The Novo Nordisk Foundation is supporting LIFE, a new major not-for-profit learning initiative, to provide science education resources free of charge to schools throughout Denmark. The Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 123 million to start the initiative in its first 2 years. Thereafter, the Foundation intends to award grants of up to a total of nearly DKK 1.6 billion to fund LIFE’s activities for the following 10 years.
“With the LIFE initiative, we want to help to make learning about science more exciting. The aim is to increase the interest in science and improve the competencies among children and adolescents so that more will choose higher education programmes in science,” says Sten Scheibye, Chairman, Novo Nordisk Foundation.
LIFE stands for Learn, Inspire, Fascinate and Engage and comprises a digital platform that includes virtual laboratories and games, a building serving as a learning centre in Lyngby and mobile laboratories designed in specially constructed semi-trailers that will travel to schools throughout Denmark. All these activities will be provided to schools in Denmark free of charge. Once LIFE is fully operational, about 100,000 children and adolescents will benefit from the mobile laboratory visits or visits to the learning centre in Lyngby each year. LIFE also expects that about 500,000 students will take its digital learning courses each year.
“The Foundation wants to create products and services that are attractive to both teachers and schools and that clearly appeal to children and adolescents. We have therefore emphasized that the activities should be free of charge, easy to access and contribute to the learning objectives of Denmark’s primary and lower-secondary schools and upper-secondary schools. The teaching should be authentic and should motivate each individual student,” says Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The core of LIFE is a series of learning packages enabling teachers to more easily implement realistic experimental and digitally supported courses. The learning packages will be based on authentic situations that are relevant to the daily lives of students and/or pressing societal challenges.
LIFE is being established with a 12-year horizon. In the first year, LIFE will develop the learning packages, including a new digital universe; purchase and furnish the mobile laboratories; and build the new LIFE learning centre in Lyngby, which is expected to be completed in early 2021. The mobile laboratories and the digital platform are expected to be operating during 2019.
In establishing LIFE, the Foundation wants to contribute to Denmark further developing one of the world’s best education systems within the natural and technical sciences and thereby strengthen science learning and education in Denmark.
LIFE’s ambition is to be a unifying and inclusive initiative. LIFE has been developing for more than 12 months, involving a broad coalition of the many actors working with various aspects of teaching science to children and adolescents.
LIFE’s ambition, in collaboration with other actors, is:
to set new standards for application-oriented science education in Denmark by offering courses that are relevant to students and that include experiments based on the authentic challenges companies and researchers face;
to ensure that enough talented adolescents choose a science education and career, in which Denmark has a strong foothold and great potential; and
to ensure that future generations acquire the necessary knowledge to be able to relate critically and creatively to the opportunities associated with the rapid acceleration of scientific and technological development.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
LIFE is an acronym for Learn, Inspire, Fascinate and Engage. This explains what LIFE wants for children and adolescents in science and its application. LIFE also signals that applying science is very important to people’s lives: daily life and the major challenges for our common future.
The core of LIFE’s not-for-profit products and services for schools is a series of learning packages developed in collaboration with companies that are based on authentic challenges, which make them more realistic and exciting for students. The learning packages include specific hands-on experiments and digital learning activities. Some also include material kits with equipment and materials that primary and lower-secondary schools and upper-secondary schools can order from LIFE free of charge.
LIFE’s development department continually designs and develops the learning packages in collaboration with external partners. Four learning packages for different grades developed in collaboration with research-based companies have already been tested. When fully operational, LIFE expects to have a portfolio of about 30 learning packages that will be continually developed, evaluated and revised or replaced with new ones.
The learning packages will be developed for three platforms.
- A digital universe. This comprises a web portal with access to learning material for both students and teachers and games, virtual laboratories and models that can be used in teaching.
- Ten mobile laboratories. Semi-trailers will be furnished with a laboratory staffed by LIFE employees, who will lead the experimental activity in collaboration with the class teachers. The mobile laboratories can visit all schools and municipalities, including schools that may not have modern laboratory facilities.
- A building serving as a learning centre. This will be built in Lyngby, will contain modern laboratories and will serve as a visitor centre for schools. The building will be the centre of LIFE’s development work and will therefore be the physical hub for the collaboration with schools, companies, research communities and organizations disseminating science.
LIFE’s activities will target the following students: grades 0–3 (primary and lower secondary school); grades 4–6 (primary and lower secondary school); grades 7–10 (primary and lower secondary school); and upper-secondary school (STX, HTX and HF).
The target groups for teachers will be those teaching the following subjects:
Science subjects in primary and lower-secondary schools:
Natural sciences and technology
Natural science subjects in upper-secondary schools (STX, HTX and HF):
Natural science subjects
Basic programme in the natural sciences
By supporting LIFE, the Foundation also wants to help strengthen and disseminate evidence on the types of learning and learning activities that are the most effective at promoting and maintaining the interest and engagement of children and adolescents in science. LIFE will therefore also conduct follow-up research.
You can read more about LIFE at www.life.dk, where news about the project will be posted regularly.
Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation
phone: +45 3067 4805, [email protected]