Biophilia Education Project

Author: Svava Pétursdóttir  I attended a workshop on the project Biophilia as part of the conference Future Teachers – A profession at crossroads. The workshop was held in Langholtsskóli where it started by presentations by the project manager for the Nordic Biophilia Education Project at the Ministry for Education, Auður Rán Þorgeirsdóttir, Guðrún Geirsdóttir, from the University of Iceland who is a pedagogical advisor in the project and Curver Thoroddsen talked about the project, the background and new developments. The group then went with two different teams to try out the app and other related activities. Skúli Gestsson, teacher at Langholtsskóli and Martin Swift teacher at Breiðholtsskóli organised the one I attended and Curver Thoroddsen and Viktoría Gilsdóttir the other one. Lastly we sat down in groups to discuss the project.

Guðrún Geirsdóttir, Auður Rán Þorgeirssdóttir og Skúli Gestsson

Guðrún Geirsdóttir, Auður Rán Þorgeirssdóttir og Skúli Gestsson

Biophilia The description from the workshop really says it all:

„Biophilia is a large-scale pilot education project that builds on participation by academics, scientists, artists, teachers, and students at all academic levels. It is based on creativity as a teaching and research method, where the natural sciences, music and technology are linked together in an innovative way.

The project was originally developed by Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the City of Reykjavík and the University of Iceland, in connection with the release of Björk’s album Biophilia in 2011. Music and science workshops for children were held alongside Björk’s concerts around the world.

To commemorate its presidency in 2014, the Icelandic government sought collaboration with the other Nordic countries to further develop the Biophilia teaching project. Local collaboration networks will be set up in all Nordic countries.

The goal of the Nordic cooperation is (in short) to:

• boost innovation in education by transforming traditional teaching practices through an interdisciplinary approach, crossing age groups, academic subjects, and areas of expertise, and by developing teaching methods that combine knowledge, creativity and technology.

• develop local collaboration networks and online collaboration forum for Nordic cooperation, that will continue to be available when the project ends.“

What was interesting to learn of now is that the project is being introduced in the Nordic countries. Teams of experts are developing the project further to improve it and come up with new ideas on teaching with Biophilia. (See this news item from the project manager). The main team includes amongst others musicians, directors, philosophers, scientist, pedagogues and Björk herself.

Martin Swift and Skúli Gestsson starting the workshop

Martin Swift and Skúli Gestsson starting the workshop

The workshop Participating in the Biophilia Education workshop was great fun and gave insight into how it in ingenious ways introduces and combines music and science in tasks for children. The workshop consisted of musical experiments, science demonstrations and discussions plus experimentation with the app suite itself.

Participants making a musical sequence.

Participants making a musical sequence.

Each of the ten Biophilia songs has a separate science-related theme and a musical element and a separate part of the app. We worked with the part Moon which is about sequences and patterns both in music and nature, sequences like gravity, tides and phases of the Moon, which can be seen in the musical instrument The Sequencer.

Screenshot from The sequencer.

Screenshot from The sequencer.

What is appealing about working with the app is that you do not necessarily how to know a lot about science nor music to start, playing around with the app and exploring music and science will get pupils wondering about these beautiful and fascinating worlds. The teachers giving the workshop both thought that workshops with the app can engage pupils and kindle their interest in science and music. In the workshop we worked with musical instruments where we made our own sequence, and saw electronic sequencer from littleBits. From the science end we explored distances and the phases of the moon with Styrofoam balls and an earth ball.

Andy Hargreaves with teachers from Sweden and Iceland.

Andy Hargreaves with teachers from Sweden and Iceland.

Lastly we discussed possibilities and challenges the project might pose in our opinions. My main concern with the Biophilia project has always been that it appeared un-accessible to teachers, from presentation in the media it seemed that the app could only be used in special workshops as part of the project. But I was wrong, the app can and should be used by anyone interested and the current website gives teaching ideas and explains both the science and music ideas that each part of the app is about so teachers can get an idea of how to start using it with pupils. With the current work on the project I look forward to seeing more ideas and more teachers trying it out with their pupils. The app You can get the Biophilia App Suite: – For iPads and iPhones go to the App Store on iTunes here – For Android based phones and tablets (4.0 and up)on Google Play here The App is around 1GB and takes some time to download. Priced at about 10 Euros.