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Lab1: My opinions and thoughts about the learning process during the STEAM+ Innovation Lab in Venice: ‘Citizen Science for Marine Conservation’ – 18-23 of July 2021

By Henriette Johansen, honors student, University of Oslo, Norway and participant in the Innovation Lab

The structure of the workshop

By applying Otto Scharmer’s Theory U the workshop had a clear red line. I believe this was a huge factor contributing to a structured workshop which was well-planned and well-executed. It made the learning process more concrete and tangible making us aware of the learning goals and outcomes, giving the whole workshop a direction.

The content of the workshop

Some of us started from scratch and did not have knowledge of any of the topics of the workshop, marine conservation, and citizen science. Others had knowledge in the fields and were eager to share their knowledge with the rest of the group.

Despite my lack of knowledge in both fields, I was able to come with insights from the disciplines I am from as well, and I believe the other participants felt the same way.

An international, transdisciplinary, and cross-academic approach

The group consisted of participants not only from different nationalities and different disciplines, but also from all kinds of academic levels making it a diverse group on several levels. We had undergraduate students into their last year of their bachelor’s degrees like me, master’s students, Ph.D. students, postdocs, and professors. We even had a high school student, our youngest participant.

Even though we were at different stages in our academic life, everybody was taken seriously, and everyone’s opinion mattered equally; it was no perceived hierarchy in the group whatsoever. The fact that we were from different stages in our academic life meant that we had different insights, another factor contributing to fruitful conversations. I felt that I could contribute and was not afraid of sharing my insights and thoughts in the discussions even though I was an undergraduate student.

The threshold for contributing was low because of the friendly environment, and I appreciate the time we spent to get to know each other in the beginning creating the basis for learning together as a group.

A local approach to global issues

Often when talking about big topics like marine conservation the discussion tends to be a bit abstract. I liked the approach the workshop took, using the Venetian Lagoon as our basis for talking about marine conservation and citizen science, making it concrete and local. When starting the group projects, it felt like we had the knowledge to produce a citizen science project because we had a relation to what we were going to talk about since we found ourselves in the ecosystem itself.

We also got the opportunity to gain crucial firsthand experiences with the ecosystem on our trip to Ca’ Roman Island. One thing is to read about the Venetian Lagoon, another thing is to actually experience it.

The local knowledge obtained from observing and interacting with the Venetian Lagoon can also be expanded and applied to other ecosystems as well.

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