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The Foundation's expertise is based on its knowledge of the school and scientific environment and teacher training. For nearly 30 years, La main à la pâte has brought together teachers, scientists, educational science experts and network leaders who cooperate with academic environments and educational authorities with the common ambition of improving the quality of science teaching in schools and secondary schools.
A constantly evolving pedagogical approach, nourished by research and practice
Since its inception, La main à la pâte has promoted science teaching that emphasises the acquisition of knowledge and skills through exploration, experimentation and discussion. All of the Foundation's activities are built and conducted along these guidelines. Like science as it is practised, the teaching of science in schools and secondary schools is based on the scientific approach through active, questioning, experimental practice and collective construction. It should not be reduced to learning fixed statements to be memorised, but should encourage pupils' curiosity, research, trial and error and critical thinking.
The teacher offers pupils situations that allow for investigation, encourages the exchange of points of view by paying close attention to the development of reasoning and the mastery of language, has pupils draw valid conclusions in relation to the experimental results obtained and, throughout, leads the pupils without doing things for them.
Production of a wide range of resources and training for the professional development of teachers and trainers
Giving a great care to the needs and new uses of teachers, La main à la pâte creates and offers resources and training courses that combine scientific knowledge and teaching practices.
The Foundation designs "ready to use", multi-media resources that are adapted to the educational programmes and skills reference frameworks : class activities, various documentations, videos, podcasts, protocols for using applications, etc.
With the La main à la pâte networks, it also develops training activities for teachers and teacher trainers in primary and secondary schools. Various formats are available to them :
- Remotely self-training tutorials, offered on the L@map platform. These short tutorials (about an hour) focus on how to use a material in the classroom in order to facilitate its appropriation and implementation.
- Face-to-face or hybrid training courses, given in the Maisons pour la science, alternating between meetings with teachers and remotely learning sessions. These courses have the particularity of giving a central place to living science, and are an opportunity for teachers to develop their scientific culture in contact with specialists in a wide range of subjects while discovering ways of transferring what they have learned to the classroom.
Management of networks established at national and international scales
The Fondation La main à la pâte creates and runs local networks, as well as national and international networks, which bring together partners from the public and private sectors - researchers, engineers, technicians, educational authorities, teachers and pupils - around innovative projects, and promote the development, evaluation and dissemination of "good practices" for teaching science and technology.
On a national scale, the Foundation coordinates networks throughout the country that rely on a strong partnership with the French Ministry of Education and education institutions. Its aim is to support primary and secondary school teachers and provide them tools to teach science and technology, with an emphasis on the scientific approach and reasoning. Three networks, supported by La main à la pâte, are working for this purpose :
- The "Centres pilotes La main à la pâte", which bring together teams committed to renovating science teaching in primary schools, at the level of a town, a district or a department.
- The "Collèges La main à la pâte", which disseminate original science teaching practices in secondary schools, based on special relationships with local laboratories and companies.
- The "Maisons pour la science", which, as part of their training offer, bring together teachers, academics and scientists.
On an international scale, La main à la pâte has collaborated with more than 50 countries on all continents since its inception and has developed an important network of exchanges of practices, particularly in Europe. Today, cooperation efforts are particularly focused on sub-Saharan Africa. Expertise and assistance in starting up a project, training of trainers and the exchange of didactic, pedagogical and scientific resources are all actions put forward in the framework of these exchanges with foreign countries.
The Foundation ensures the link between these different networks so that they reinforce each other and benefit from each other's expertise. For example by associating the "Maisons pour la science" with a European project, or by requesting the coordinators of "Centres pilotes" for international cooperation projects.
A role in advising and supporting public policies
The Foundation builds its strategy by identifying critical aspects of science teaching in primary and secondary schools, then invents models of action, validates them through experimentation, and offers them to the educational authorities for expansion.
Relying heavily on the French Academy of Sciences, it advises and supports public authorities and other actors in charge of designing and defining public policies, at national and international level, in the formulation of educational policies favourable to science teaching and in the experimentation of pilot programmes to initiate these policies. The Foundation also sets up and supports multi-partner projects, or accompanies the definition and implementation of third-party projects, in the framework of calls for projects or calls for tenders.
Creating synergies between the scientific and educational communities
One of the main original features of La main à la pâte is the place of the scientific community in all the fields of intervention developed, in close collaboration with teachers, their trainers and the entire educational community.
Scientists are thus present:
- Throughout the process of designing, producing and validating "ready to use" resources for the classroom.
- In scientific support systems for teachers, through the transmission of their expertise on the "Questions to the experts" forum, or within the framework of the "Scientific Partners for the Class" scheme, which mobilises students, researchers and engineers to help prepare and carry out classroom sessions.
- In teacher training, particularly in the "Maisons pour la science", where all training courses are designed with scientists and run by mixed teams of teachers and scientists.
- In the mobilisation in favour of science education at all levels: sponsorship of "Collèges La main à la pâte"; interventions in "Centres pilotes" for conferences open to families; participation in advocacy actions at regional, national or international level. Scientists are at the side of the Foundation to encourage the educational community but also, more broadly, the decision-makers and society.
The Foundation also involves teachers, for whom it targets the majority of its actions:
- By collaborating with them and involving them in the production and testing phases of "ready to use" resources.
- By setting up pilot projects in schools.
- By designing tools for capitalising on or evaluating its actions in order to disseminate and develop them.
- To shoot videos in classroom for training courses.