Public Release: 

Initiative uses technology to enhance children's understanding of the natural world

University of Plymouth

Academics from Plymouth University are leading a project to develop software which will give young people an enhanced understanding of the natural world.

PhenoloGIT is a three-year project which will design, build and test an educational platform which teachers and students can use to share information about the physical environment and the living world.

This will then be used to create teaching plans, as well as a mobile app and spatial data infrastructure so that young people can use real-world data to learn about seasonal changes in the nature all around them.

The project is centred around phenology, the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events, and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate and habitat factors.

It is being led by the Plymouth Institute of Education in conjunction with the Galicia Supercomputing Centre, Spain (CESGA); the O Cruce school in Galicia, Spain; the Centre of Information Technologies in Education (CITE) in Vilnius, Lithuania; and VIA University College in Horsens, Denmark.

Professor Linda la Velle, Professor of Biology in Education and Associate Director (Research) at the Plymouth Institute of Education, said: "This is a hugely exciting project that has the potential to change the way nature is taught and learned in both primary and secondary schools. We believe it will raise interest in biology as a subject and enhance young people's understanding of big issues in science, such as biodiversity and climate change. It also embraces elements of citizen science and encourages students to use the 21st Century 4Cs skills: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication."

Many national and international organisations are already generating large volumes of phenological information in high quality geographical databases, but much of this data is unusable or unknown for most teachers.

PhenoloGIT will build a platform that allows European teachers and students to use everyday mobile devices and open source technologies in an easy but flexible way to collect and upload high quality data.

Initially, the project will be piloted in four schools in each of the four host countries - UK, Spain, Lithuania and Denmark, with the aim of expanding its reach in the future.

Maria Malmierca, e-Learning Department Manager at CESGA, said: "This project will be trialled with students aged seven to 14, but they will be helping to build a Europe-wide database of information. It will enable them to see what is happening in their neighbourhood and relate it to developments in other parts of the continent. It will also provide valuable information for researchers, who will benefit from data collected to recognised standards and from a variety of new and existing sources."

PhenoloGIT is being funded with a £258,930 grant from the European Union's Erasmus+ programme, which aims to boost skills and employability, as well as modernising education, training and youth work.

###

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.