Science and Education Centre Visnjan (SECV, Croatia)
Petar Čuček, coordinator of education programmes
Science and Education Centre Višnjan (SECV) has joined a family of European Talent Supp ort Network as a talent point in 2016. In past two years, as well as ETSN has made great progress, so has SECV made a few steps considering new partnerships; program extension and scientific work in the field of program evaluation for highly motivated students.
SECV is a non-governmental institution with the mission of promotion and encouragement of innovation and excellence in STEM areas with highly motivated children and youth. Our mission is obtained through support to both motivated youths, their educators, and parents in fields of natural and social sciences, technologies, environment protection, arts, and culture.
SECV creates, conducts and evaluates non-formal learning programs in almost all scientific areas through residential activities (camps and schools) under the umbrella Višnjan educational project (VEP). Programs are aimed at different age and interest groups (through pre-schoolers and beyond; from kindergarten teachers to elementary and high school teachers), from popular science to highly specialized themes and projects.
VEP – residential, non-formal learning programs
From 2018, as a result of a permanent increase in interest for our programs, and our aspiration to offer students more than just summer schools, in order to boost the development of their talents, new application scheme is fully implemented. After the application (application form, letter of recommendation from teacher, school grade record and extra documents e.g. applicants own projects) applicants who had never participated on VEP are selected for 4-day programs in fall and winter period.
Applicants who had previously participated on VEP are selected for summer, 8-day programs. Selection procedures include evaluation of applications according to Center’s standardized criteria (in process of publishing)
Summer residential activities are organized for groups of 30 students of similar age, motivation and experience level, who had already participated in our programs and had demonstrated their motivation. Usually, they last for a week. Further, 5-8 groups are formed, led by a mentor where students are challenged with a real research problem. Scientific fields covered range from biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and astrophysics, mathematics through technical disciplines, social sciences and humanities. Most projects have a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity. During the course of the program, two “project status” briefings are prepared, along with the final presentation of the whole project, project summary. Scientific communication is practiced in that way. Most motivated and successful students are included in additional work, whether to expand their summer projects, work on their own projects, or to participate in international exchange programs and students’ conferences.
Current residential programs
Youth Science Camp, a national (where language is not a barrier) programs aimed at elementary students from 3rd and 4th; 5th & 6th; 7th & 8th grade has a goal of early introduction of the scientific method in different areas of natural and social sciences. In addition to improvement of participants’ scientific literacy and scientific communication, the programs’ main perk is a possibility to meet and work with think alike peers, which develops participants’ social skills.
Our oldest program, Višnjan School of Astronomy, aimed at high school students with interest and demonstrated achievements in fields of astronomy, astrophysics and related engineering fields will be held this summer for the 30th time in a row. Unique environment, Tičan Observatory (MPC code LO1) housing 1m telescope intended for students research projects; geophysical observatory and Croatian Meteor Network are the main instruments in the creation of a research-alike environment for students.
Summer School of Science, a program aimed at high school students with interests in natural sciences, focuses on interdisciplinary projects e.g. microbiogechemistry of shallow methane seepage areas for which Remotely operated Vehicle had been developed; Microbial Fuel Cells; Astrobiology – Mars simulating chambers, to name a few.
In the summer of 2018, both Summer School of Science and Youth Science Camp will be held for the 18th time.
Scientific and professional work
In the Balkans and beyond, Višnjan is often associated with astronomy. Višnjan Astronomical Society, an SECV’s collaborator in the creation and execution of the Višnjan educational project is formally registered since 1976. After the establishment of Višnjan Observatory as one of most prolific observatories for discoveries of small bodies of the solar system in the early 2000s, light pollution motivated the building of new observatory on the nearby hill (Tičan Observatory).
In August 2017 new, Tičan Observatory had been officially coded by Minor Planet Center as L01. Since then, more than 500 measurements of suspicious objects have been submitted, in addition to the discovery of 10 new asteroids.
30 years of experience with organization of residential programs for youth highly motivated in the STEM area implies interest in both teacher and mentor training and psychological sciences – talent development, program evaluations, selection system… Those parameters are constantly measured and re-evaluated, along with preparation and publishing professional papers.
SECV has well-established cooperation with numerous organizations all over the world dealing with education and gifted education. In this year, cooperation with Center for research and promotion of giftedness (Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana) has been intensified.
Currently, SECV is conducting a program for Italian minority in Croatia and Slovenia in collaboration with Italian Union in Croatia and Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in addition to projects: “A step into science”, funded by Ministry of Science and Education and HT CAMPUS funded by Hrvatski Telekom d.d.