“Experiencing natural sciences and technology in practice, experimenting and researching yourself, trying out and discovering your own talents – extracurricular places of learning enable young people to do all of this. They also offer valuable, practical ideas and important impulses for the further development of STEM education. I am proud that with zdi.NRW in North Rhine-Westphalia we have such a dense, diverse network of offers," said Klaus Kaiser, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Culture and Science NRW, on the occasion of the opening of the 14th LeLa Annual Conference ( LeLa, short for LernortLabor - Bundesverband der Schülerlabore e.V.), the nationwide conference of student laboratories.
For two days, representatives from all over Germany discussed in Paderborn in mid-March how school labs can empower children and young people to shape their own future. This year's co-organiser was "Future through Innovation.NRW", or zdi.NRW for short. With around 70 student laboratories, the extracurricular learning locations of the zdi.NRW community offensive funded by the NRW Ministry of Culture and Science form the largest network nationwide.
Together with the regional zdi networks, they support young people with practical offers in the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology, MINT for short. The offers range from biological and chemical analyzes in the DNA laboratory, through technical workshops to laboratories with their own production line and FabLabs, in which digitization, process automation and Industry 4.0 can be experienced in practice. zdi student laboratories are located at universities, scientific institutions, but also in museums, vocational colleges, general schools, companies or are mobile in the country.
The annual LeLa conference promotes the networking of student laboratories at national and European level. In cooperation with zdi.NRW and the regional zdi actors in Paderborn, it took place this year in the Heinz-Nixdorf MuseumsForum Paderborn, which, together with the University of Paderborn, is the sponsor of the zdi student laboratory coolMINT.paderborn.
For the first time at this year's conference, mobile student laboratories presented themselves and their work: whether genetic analysis in the classroom from science to class, transportable robotic elements from the Aachen InfoSphere, experiments from experiMINT in Bielefeld or the mobile talent workshop from Minden-Lübbecke - in addition to nationwide offers numerous zdi student laboratories also presented their offers. In addition, a poster exhibition and specialist forums offered space for further exchange, networking and discussion. Among other things, the importance of digitization, sustainability and the development of regional structures to enrich the educational landscape nationwide were discussed. zdi actors presented best practice examples in the areas of network building and teacher training, among other things.