5. August 2019

The FCHgo co-creation approach: Pooling expertise from schools, academia and hydrogen industry

The FCHgo toolkit is not only the work of a closed circle of experts. Each FCHgo partner consulted a range of stakeholders from schools, academia, extra-curricular education and hydrogen industry to provide their expert feedback on the FCHgo ideas. Project partners held national co-creation workshops to brainstorm together with stakeholders new educational pathways for teaching children about the way energy works and what role hydrogen and fuel cells play for a sustainable energy future.

This article cites the main outcomes of the workshops, which were presented by FCHgo partners at the project’s international stakeholder meeting in Reggio Emilia in March 2019 and which built the basis for drafting the FCHgo materials.  

Raising awareness for the subject among teachers first

“The workshops helped us to get a clearer view of teachers’ needs and expectations. We need to take into account that most teachers only have little information about hydrogen and fuel cells technology and have to get familiar with the subject first. Moreover we also have to suggest possible methodologies and strategies to make pupils involved, using stories, plays, simple experiments, games, process diagrams, etc.”, concludes Prof. Federico Corni from the University of Bolzano, who is a member of the FCHgo toolkit development team. This is particular true for teachers of primary school, who are rarely trained in natural science.  Guidelines and dedicated trainings for teachers are thus an essential part of the FCHgo strategy to resolve barriers and encourage teachers to take up the FCHgo materials in their lessons.

Children explore and understand with all senses

Although the cognitive development of pupils differs across the age of 8 and 18, there are common elements to human understanding transcending all age barriers. This is a key rationale behind FCHgo’s narrative approach. And teachers present at the workshops confirmed that materials alluding to the haptic senses of children, stirring them to explore the subject have the greatest impact on children’s learning curve. Hands-on experiments that allow experiencing the power of hydrogen energy should therefore be a key ingredient of the FCHgo toolkit. Other topics of relevance for pupils of all ages are climate change, local air pollution and the shortcomings of conventional energy sources. If communicated age adequately, pupils are able to also grasp the concepts behind.

Are hydrogen and fuel cells technology too complex for classrooms?

However, besides many common points of departure for the FCHgo educational pathway, pupils’ different cognitive abilities, diverse educational backgrounds and grades of technical knowledge should not be forgotten. While pupils understand from a very young age energy as a natural force and have an idea about the “demand for energy”, didactic experts deemed only secondary school pupils, age 11 to 14, to be able to follow more abstract representations of energy. Teenagers, however, should be prepared to work with the process diagrams that FCHgo proposes to illustrate energy chains. Participants to the workshops debated critically, if electrochemical concepts of a fuel cell will be understood only by older pupils. Here, the pilot tests of the toolkit in secondary school will clarify, in which classroom settings the FCHgo approach to convey hydrogen and fuel cells technology works best.

Certainly, the FCHgo mission to bring hydrogen energy and fc technology into European classrooms is an ambitious one. But if science and play come together like in FCHgo, it is also a fun one. Not to forget, knowledge of hydrogen and fuel cells technology is essential for a green future of our planet. And pupils, tomorrow’s engineers and scientists, play a key role in shaping this future.