zdi.NRW is intensively involved in the Körber MINT Regions Dialogue

Large conference on nationwide MINT promotion - and zdi is right in the middle as a role model for other initiatives

Numerous zdi actors took part in this year's Körber Dialog MINT regions. "zdi is the largest and most successful network for promoting MINT young people in all of Europe," emphasized Klaus Kaiser, Parliamentary State Secretary in the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Science, during the event. A look at the program schedule shows that this is a reliable statement: in more than half of all discussions and workshops, actors from the zdi community were active as speakers or moderators. Here is an overview of the most important results of the day.

The nationwide conference was realized as an online event by the Körber Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Science and the National MINT Forum. Its aim was to network MINT makers from all over Germany. Political talks were supplemented by practical workshops - in order to bring decision-makers from politics, science and business as well as practitioners from the direct work on site into conversation with each other.

To the film “MINT education – why science, technology and IT are becoming increasingly important”

Discussion round at decision-maker level: zdi inspires all of Germany

For example, Klaus Kaiser, together with the Brandenburg Minister of Education and President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, Britta Ernst, and Dr. Sigrid Nikutta, board member for freight transport at Deutsche Bahn AG, discussed current challenges in MINT education. Kaiser explained the importance of zdi.NRW for the federal state: “We started a success story with zdi more than 15 years ago. Since then, we have been networking young people with science and business across the country. With our offers, we create opportunities for schoolchildren to deal with scientific and technical phenomena.”

Especially in the pandemic year 2020, the flexible structures of the zdi networks and zdi student laboratories were able to help offer online courses to give young people the opportunity to deal with STEM despite all the restrictions. With the "MINT Community", the new zdi online platform, another basis was created last autumn for establishing digital offers nationwide. This unique platform allows students to talk to each other in a data-secure room, initiate projects and meet other STEM enthusiasts. At the same time, zdi courses can be searched for and found here, so that a unique STEM marketplace has emerged for NRW.Shaping the future with MINT

During the workshops that followed, zdi networks reported on the challenges they see in addressing girls, how successful community work works and why MINT education makes sense in daycare. But the local zdi community does not want to rest on its laurels: “The zdi actors are already working in many offers with current scientific findings. This is a forward-looking approach,” explained Klaus Kaiser. “Because this is how they show young people a way to use STEM knowledge and shape their own everyday reality. It's not just about the question of technology, but also about the question of what technology can be used for in order to change the world for the better."

The results of the workshops at a glance

Workshop 1: Virtual MINT offers - emergency solution or future perspective?

The unequivocal opinion of the speakers: Online offers will accompany us in the future and will be an important part of extracurricular STEM education. Benefits such as the ability to participate and network across regions were highlighted, as was the need to actively involve the students. Since the courses are usually voluntary, not graded and the lecturers can move at eye level - maybe even learn from the students - there are good chances, despite all the online fatigue, to win young people over to MINT offers . It is important to include a form of playful ease, a friendly atmosphere and perhaps even haptic elements in the courses.

Example project: Digital internship - creative solutions in times of crisis

Workshop 2: Inspire girls to take a lasting interest in STEM - 2 views into practice

In order to attract girls to courses in the long term, it is important to combine MINT activities with a benefit, to show the context and to involve the girls in a participatory way. But the titles of the events are also crucial: Boredom and theory cannot score here! The workshop leaders emphasized that it is very important for girls to experience STEM subjects outside of the school environment. What counts here is curiosity and fun – grades and evaluations are left out.

Example project: MINT4Girls: Get to know the university and the professional world for a year

Workshop 3: Voluntary work in extracurricular places of learning

In this workshop the question was how and for what purpose volunteers from MINT actors could be involved. In addition to legal aspects, questions of addressing, remuneration, continuity and the independence of the volunteers were also discussed. The involvement of students or retired teachers who can provide important content-related or pedagogical input could be interesting for zdi actors.

Workshop 4: Strengthening the impact together - STEM quality offensive for extracurricular STEM offers

The speakers first explained a definition of the term "impact" and its application in the area of ​​extracurricular STEM education. Since March 2020, 13 STEM regions have been participating in a pilot project to test a guide for self-analysis of STEM offers. The networks each reflect on one or more of their own offers and try to become aware of aspects such as quality criteria and chains of effects. The pilot phase will run until mid-2021. An online tool for this is to be made available from late summer.

Workshop 5: Do a lot with little money - MINT fund

The basic question of the workshop was: "How do I get resources from my MINT network?" An important principle here: "The money follows the idea", which means that one's own conviction must be visible in contact with the stakeholder. Systematic preparation with tools such as stakeholder analysis is helpful. The structure and mode of operation of the MINT fund of the zdi center per MINT GT was presented as an example. With little effort, small standardized contributions from companies and as little bureaucracy as possible, schools in the region can receive short-term funding for travel expenses, additional equipment, etc., as long as these can have a clear STEM reference.

Further information: Brief guidelines of the Körber Foundation "On the way to the STEM region" & MINT fund in Gütersloh

Workshop 6: Early childhood STEM education initiatives in practice

It's never too early to start getting kids excited about STEM. Especially in preschool and elementary school, children are particularly curious and open to new things. The “kidsgoMINT” project was presented as an example of an educational initiative for elementary school by the zdi center in Essen. Here research boxes are used in kindergartens. 16 experimental modules have now been developed for this purpose. After the briefing/training, online tutorials are available to refresh the knowledge at any time. The cooperation with the house of little researchers is also a good opportunity to implement STEM education in daycare and elementary school.

Example project: kids goMINT & House of little explorers

Workshop 7: Bottom up: How do you strengthen a grassroots movement? – using the example of Code Week

Grassroots movements take advantage of the motivation of the individual actors by providing impulses and a framework, but giving them great freedom in design. So everyone can decide for themselves how they become part of the community. The "Shared Structures" approach is interesting for zdi actors who want to set up bottom-up actions or projects themselves. This means that specific products such as graphics or contacts are shared with the community to help them build a local community.

Workshop 8: Communities: The (only true) way to sustainable MINT promotion

The speakers examined how projects can be tackled and anchored in the long term by building a community. Tools were provided as to what active community management should look like. Using best practice examples, they demonstrated the added value of a healthy community. Personas and community canvases were created directly in the workshop, which can be used to support the development and expansion of communities.

Example project: STEM community

Film and lunch talk about the importance of MINT & MINT education


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The film “Into the future with MINT? Why science and technology are becoming increasingly important”, which premiered at the event. Personalities such as the science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar, Joachim Lachmuth from the program with the mouse and Dr. Ekkehart Winter from the Deutsche Telekom Foundation talk about MINT education and its importance for our future from their perspective.

Lunch Talk: Teachers Crucial to Successful STEM Education

During the lunch break, Dr. Ekkehart Winter and science YouTuber Jacob Beautemps with Magdalena Hein live from the zdi-LGS about new ways of STEM education. Both see the role of teachers in exchange with other actors as a crucial key. Beautemps explained that science communicators and educators can learn a lot from and inspire each other. Also for Winter - especially in his function as spokesman for the National STEM Forum - one thing is clear: teachers must be strengthened in order to enable extracurricular STEM education in the future.

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