In Young Explorer’s Clubs, young people and children jointly conduct experiments under the eye of supervisors and individually gain knowledge. Throughout Poland and abroad there are over 700 clubs. The Copernicus Science Centre – coordinator of the programme – enhances the development of YECs with the support of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
The most important thing during YEC meetings is personal commitment: club members themselves seek for topics that they are interested in and, instead of leafing through their manuals, they find answers through experimenting. Key importance is attributed to the research method which develops many competences and skills at the same time, allows to exceed the boundaries between school subjects and shows that making mistakes is valuable, as thanks to them it is possible to learn to solve problems. The subject of such research – depending on the children’s age – may be experiments with magnets, observation of the Universe or analysis of water quality in the nearby river.
Not a lot of money is needed to conduct interesting and serious experiments – this is one of the principles of the YEC. The lack of laboratory at school is not an obstacle hindering the initiation of club activities. Objects that surround us – available in the kitchen, in the garage, on a walk or in the garden – constitute tools for experimenting.
A club may be started everywhere: in the countryside and in a town or city, in Poland and abroad, in a kindergarten, at school and independently from the formal education system. It may be led by a teacher, cultural manager, parent or even – like in clubs in Belarus – older child for younger children. The crucial matter is the approach: YEC supervisors are naturally active persons who are not satisfied with ready solutions. They mindfully allow club members to explore and discover on their own.
Thanks to YECs, teachers may fulfil their dreams of how good education should look like. Relations with students founded on trust and mutual inspiration, cooperation based on partnership aimed to find solutions to fascinating puzzles of nature, involvement and passion of each of the parties – become something more than just words. Although clubs operate outside of school hours, they initiate changes visible also from the school’s perspective. The idea of comprehensive development which is embodied in the attitude of an explorer and a researcher permeates lessons at school, and the experimental method may successfully be used within the implementation of the curriculum.
Autonomy triggers positive emotions in the learning process – children and young people not only gain interesting experience, but also better devour and understand new concepts. As scientists – they are not afraid of what they do not know and they have the courage to pose more demanding questions. Their approach is, however, positively critical: they know that nobody will give them ready answers – nor the teacher, nor the manual. They become resourceful, self-confident and ready to discover knowledge. Within the YECs, there is no division into good and bad students, nobody is assessed. Here, every child may develop: everyone who is curious and has a head full of questions is welcome to the club.
Moreover, jointly conducted experiments shape – both in the case of supervisors and of students – social and personal skills. They allow to gain confidence, learn to cooperate, to communicate, to take initiative and responsibility. It is a continuous development process: during individually performed activities club members discover their strengths, which give them self-confidence. And a person aware of their competences is more willing to take the initiative. These skills are very useful in adult life and rarely developed at traditional school.
Young Explorer’s Clubs, the number of which amounts to over 700 in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Georgia and Russia, constitute a network and may benefit from free workshops, a base of experiment scenarios, exchange knowledge and plan joint actions. Club supervisors meet several times a year at the Copernicus Science Centre during, inter alia, workshops for educators, Science Picnic, „Lay out – Let out” Conference and, above all, during the YEC Forum. The YEC network is connected through numerous institutions, organisations and persons cooperating with the aim to develop the clubs: they are supervisors working directly with children and youth, coaches teaching them and institutions playing the role of “nodes” which animate the local growth of clubs. The first regional node was established in Rzeszów – since 2014 a network of clubs in the Podkarpacie region is developed and supported by Stowarzyszenie Upowszechniania Wiedzy “ExploRes” [Association for Knowledge Dissemination].
To start a club, register it at: www.kmo.org.pl. The registration and running of a club is related to no fees payable to coordinating institutions.