, teachers and scientists!