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Experiencing the reality of a STEAM+ Lab

Author: Mikkel Haasum-Barkholt, University College Copenhagen, Denmark

At the time I was attending the Lab, I was at the 4th semester of my studies at University College Copenhagen, where I work hard to become a teacher in elementary school in physics, chemistry, social science and mathematics. As the teacher-education spans over 8 half year-semesters in Denmark, I was almost halfway at the time of the Lab. I got tremendous value from the Lab, not only as a product of exchanging experiences with others in the educational field, albeit this was indeed very valuable. I enjoyed talking to students from many different fields. It didn’t take long for me to find a group of fantastic individuals, whom I enjoyed so many fruitful conversations with. My motivation for attending the Lab primarily stems from my immense curiosity for learning, especially learning through cooperation. I’m a very social being, that loves being at the edge of my comfort zone, and therefore was looking forward to my week in Austria in the city of Linz ‘’on my own’’ where I only had the comfort of a few of my professors attending as well. I had very high expectations of the visit, and it did not disappoint!

Throughout the Lab, I had the immense pleasure of being in the company of great students from countries such as Norway, Lithuania, Italy, Germany and The Netherlands. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a co-student on the last day of the Lab, where I had commented on how much ‘’in tune’’ I felt we were as a group after such a short acquaintance. I remember him responding with a great point – that so many of us had great ambition in our field, and a thirst for knowledge, so to him, it was no wonder that we ‘’clicked’’ so effortlessly. I think the fact that we all came from our respective honours-programmmes contributed greatly to this, as we all had similar mindsets regarding our fields, wanting to excel and make an impact.

At the 4th day of the Lab, we were introduced to the primary challenge of the Lab. Swiftly, my group and I landed on the challenge regarding our school-system. A case which is very interesting taking our nationalities into consideration. It ended up being a very intense and transformative talk, as we quickly came to the realization, that our nations had very different traditions regarding school, as well as very different looks on the root of the problems, which almost all school-systems seem to be facing in the 21st century. We didn’t solve the issue, but we did something valuable, we exchanged experiences and perspectives, many of whom were influenced by the country we live in, the history we carried and the language we spoke. In my opinion, this is a small but important step of the way.

On a final note I want to make a wish for future labs – I missed a bit more emphasis on the transdisciplinary as well as the co-creation aspect. It was very clear that the intention was there, and the idea behind was presented to us with high expectations of us to deliver a product influenced by this. I was introduced to the STEAM+ labs back in 2021, when I attended the 2nd Steam-lab which was limited by severe Covid-19 restrictions. Looking back this ended up giving more time to dive into the actual cooperation aspect of the Lab. This time, it seemed overshadowed by other activities where the co-creation agenda took a step back to accommodate a program with plenty other activities. Regarding future labs, I think an emphasis on facilitating the co-creation process and allocating more time for the creation-process is necessary to utilize the potential. I think the case presented was so interesting, and looking back at how much my amazing peers achieved in the span of under 24 hours, I would be curious to see just how much can be achieved.

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