FCHgo: an imaginative and narrative approach to FCH technology designed especially for the youngest learners!
Materials for Fuel-Cell and Hydrogen Technology
An imaginative narrative approach to energy and energy systems
As part of FCHgo, materials for teachers and learners in different age groups have been developed. Especially for the youngest learners, we have taken an explicitly imaginative and narrative approach. This includes fostering imaginative uses of natural language and imagistic renderings of the role of energy in forces of nature. This form of primary science can be easily adapted to formal science suitable for older learners.
This means at least two things. First, from a pedagogical perspective, we use unconventional materials and approaches to let children explore energy systems and, fundamentally, the energy concept. We have developed a story that highlights the analogy between fuels (such as for cars) and food (apples growing on a tree: The Apple Story). Children can explore simple experimental situations (potato or apple batteries, PV-cells and electric motors, or full-fledged solar hydrogen toy cars). There are learning materials in the form of play cards highlighting the “forces of nature” at work in these systems. Children draw their explanations, and we have developed the pedagogy of a Forces-of-Nature and Energy Play where groups of children play forces of nature interacting on a stage that represents devices in a technical energy system.
Second, the approach means that we take a systemic perspective rather than highlighting technical and material details of elements of energy systems. We have followed the advice of our scientific advisory board, not to expose small children to the intricacies of fuel cells. Rather, a fuel cell is a device in which certain forces of nature interact and do their work to achieve a certain purpose—not unlike our bodies when we eat an apple. A text for primary school teachers (Hydrogen and Fuel Cells —How, What for, and Why?) has been written that makes use of this imaginative “pictorial” and narrative approach to scientific and systems engineering aspects for adults who are not scientists or engineers but rather educators of our youngest generation.
We know from direct experience using this approach in primary school classes in Switzerland and in Italy that it works—children get involved in activities, discussions, pictorial representations, and theatrical renderings relating to important energy systems. Their teachers tell us how they themselves find access to themes they would have never before been able to include in their teachings. We sincerely hope, that many will find the approach and the materials enjoyable and enlightening.
The FCHgo team for learning materials,
Our sources stem from research performed over the course of the last 10 years. For the science of energy engineering and thermodynamics, see Fuchs, H. U. (2010). The Dynamics of Heat. Springer, New York. Research on imaginative approaches to science education have been published in Corni, F., Fuchs, H.U., & Savino, G. (2018). An Industrial Educational Laboratory at Ducati Foundation: Narrative Approaches to Mechanics Based Upon Continuum Physics. International Journal of Science Education, 40(3), 243–267; Fuchs, H. U., Contini, A., Dumont, E., Landini, A., & Corni, F. (2018). How metaphor and narrative interact in stories of forces of nature. In M. Hanne & A. Kaal (Eds.) Narrative and Metaphor in Education. Look both ways. London UK: Routledge; Corni, F. & Fuchs H. U. (2020). Primary Physical Science for Student Teachers at Kindergarten and Primary School Levels: Part I Foundations of an Imaginative Approach to Physical Science. Interchange, doi.org/10.1007/ s10780-019-09382-0.