Hey you! Throw away that cigarette’s butt. Of course, put your cigarette out before tossing it in the ash catcher! It will take you a little time to answer the following questions. As a teenager, do you think youngsters are aware that cigarette smoke inhalation is a completely unnatural behaviour? Are they aware of the lethal mix of substances within cigarette smoke? Do they know how Tobacco production and consumption undermine the achievement of several targets related with Sustainable Development Goals of the Agenda 2030?
Well, on the basis of the results of the project we carried out in the last month, our answer could be summarised in this way: not enough!
We would like to raise students’ interest in Tobacco-related hazards. Not only those that directly affect smoker’s health, but also the ones that threat their families, their communities and people involved in tobacco farming. We would focus on the complexity of the problem rather than provide students with a reductive approach. Our Big Idea is that to find effective and suitable solutions, future scientists should also be able to face complexity.
We are a team of teachers from the Upper Secondary School “G. Galilei” in Jesi, a Technical Biotech School in the province of Ancona, in the Marche region. The school community vision is always leading us to contextualise learning in real-life. By means of a well-developed network at both local and international level, we are always provided with riveting opportunities to develop students’ and teachers’ abilities to cope with the challenges we are facing nowadays.
It all started in September, when a Professional Development Course to spread the use of Inquiry-Based Science Teaching was organized by the National Association of Science Teachers (ANISN). Under the guidance of two trainer teachers, Chiara Garulli and Luigina Renzi, we enhanced our capabilities to plan and implement our project. We also got the opportunity to deepen our knowledge in the field of Tobacco Hazards inviting experts from the Polytechnic University of The Marche Region. They also provide career guidance. “Professional Go Back to School”, the activity we used, is just one of the many ways to present STEM jobs in Classroom. Teachers can find plenty of resources in the guidelines developed by STEAM-(IT) / Stem Career Advisers Network. Finally, spellbinding ideas to promote active learning where grabbed from the MOOC “Active Learning and Innovative Teaching in Flexible Learning Spaces and the related Guidelines in learning space innovations | Unesco IIEP Learning Portal
INQUIRY BASED LEARNING
Students were asked to solve a problem in group of four. They should prove which kind of cigarette was the most poisonous among several samples available for the comparison. They were provided with an apparatus for cigarette tar extraction, an analytical scale, lab glassware, laboratory oven, dryer, solvents, nicotine standard and other materials to perform Thin Layer Chromatography.
According to the different steps of the Scientific Method, students must form a hypothesis, a prediction based on observations and /or previous knowledge, avoiding any use of web search. The next step was to plan an experiment to prove their prediction right. The two steps were carried out using a think, pair and share activity. Each group should come up with a shared experimental plan. The following plenary discussion was aimed to present groups’ speculation and plan. No feedback was provided in terms of wrong or right answers but, teachers had the opportunity to guide them asking sense-making questions. The discussion helped the groups to improve the experimental plan. The experiments were implemented. Data were collected and analysed. Each group drew its conclusions and summarised the whole study using a scientific poster to give a presentation. Finally, findings were discussed in plenary to better understand weaknesses and strengths in each experience.
At the end of the day, students agreed on the best way to compare samples. It consists in a quantitative comparison, the gravimetric analysis of extracted tar from different samples. Further qualitative information could be gathered by means of thin layer chromatography based on the comparison of eluted tar samples and standards.
The final activity was aimed to explain features of tobacco first, second and third hand smoke and the effects of exposure on the human body. Information was provided about the carcinogenesis process induced by nitrosamine and benzopyrene metabolism, which is mediated by Cytochrome P450, a superfamily of enzymes responsible for oxidizing xenobiotics. Consequently, the concept of polymorphism was contextualized to explain the occurrence of altered or enhanced metabolisms that can lead to different health conditions among smokers. Last but not least, teachers make clear that no evidence were shown about the innocuity of Tobacco Heated Products and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems.
PROFESSIONAL GO BACK TO SCHOOL
Considering the rate of our school students that choose to enroll in STEM academic courses, we would like to offer guidance for STEM careers related with the topic. Internships and Orientation programs provide a wide list of interlocutors to whom ask support to help students to discover the more appropriate career according to their passion, attitudes, willingness, and skills.
Keeping updated with the continuous changes we are experiencing both in education and the job market, whether local or global, is extremely relevant for teaching professionals and students. This way, we can cope with a challenge of paramount importance: to develop students’ hard and soft skills, which are fundamental assets in higher job market demand.
In this experience we got in touch with three experts from Polytechnical University of Marche (UNIVPM), Professor Pier Luigi Stipa, a chemistry researcher in charge of Orientation program for UNIVPM, Professor Stefano Gasparini specialized in pulmonary diseases and respiratory physiopathology and, a PhD candidate Giulia Lucia, who is studying the effects of cigarette butts on the natural marine environment.
Due to Covid19 restriction, the activity was held online. One of our students was in charge of explaining the undertaken learning pathway and the results in terms of raise of interest in the field and gaining of expertise and skills.
Then, students could pose some questions inheriting the careers of involved STEM professionals according to curiosities raised during the activity preparation. The expert addressed the questions and then gave a presentation.
Information was delivered according to the specific discipline approach that experts use facing different aspects of the same phenomenon, the tobacco consumption.
CLIL: TOBACCO AND SDGS OF 2030 AGENDA
On top of that, the last part of the project concerned the interference of Tobacco farming and consumption with principles of equity, prosperity, and sustainability contemplated in 2030 Agenda’s SDGs. In groups the students were involved in the production of a podcast pilot episode. The aim was to raise awareness among their peers on the topic. Students were provided with original material from World Health Organization and from another acknowledged project Sustainable Development or Tobacco – unfair tobacco. According to activity described in the picture, they had the opportunity to explore the materials and agree on the answers to relevant questions. The process enabled them to highlight the main facts they should use to raise awareness among peers.
Students’ transferable skills were assessed by means of ongoing observations based on criteria such as participation, accountability, and time management. Hard skills assessment was carried out during laboratory experiments by means of observations and then through the evaluation of poster contents. Knowledge assessment was carried out using open ended and multiple-choice questions.
The activity addresses a topic that is meaningful for the students. They are quite curious about the effects of such products. We spotlighted some misconceptions that must be confuted. According to the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, awareness about the hazards related to Tobacco consumption is one of the most important measures to control the spread of this plague.
The activities the students carried out were not only an opportunity to contextualize their previous knowledge and abilities but also to test and develop new competences.
Authentic learning is an umbrella term that encloses all the different methods we used during this incredible journey. As in life, both of us students and teachers have experienced some problems facing new situations but, at the end of the day, we were all able to find solutions, to communicate with each other and, finally, to manage to become a better and upskilled version of ourselves.
Thank you for reading!