Introduction

In the following, information on our projects and current research will be presented. Since this is arranged in the form of a blog, please do not use the menu on the right (only available in German). In case there are further questions, do not hesitate to contact us: biokolumbus@uni-bielefeld.de.

Kolumbus-Kids

Overview:
  • Promotion of young, talented scientists
  • Called into being in 2006 by project leader Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner
  • Overarching goal: avoidance of consequences, if a talent is not recognised and the continuous promotion according to scientific propaedeutics
  • Conception and evaluation of interesting teaching units, which should give the pupils an understanding of biological problems and phenomena
Deutsch


A lthough the question how to promote and encourage pupils best in school is often discussed, many ideas and concepts cannot be realised in everyday school life because of organisational reasons or lack of time. Disinterest, social isolation and demotivation may be an ultimate consequence, if a pupil’s talent is ignored or not recognised. Therefore, the aim of the project “Kolumbus-Kids” is to prevent such a development by teaching the participating children according to newest results of psychological and neuroscientific research. “Kolumbus-Kids” is a holistic concept which is not only based on pupils’ interests but also on students’ and teachers’ concerns.
Currently, courses for 4th, 5th and 6th graders are offered for those pupils who have successfully taken part in a special selection procedure. A new regulation allows for pupils to take part in the project over the entire span of three years – if they wish -, which opens up even more possibilities for working since a long-term promotion enables more elaborate operations. Two additional 4th grade courses will be offered from school year 2015/2016 onwards, making a total of four courses for primary school pupils. This action seems necessary in respect to the very unspecific and limited science lessons in primary schools and thus will allow even more children to benefit from the project. Currently, courses for 4th, 5th and 6th graders are offered for those pupils who have successfully taken part in a special selection procedure. The project “Kolumbus-Kids” offers talented pupils the chance to work on interesting and at the same time instructive scientific topics in an authentic learning environment. To ensure a sustainable encouragement, teaching units are developed and evaluated which focus especially on the concerns of highly-gifted pupils. The course contents are based on various scientific problems and phenomena which are not bound to the curriculum. In addition, the individual enhancement of social competences plays a major role.
Thanks to the project “Kolumbus-Kids”, university students get the possibility to improve and enhance competences which are relevant for their future profession as a teacher, such as the conception of lessons and teaching units or the identification of different pupil-characters and their individual encouragement. The experiences and results the students gather during the project work can be integrated directly into teacher training. The students profit from the practical experiences and can write their bachelor’s or master’s thesis within the framework of the course. If the students finish the project successfully, they get a certificate from the district government Detmold and Bielefeld University.
For further information on the project please visit: www.kolumbus-kids.de or click on the link below to read our brochure.



"Biologiehautnah" (Biology up close)

Overview:
  • The courses and study trips of this project are created and organised by university students
  • It enables pupils of cooperating schools to gain first-hand experience of biology (study trips, experiments, etc.)
Deutsch


"B iologie hautnah" is a project created by Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner in 2009. It aims at developing events and study trips for pupils and emphasising the experience of biology in a vivid way. The events are created and organised by students of biology at Bielefeld University who plan to become a teacher. Later, they are put into practice with interested pupils of cooperating schools. Through the events, pupils experience biology “vividly” as they autonomously perform scientific experiments and tests, which have been developed by university students in the seminars “Biologie hautnah Sek I” and “Biologie hautnah Sek II” beforehand.
The pupils also experience action-oriented and motivation-oriented events, study trips and teaching units created by university students in their final theses regarding the “Kolumbus-Kids” project. One of the main goals is that the pupils are given a lot of personal space to discover the biological topics and phenomena on their own. During their visit at university, they are to gain an inside view into the university and the numerous possibilities of education and research it offers. This is to support the pupils in selecting their future career and their interests for different work fields and studies to explore. Each semester this project offers various events concerning different biological topics.
For further information please feel free to read the brochure regarding the "Kolumbus-Kids" project - just click on the link below. You can also visit our homepage: "www.biologie-hautnah.de" or click on the link below to read our brochure.

At the moment, the project comprises a total of seven workshops for about 30 participants each. The different topics range from human biology over marine biology to dealing with the production and effects of painkillers on the human body. The action- and motivation-oriented workshops can be attended by pupils from year four to year twelve depending on the subject-matter. Normally, one workshop takes one day of between four to six hours.

Bilingual workshops - bi(o)lingual

Overview:
  • One-day-workshops at individual dates
  • Groups starting from 12 people or school classes
  • Experiencing biology bilingually - workshop is held in English
  • Pupils aged 13 - 15 / classes 8 - 10
Deutsch


Workshop range

1 Insects and Reptiles as Role Models – A bilingual bionics workshop

Climbing on smooth surfaces like Spiderman? – Many geckos are able to do this! Which principles are behind this and many other phenomena will be investigated in this bilingual bionics workshop with the help of living animals, preserved specimen and models.
The Yemen chameleon, stick insects, the Madagascar giant day gecko and Co. are perfectly adapted to their environment. The many peculiarities of different animals are looked at in reality based on exciting experiments. Also insects provide humans with many ideas that can be used as models for their everyday and work life.

2 Evolution workshop (being planned)

3 Cosmetics workshop (being planned)

Experimenting bilingually?

Since English is the predominant language of the sciences, pupils should be given the chance to experience this situation as early in their career as possible. The experiments and topics are linguistically worked up in a way that the workshop is also suited for pupils who do not have bilingual education in their school. However, English lessons for at least three years are required. Pictures, word explanations etc. support the learning process so that pupils are able to learn on the subject and language level.

Aims
Regardless of whether participating pupils have already had experience with bilingual education or not, this workshop aims at giving them the chance to learn and use English in a specific subject-related context. Suitable experiments set the framework of this purpose, and pupils can further deepen their knowledge about reptiles and insects. Student teachers of biology are provided with the opportunity to gain experience in teaching bilingual classes and be involved in workshop planning. They get to know what is important when designing and teaching workshops and what one has to pay attention to in bilingual classes. There is also the possibility to write a thesis about the planning and evaluation of a bilingual workshop.



Bionics and Robotics

Overview:
  • Workshops in the area of robotics and bionics
  • Action-oriented teaching methods
  • Fun and new knowledge for pupils
Deutsch


Pupils will get to know the exciting world of bionics and robotics in our newest workshops. The workshops can be attended on a day-, weekend- or five-day-basis, depending how much time and interest is given.

The robotics workshop is based on a cooperation of the CoR-Lab (Research Institute for Cognition and Robotics) and Biology up close, and thus enables addressing questions from a technical as well as biological viewpoint in only one workshop.

In the CoR-Lab’s student lab, pupils get the chance to get to the bottom of different robot kinds and to programme robots on their own. In the facilities of Biology up close then, they search for traces of natural role models that have been used for the robots. With the help of experiments, pupils investigate which robots are based on which animals and try to find out to what extent the living animals have advantages over the robots. In the area of motion, walking and grasping are examined in detail, whereas the area of perception focuses on the orientation behaviour of robots and their living role models.
Workshop participants can also design their own perfect robot and present it to the other pupils. Thanks to the support by the “Familie Osthusenhenrich-Stiftung”, the workshop is free of charge for both individual persons and school classes.

The bionics workshop investigates for example how geckos are able to climb on smooth surfaces. The principles behind this and many other phenomena will be looked at in this workshop with the help of living animals, preserved specimen and models. Particularly the sea with its many shapes and ways of living provide humans with ideas that can be used as models for their everyday and work life. But also terrestrial organisms make for ideal role models. The Yemen chameleon, stick insects, the Madagascar giant day gecko and Co. are perfectly adapted to their environment. The many peculiarities of different animals are looked at in reality based on exciting experiments, both in the climate chamber and in the sea water facility. Thanks to the support by the “Reuter’sche Stiftung”, the workshop is free of charge for both individual persons and school classes.

Biology for Everyone

Overview:
  • New workshop concept for refugee children
  • Visual and language-sensitive teaching material
  • Insights into biology via many experiments
Deutsch


In the newly developed workshop “Biology for everyone“ (BFE), refugee children aged nine to eighteen should be given the opportunity to experience science with the help of exciting experiments. Due to the language barrier, they often struggle with subject-specific classes in schools, which is why the extracurricular courses at university try to circumvent these difficulties. Biology offers various possibilities to gain insights using visual and action-oriented ways when conducting experiments or observing living animals so that also pupils with language difficulties are able to understand.
The pupils get to know different working methods, animals and issues dealt with in the sciences while at the same time acquiring useful language competences. Since visual hints are sufficient to convey experimental instructions, their interest for science is awakened. At first, “Biology for everyone” will be offered as a one-day workshop which allows an all-round view of biology and the associated natural sciences. Different topics, such as animal phenomena, sensory perception, chemistry and robotics, will be investigated in the workshops.
Hopefully, as many pupils as possible will be reached in this initial phase in order to allow for a first contact with the natural sciences in the surrounding of Bielefeld University. In the further course of the project, the workshop will be offered once a week over a period of three months.

Methodological approach
The workshop idea is to make meaningful experimentation possible by deploying picture sequences and instructions, videos and/or apps so that refugees can participate in the natural sciences.
Via word explanations next to photos or sketches of special objects, refugee children learn important words that they can use instantly. It is crucial that the children maintain or spark their joy in learning by the appropriate usage of methods, even though the integration in everyday life and school is sometimes difficult for them. Unfortunately, refugee children are not always in the position to express their curiosity for special topics, since experiments are rarely used in school. The university’s situational circumstances allow for working action-oriented and practically in little groups.

Aims and benefits for practice
Since it is commonly remarked that schools do not have teachers for international classes, this project helps student teachers to be prepared for this situation. University students and assistants of biology didactics are involved in the project so that they gain valuable experience for the educational integration of refugees. They will also be prepared for the challenges of language sensitive lessons.
Offers for students
University students can choose to take their project module in the context of “Biology for everyone”. They have to create teaching materials for the workshops and test as well as modify it. Usually, a bachelor’s thesis follows the project module, which might address both the workshop conception and evaluation. For more information, please contact Mario Schmiedebach (matio.schmiedebach@uni-bielefeld.de).


Experimentier-AG (Science and Experimenting Club)

Overview:
  • Students profit from the practical experiences and can write their BA or MA thesis within the framework of the course
Deutsch


T he "Experimentier-AG" was found in April 2009 and it is the result of a cooperation between the Ratsgymnasium Bielefeld and the department of Didactics in Biology (Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner) of Bielefeld University. The study group is part of the after-school programme of the school and is offered for interested pupils from grade 5 to 7. The main objective of the “Experimentier-AG” is to promote and obtain young people’s interest in natural sciences. In contrast to normal science classes, this study group has a high and wide-ranging practical orientation: The pupils have the possibility to acquire new knowledge, raise hypotheses and test them with suitable experiments or find explanations for scientific phenomena they have observed. The concept of the "Experimentier-AG" was developed by two university students in the framework of their MA thesis. Moreover, a concept with possible topics and suitable experiments has been worked out, which also contains detailed lesson plans and useful material.
Similar projects are planned for two other types of school in Bielefeld. In near future, study groups for interested pupils will be offered to show them a broad spectrum of scientific experiments and to motivate them for this area of research. These study groups, like the one at the Ratsgymnasium, will also be supervised by students from the biological department for didactics. This enables students to can gain first-hand experience at school. The participation in the study group-project "Experimentier-AG" offers numerous advantages to students: Within the framework of a BA or MA thesis, students can profit directly from the practical experience at school while they are still studying at university and get the chance to plan, teach and reflect on their own lessons. The students’ work will be monitored and supervised by Prof. Dr. C. Wegner, who will help with the design of lessons and material as well as with the reflection and evaluation of lessons held.

Netzwerk Begabungsförderung OWL

Overview:
  • Project in cooperation with the district authority Detmold
  • Possibility to write Bachelor or Master Theses with a practical orientation
Deutsch


T he Netzwerk Begabungsförderung OWL exists since 2010 as a cooperation between the district authority Detmold, representatives of various institutions like the theatre of Bielefeld, the University of Paderborn and Bielefeld University, department for biology didactics. The project gives exceptionally gifted pupils from grade 7-9 the opportunity to get further education outside their normal school environment.
Different workshops with scientific and technical topics as well as workshops in the area of artistic and social sciences are offered. During the period of a few months, the workshops take place in different locations, for instance at the Bielefeld University, and carried out on weekends. Hence the pupils are able to have a closer look at the topics and it guarantees that the regular school attendance is not disturbed. It should give the pupils the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and interests and to discover a different kind of learning environment. The children are first recommended by their teachers, and afterwards have to apply for one of six workshops with a letter of motivation. 110 pupils out of 150 applicants were chosen, so that 15 children could participate in each workshop.
By attending a workshop, the pupils have the chance to share experiences with people having the same interests. Scientists and teachers conduct the workshops and help pupils to research, to learn and to further their talents. Meeting various fields of sciences widens the perspective for the children’s development. Furthermore, interdisciplinary thinking and working could be supported and their own horizon of experiences is expanded. The pupils are animated to be active and to experiment by putting a main emphasis on practical working. At the closing event, worked out results and products are presented. The academy’s goal is to become a permanent institution in order to offer further workshops for gifted boys and girls. Additionally, the project is evaluated with the help of a workshop diary, which was created as a part of a Master thesis. Participants can describe, reflect on and evaluate the workshops. This is visually supported by film recordings, which are also shown at the closing event. The project has now established itself over four years and offers many interesting opportunities for students: they can get valuable experiences in working with pupils within the frameworks of Bachelor and Master Theses. Under Prof. Dr. C. Wegner’s guidance, workshops can be planned, conducted and evaluated by the students.

This project was made possible with the promotion of the "Familie-Osthushenrich" foundation. For further information:


Meeresbiohautnah (Marine biology vividly)

Overview:
  • Usage of the sea water facility for the courses “MeeresbiologieimSchulkontext” (marine biology in school context), “Biology hautnahSek I” (course for stundets of lower grades with main emphasis on experiencing biology in a vivid way) and the "Kolumbus-Kids"- seminars
  • Students have the opportunity to write their final thesis based on this seminar
  • Students as well as pupils profit from conducting different projects in connection with the sea water facility
  • Exploring the marine flora and fauna of the Mediterranean-, the North and the Baltic Sea (and also the classification of organisms and their ecological interrelation with each other)
Deutsch


D idactic courses of the biological faculty like “Meeresbiologie im Schulkontext”, “Biologie hautnah Sek I”, as well as the “Kolumbus-Kids” groups, use the sea water facility frequently. The recognition of organisms and their classification into a system which is based on evolution, represent a major and important part of biological education. This is the reason why the groups of pupils learn about the marine flora and fauna, and the classification with the help of preserved specimen and real objects. Biological knowledge is deepened by examining real objects in case of animals’ specific adaptations to their habitat. Hence the close observation of the ocean’s inhabitants plays an important role and is the topic of many courses. Current environmental issues, such as pollution, are discussed with illustrative examples for particular cases.

The sea water facility is also used for the education of students and teacher trainees. They are offered the opportunity to further their theoretical knowledge about marine organisms by earning first-hand experiences of these animals. Besides, students are able to write their BA or MA thesis about the educational work with the sea water facility. Creating teaching material and testing it with pupils is just one of various possibilities of including the facility into a school context.

Facilities in the project

Overview:
  • Sea water facility of the Department for Didactics of Biology containing 12,000 litres of water
  • Exploration of marine habitats
  • Use of real objects in teaching lessons (starfish, crabs, cat sharks, etc.)
Deutsch


T he faculty of biology owns a substantial sea water facility. Under the administration of Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner it is used for training future teachers and for other educational purposes like “Biology up close” and “Kolumbus-Kids”. With its approximate capacity of 20.000 Litres (and water temperature around 14°C, which is similar to the North Sea) the facility provides sufficient conditions to sustain and monitor a vast variety of marine organisms from different levels of organisation. The underlying principle is not to use endangered or illegally captured species from coral reefs, but more common animals from the North and Mediterranean Sea, which are familiar to the pupils from holidays or class trips. Working with living organisms in biology classes also offers a chance to
  • Gain experience in handling animals
  • Acquire knowledge about modes of operation in biology
  • Learn about scientific approaches and ways of discovering phenomena
  • Develop a positive attitude towards plants and animals
The pupils that enrol in the project spend most of the time in the "Kolumbus-Kids" room. It is a special place, since it harbours many different species that the students work with. Additionally, it features an interactive whiteboard, which presents major advantages in comparison to the conventional blackboard:
  • Graphics, sound files, videos, animations, etc. can be displayed
  • It is possible to save, upload or file results and elaborations of the lesson
  • A number of pupils can work interactively on tasks on the board
The whiteboard is commonly referred to as "smartboard" and employed for teacher training. Utilising the smartboard offers university students an opportunity to familiarise themselves with this piece of technology and facilitate its application as a valuable tool for the courses. In addition, the pupils in the project are able to gain first experience with the smartboard while interactively working on tasks.


In the climate chamber, almost tropical conditions prevail. With temperatures between 28 - 30 °C (during day time) and air humidity of 70%, it accommodates many of the project’s animals. It is an ideal environment for chameleons, geckos and other reptiles used in the project (see animals in the project). Different kinds of Mantodea and freshwater fish are also flourishing in the habitat supplied in the climate chamber.


The latest addition to our facilities is situated in the department of behavioural science. It is home to other freshwater fish (such as archerfish and electric fish) as well as green water dragons and spiny-tailed lizards. Although the equipment in this room is currently under construction, the pictures may provide some impressions.




Animals in the project

As many as 65 different animal species are part of our project and will be shortly introduced in the following. They are animals that are endemic to different ecosystems and show extraordinary mechanisms of adaptation. One of them is the hermit crab (Coenobita clypeata), which is found in the subtropics and coastal areas of the tropics. When a hermit crab is agitated it hides inside its shells and locks the entrance of the shell with its claws. Because of their omnivorous nature, hermit crabs are not picky and feed on carrion.

Reptiles

As the name already suggests, the Madagascar giant day gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis) is native to the island of Madagascar and among the largest of its family. Adult animals usually show colour combinations of green and brown shades, whereas red marks and bars on the back are traits associated with juveniles. However, the red lines going from the nostrils to the eyes as well as the white, grayish throat and abdomen are common features. The Madagascar giant day gecko prefers old-growth forests in upland regions, since trees, bushes and stones offer various possibilities of shelter. The species is diurnal and feeds on insects, spiders, snails, fruit, nectar and pollen. In cases of imminent danger, the gecko can cast off its tail.

The Yemen chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) inhabits subtropical regions of Yemen and the South of Saudi-Arabia. It has three distinctive features in order to adapt to its environment. Firstly, it is capable of camouflaging itself and expresses its mood by the merit of changing the colour of its skin. Secondly, it has excellent visual perception, as the eyes can be adjusted independently up to angles of 360 degrees. This ability compensates for other shortcomings such as the underdeveloped sense of hearing, and enables the Yemen chameleon to perceive its surroundings and spot potential prey. Thirdly, for catching small animals and insects, it shoots its tongue at its prey. Here we see one of the numerous aquatic inhabitants in the project, the common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus). The musk turtle is found in regions between Southeast Canada and the East of the United States. The elongated shell is brownish to black and usually domed in the case of juvenile animals. Its diet consists of fish, tadpoles, clams, water insects, algae and water plants. What makes this turtle so unique is the ability to excrete musk, a strong-smelling repellant.

Marine organisms

Dwellings of ocellaris clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) are found along coral reefs of the West Pacific Ocean up to the Andaman Sea. The fish has white and orange stripes and engages in a symbiosis with particular species of sea anemone, which - among other benefits - provide the fish with an effective defense. Clownfish have a bright orange colouration that is divided by white intersections. It preys upon small crustaceans and zooplankton.

The blue damselfish (Chrysiptera cyanea) inhabits lagoons and coral reefs from the eastern Indian Ocean to Australia. Like clownfish it prefers to remain near potential hiding places. Depending on individuals of the species, the basic medium blue colour may vary, appearing as yellow or orange marks at the fish’s jaw or tail fin.

Home of the small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinidae canicula) are the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North Africa as well as the North and Mediterranean Sea. The origin of its name is connected to the white, brown and black spots on its back and fin. These nocturnal sharks can measure up to 80cm of length and prefer to live between stones and algae on the ground of shallow waters or deep-sea plains. The small-spotted catshark hunts for crustaceans, snails, worms, squid and small fish.

The American lobster’s (Homarus americanus) natural habitat is the northwestern Atlantic. Generally, male specimens are larger than their female counterparts. Arguably the most striking feature is the asymmetrical nature of the lobster’s claws, because they have two distinct functions. One is used for catching and holding the prey, whereas the second, more muscular claw, is used when, for example, the shell of a clam needs to be crushed to get to its soft meat. Apart from clams and snails, the lobster feeds on worms, see urchins, starfish, crabs, carrion and few amounts of algae. The American lobster dwells in depths unaffected by the tide and deep sea where it digs up caves between stones and crevices for hiding.

Freshwater organisms

The largescale archerfish (Toxote schatareus) reveals a fascinating ability to catch prey. It appears in fresh and brackish waters of Sri Lanka, India to New Guinea and Australia. Strikingly large eyes and the pointy, partially split jaw are telltale signs for this species. With these tools the archerfish can accurately hunt down insects outside the water by spitting streams of water from a distance of approximately 1m. Even though land dwelling insects are preferred targets, it also feeds on small crustaceans and aquatic larvae.

Pearse’s mudskipper (Periophthalmus novemradiatus) is native to brackish water and mangrove swamps in India, Malaysia and Philippines. The mudskipper is amphibious by nature, but despite spending most of the time on land, it does not have lungs. However, it employs its gills and gill chambers as a water tank to be sufficiently supplied with oxygen in order to survive on land. Mudskippers create complex subterranean burrows which they use for breeding and escaping predators. The eyes are very prominent in this species and help spotting potential threats

The habitat of the European shrimp or freshwater shrimp (Atyaephyrades maresti) has expanded from its original population in the western Mediterranean to Belgium, the Netherlands and rivers and streams of central Europe. Unlike marine shrimp, the European shrimp has a laterally compressed cephalothorax. Although the animals are typically transparent, they can have a wide range of colours between blue and brown. As an omnivore it eats floating particles, plankton and plant tissue.

Insects The Australian walking stick (Extatosoma tiaratum) ) is a species commonly found in almost every tropical or subtropical region on Earth, with a particular increase in oriental countries. In an attempt to perfectly imitate parts of a plant, the body is ornamented and shaped like a leaf or twig and the movements closely resemble these parts moving in the wind (mimesis). In situations of danger, the Australian walking stick tumbles to the ground and pretends to be dead. Because of its specific adaption, this insect is drawn to bushes and trees.

In 2004, the black beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) ) was discovered in northern Peru. It belongs to the order of Phasmatodea. Physical traits that distinguish this species from others immediately are yellow eyes in combination with a black body, a red jaw and antennae with a yellow pattern. Additionally, all wings appear black with a white inlay, but the small size of the front wings (tegmina) and the red marks on the back wings make them unequal and distinct in appearance. When Peruphasma schultei finds itself in a hazardous situation it erects the back wings, flexes the abdomen upwards and runs away quickly. A second defense strategy involves the secretion of a substance that irritates eyes and mucosa, but does not permanently damage them.

The orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) ) is a species of mantis native to East Asia. It is widespread in India, Thailand, Borneo, Malaysia and Sumatra. Like the previously introduced Australian walking stick, it imitates parts of flowers and plants to evade predators and be invisible for its own prey (mimesis). Its remarkable front legs help the orchid mantis in trapping even relatively large insects that are searching for nectar. The orchid mantis undergoes various moultings. After the first one, the insect turns dark red or black, whereas the second moulting leaves it white coloured. Both male and female are able to fly, although female specimens only fly in emergency situations.



Amphibians

Another inhabitant of Madagascar is the Betsileo Madagascar frog (Mantidactylus betsileanus) , specifically living in the Masoalan rain forest. Fully developed animals are brown with dark spots and reach lengths of 30mm. The frog carries a characteristic white mark at the tip of its mouth and predominantly eats flies.

Populations of the European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) ) are widely spread throughout Central and East Europe up to Russia, eastern regions of the Balkans and southern Turkey. This amphibian is drawn to lowland areas as well as ponds and rivers providing sufficient sunlight. The time for releasing eggs begins in early spring-time and ends in early summer. In this period, the female produces multiple packages of spawn holding up to 30 eggs each. Its diet consists of small arachnids, bugs, caterpillars, flies and mealworms. The European fire-bellied toad shows its brightly coloured belly to threaten and repel predators.



NAWI-Interaktiv

Overview:
  • Learning platform with learning materials free of charge
  • Focus on new media and e-learning
  • • Students can write their BA or MA thesis about the subject area "new media"
Deutsch


N ew media become more and more important in daily school life – both teacher and pupils are confronted with it. For this reason, Dr. Wiebke Homann and Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner (Department of Didactics of Biology, Bielefeld University) have developed and established the e-learning platform www.nawi-interaktiv.com, which provides interested learners, teachers and trainee teachers with high-quality learning tools, useful information and resources free of charge to support and enhance educational delivery and management.

Interdisciplinary teaching is of great significance in schools, especially in teacher training, and hence it is also anchored in the school syllabus. The use of new media and the competence to use it properly is an aspect of interest in any type of school. If new media is used correctly in school teaching, it can improve teaching- and learning processes, but it cannot replace teachers. For this reason, “NAWI-Interaktiv” uses a blended-learning-situation, in which regular school lessons and computer-assisted learning are combined. Pupils work out new topics and contents with the help of concrete task instructions in a communicative-interactive learning environment and additionally receive their teacher’s instructions, support and feedback. The contents chosen for the educational software are well connected to the syllabuses, just as the provided teaching materials, like worksheets, didactical advice or exemplary lessons drafts. Moreover, they further the acquisition of key competences. Hence, the educational software can easily and efficiently be used in school teaching.

The project’s goal is, on the one hand, to involve teachers and trainee teachers into the design of the e-learning platform, for instance in the development of new teaching materials, and, on the other hand, to involve them in conducting empirical studies in school. Furthermore, they can write their Bachelor or Master thesis about the project and/or the conducted study. Pupils have the advantage that they can take up a new, natural-scientific challenge with the help of the e-learning platform “NAWI-Interaktiv”.

Further information is available on

E-Learning

Overview:
  • E-learning plays an important role in seminars and projects
  • Use of interactive white boards, voting systems, introduction to laboratory equipment by video, e-learning platforms, etc.
  • Both pupils and students profit from this way of learning
Deutsch


M ultimedia and interactivity get more importance in school classrooms, especially interactive whiteboards. They offer various advantages for teaching sequences. Diagrams, audio files, videos and computer animations can be shown easily. With the help of the whiteboard, board illustrations can be saved, uploaded to platforms or archived. Furthermore, students can interactively solve tasks at the whiteboard.

Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner’s department of biology didactics (botany and cell biology) is working with a whiteboard of the company Smart Technologies. It is also used for the training of students and trainee teachers. Students learn how to deal with this type of technology and afterwards can apply their newly learned knowledge to teaching, for example in one of the "Kolumbus-Kids" courses.

Just recently, an online-tool for self-reflection has been developed. The primary objective of the Reflection-Wiki is the student teachers’ intensive, critical dealing with already conducted lessons and thus training self-reflection. The participating student teachers are to understand the importance of self-reflection and they should expand their teaching skills in order to feel safe and organised during initial teaching experiences at school. For instance, this includes how to deal with lesson disruptions and how to word questions appropriately. During the ‘Kolumbus-Kids’ sessions then, the student teachers are videotaped in order to evaluate the planning, realisation and control of their behaviour after the session and thus to optimise their teaching. All this ties in with the need for good teachers who do not only qualify themselves on the basis of their subject knowledge, but also due to their pedagogic knowledge. This, however, has to be mastered in such a way that the teacher can apply this theoretical content knowledge practically and organise it so that it fits his students’ individual needs. In order to expand this teaching ability, especially young teachers need to gain valuable practical experience first, find their teacher personality and train how to act and behave in the classroom. In this regard, it is important to consider how student teachers can benefit from their restricted practical experience the most. In order for this to be useful for them, the Reflection-Wiki was developed and has by now established itself as a key component in the biology didactic courses under guidance of Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner.

Interdisciplinary Projects: Combination of Sports and Biology Lessons

Overview:
  • Project for the development, conducting and evaluation of the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teaching in school
  • Cooperation of the Department of Biology Didactics (Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner) and the Department of PE Didactics (Prof. Dr. Bernd Gröben)
  • Cooperation with secondary schools in Bielefeld
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S ince 2009, Bielefeld University has a cooperation of the Faculty of Psychology and Sport Science and its Sport Science Department, represented by Prof. Dr. Bernd Gröben, and the Faculty of Biology and its Department of Biology Didactics which is represented by Prof. Dr. Claas Wegner. The combination of sports and biology lessons has proven to be very effective due to the thematic overlap: Both subjects deal with the basic knowledge of athletic training, physical performance as well as athletic behaviour. The sports lessons offer great chances to apply biological problems in the sporting practice while biology lessons explain the pupils’ bodily experiences theoretically.

In context of the cooperation between the Department of Biology Didactics and the Sport Science Department, already two studies have been undertaken coping with the effectiveness of interdisciplinary teaching in the Oberstufe. One of the studies deals with physical stamina and focuses on understanding this phenomenon theoretically from both the biological and the sportive perspective as well as putting it into practice. In order to provide pupils with a high reference to applications, human biological issues such as the muscular system, the cardiovascular system and diet are directly related to the endurance training in the lessons. The other study concerns strength training in terms of health-oriented training in fitness studios. Within this study, strength training was observed from both the biological and the athletic point of view and also realised in practice. The students created individual workout schedules and followed these in the gym.

Up to now, the studies have revealed that the interdisciplinary teaching of sports and biology leads to an increase in the pupils’ biological knowledge, their knowledge on sports theory as well as their sporting abilities. Further studies are planned for the future. For example, there is a study in progress that addresses the motoric abilities of talented students. Besides, an interdisciplinary teaching unit regarding sports and biology lessons on health education is planned.

In all studies, the pupils are parted into a case group and a control group. The pupils from the case group are taught in an interdisciplinary way, whereas the control group is taught separately in biology and sports lessons. In most cases, the study takes six weeks to be completed. At the beginning and the end of a study the sportive-motoric capabilities of each pupil are analysed as well as their biological, athletic and their interdisciplinary knowledge.

Research

Overview:
  • Development of teaching units
  • "inquiry teaching" as model
  • Different research focuses as for example the survey of learning strategies or propaedeutics
  • Realization in our projects ("Kolumbus-Kids", "Biology up close", etc.)
  • Possibility to carry out this research in the framework of a BA or MA thesis
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T he development of teaching concepts with emphasis on inquiry teaching is of great importance in the field of the education of (future) teachers. Inquiry teaching makes it possible to use many different didactic concepts in one setting. There are six emphases:
  • Type A: Inquiring learning by being introduced to empirical and scientific working.
  • Type B: Inquiring learning as an orientation towards the paradigm of practical scientific research and action research.
  • Type C: Inquiring learning as casework.
  • Type D: Inquiring learning within the bounds of reflecting one’s own practical experiences inside and outside of teaching.
  • Type E: Inquiring learning with the main emphasis on the reflection of biographical access to the profession of a teacher.
  • Type F: Inquiring learning with the main emphasis on interdisciplinary integration of professional knowledge and skills for teachers.
We are interested especially in the Types A, B, and D. Hence they are used in our projects "Kolumbus-Kids" and "Biology up close". Our current research focus lies on the following aspects:
  • Research in the field of scientific propaedeutics
  • Research on learning strategies
  • Epistemologicalresearch
  • Research on emotional concepts in natural-scientific teaching
  • Research on the development of natural-scientific skills and competences in the project “Kolumbus-Kids”


Advanced Vocational Training

Overview:
  • Our projects are the basis for the researching in didactic and talent-oriented fields
  • Imparting of the gained knowledge to interested teachers
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W ithin the project “Kolumbus-Kids”, investigations about the promotion of gifted pupils and in the field of scientific research take place, as well as in the special research field of didactics. This status of investigation is then available for interested teachers and hence they can include the newly acquired knowledge into their teaching. The goal of the advanced vocational training is to impart knowledge about theories about talents, diagnostics, and methods of teaching on the attending people. In addition, various ways of dealing with gifted pupils are discussed and actively practiced. The teachers should analyse and discuss examples for particular cases and hence develop methods and mediation strategies. Teaching- and consultation situations are simulated and videotaped for a later reflection. The whole group then discusses the strength and weaknesses of the different ways of acting. Possible topics for advanced vocational trainings are:
  • Promotion of gifted pupils
  • Recognition of talent
  • Characteristics of talent
  • Which competences should a teacher have when dealing with gifted pupils?
 
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