Bringing together bilingual postgraduates with bilingual children
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
This quote from Nelson Mandela underpins the philosophy of Native Scientist, an organization that creates science awareness and strengthens children's academic achievement by bringing together bilingual postgraduates professionals and bilingual children.
In the summer term of 2014, I had the opportunity to spend a morning with Native Scientist co-founder, Joana Moscoso, and observe five scientists from Imperial College take on the challenge of teaching a CP/Year 2 class at Wix Primary in Clapham.
Wix Primary School is one of three adjunct primary schools to the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington. Also known as École de Wix, the primary offers a unique English/French bilingual stream in addition to its English and French programs. Developed in 2006 by then Headteacher, Marc Wolstencroft, each year of the bilingual stream supports 28 children: 14 admitted by the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, and 14 chosen by the Borough of Wandsworth. See Avenue des Ecoles articles, Entretien ave Françoise Zurbach, and Two Languages, One Spirit, to see how Wix runs the bilingual program.
On the wall of Mme. Cathy Filloux's CP/Year 2 class there is a collage of thoughts and drawings about what the children think scientists do.
There are astute observations: "A scientist is a person who makes sure they get the right answer. A girl or boy, they will try it over and over again. If I were a scientist I would do a lot of explaining."
There are also precious ones: "Un scientifique c'est quelqu'un qui fait des recherches. Comme par exemple si un chat se perd les scientifiques vont le récupérer."
The collection of ponderings is not just sweet child talk—written in both English and French in equal volume, the spirit of bilingualism is real and practiced.
The five Native Scientists introduce themselves to the grouped tables of children then quickly get down to business. The format, designed by Joana, is like speed-dating—Native Scientists talk about what they do in French before they move on to the next table and start again.
The scientists are as inspiring as they are charming. Master's student Samuel explains how he uses ultrasound to detect tumours. Laptop screens are hard at work as mathematician Margaux shows the children how she studies statistics, or in her words, "looks for relationships in big amounts of data." Chemist Anaïs illustrates how she works with metals in biology. Biologist Daimona is a favourite as she explains how worms reproduce.
The biggest hit however is the chemist, Charles, who dons a white lab coat and fogs up his protective glasses as he melts a plastic cup with hot water. Charles uses his experiment to show the kids how he makes biodegradable plastics from corn, which he has brought along with him as well.
Linguistic competence varies at each table, and this creates opportunities for some skilled translation and interpretation among the children. At the end the boys and girls show how engaged they are for the entire hour by placing feedback stickers on the topic that interested them the most. Not surprisingly, Charles has a dense patch of stickers.
Native Scientist has worked primarily with Portuguese schools as well as Spanish; Wix is the French pilot. Says co-founder Joana Moscoso: "We will be increasing our public engagement with French schools in the autumn of 2014." For more on this bilingual project with wide-reaching potential see www.nativescientist who are having their first anniversary 10 July at the Doodle Bar in Battersea 7-11pm.
Haru Yamada Mathieu
Un sujet est très à la mode ces temps-ci, c’est celui de la « discipline positive » « gentle parenting » et autres considérations nouvelles sur l’éducation.
Le mode de scolarisation des enfants reste souvent l'une des premières questions que soulève un projet d'expatriation pour les parents.