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EXPERIENCES OF CROATIAN SCHOOLS IN SCHOOL-TO-SCHOOL COLLABORATION


Croatian GLOBE community has been organizing Science Fairs for the past 18 years, with the goal to encourage and promote students' research projects. Each year the judges select 30 - 40 school projects for the presentation at the GLOBE fair and for publishing on Croatian GLOBE website http://globe.pomsk.hr/smotra2017/zadar_17_projekti.htm . Among the projects at the fair, there are always several joint school projects. Usually, collaborating schools are from the same region, which gives them the opportunity to meet face to face and organize joint fieldwork or working sessions. Furthermore, they usually deal with a specific regional problem that they have noticed and agreed to choose it as the topic of their research. For instance, project topics are the research of water or air quality, land cover research or mapping the selected (protected or invasive) plant species in the area.

There have been several examples of schools situated at distant locations from each other, dealing with the research question of changes in water quality along the same river. Another example comes from the schools on the Adriatic coast, which have been obtaining phenological research on figs (Ficus carica) for several years already, monitoring how Pheno phases of bud burst and green-up are delayed at locations towards north-west, compared to locations at south-east along Adriatic coast, while green-down follows the opposite pattern.

Phenology is very suitable research area for collaboration among schools that can observe the same biological species. Students can think about the various environmental factors that could influence variations in appearance of Pheno-phases, and phenological observations encourage and promote the integration of various other GLOBE measurements and observations.

For years now, Country Coordinators and scientists at Europe & Eurasia regional meetings have been reflecting and discussing the topics and possibilities that could attract and encourage European schools from different countries to collaborate. The topic should be interesting, challenging, actual, but reachable with GLOBE methodology and instruments, as well as appropriate for the students to deal with. Those discussions spawned several ideas, among which was the idea to develop an international phenological project. The project was finally shaped by a group of European scientists as European Phenology Campaign 2017, which has its own web site, linked to GLOBE web pages at the address https://www.globe.gov/web/european-phenology-campaign/overview . Scientists agreed to select 7 widely spread species of trees for the campaign, so that almost any school in Europe could observe at least one of them. GrowApp smartphone application was developed as a part of the project. The application provides a possibility to observe plants changing over seasons, make time-lapse videos and learn how plants react to climate. It can be downloaded at https://www.growapp.today/main.html .  

The team of scientists involved in GrowApp campaign communicates with schools that joined the campaign, providing follow-up and supervision. Schools that have reached the second phase of the project are organized into international groups of 3-school teams. So far, they have exchanged e-mails, presenting themselves and are planning to continue working on joint projects, organizing virtual meetings and webinars. 

In the European & Eurasian region there are many languages, and the language barrier might be an obstacle for students and sometimes even teachers, that makes shaping a collaboration project or even making contact more difficult. This might especially be a problem when younger students are involved, or if students do not have developed communication skills in a foreign language. In such cases, contact is made mostly between English speaking teachers, but even then, with motivated participants, collaboration is possible. Such collaboration started between Osnovna škola „Antun i Stjepan Radić“- Gunja, from Croatia and Al Bayroni Elementary  School from Israel. The initiative for that collaboration came from Country Coordinators, who presented the idea to the schools in Israel and Croatia, inviting those who are interested in collaboration. The schools that answered the call started the Skype communication between the teachers, which resulted in the idea for the topic of common interest and suitable methodology, appropriate for the students’ age. The topic of their common interest is again phenology and since younger students are involved, they observe the growth of the plants of the same genus, used for food, grown in their school gardens. Chosen topic is supported in each country’s curriculum, which makes it possible for the whole class to be involved.

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