CliSAP successfully finished in 2018. Climate research continues in the Cluster of Excellence "CLICCS".

Science and Schools: A trainee teacher investigates pupils’ preconceptions about the Arctic


To promote exchanges between science and schools, CliSAP researchers Benjamin Runkle and Lars Kutzbach made it possible for trainee teacher Wiebke Kaiser to travel to Siberia in 2013. She has used what she learned about permafrost to develop an educational concept for teaching school students about climate-relevant processes in the Arctic.

Wiebke Kaiser is trainee teacher at the University of Hamburg
Wiebke Kaiser and the CliSAP-Team

Kaiser hopes to “approach students on the basis of their background knowledge.” That’s why the university student, who is studying Education and Geography, based her research for her state exam on how much students know about our polar regions by the time they reach the fourth grade. On Friday, she presented her findings to an audience of Soil Science faculty and students at Universität Hamburg’s Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN). “With this project, which is part of my degree course, my goal is to bring together fundamental academic research and teaching concepts in schools,” says Kaiser. “Introducing new facts to school children works best when we teachers tie it in with what they already know and the preconceptions they have.”   

Last fall, Kaiser examined such preconceptions on the topic of permafrost in ten Hamburg primary schools. “The effects of climate change can be clearly seen in the permafrost in polar regions, so those regions should more often be included in the curriculum,” said Kaiser, explaining her choice of topic. Climate protection is only possible if young people grasp at an early age the consequences of anthropogenic climate change.

Universität Hamburg’s Center for a Sustainable University (KNU) provided initial funding to cover the costs of Kaiser’s trip to Siberia and the event.

As part of Friday’s agenda, Christian Wille and David Holl, two researchers from the Cluster of Excellence CliSAP, shared insights into their current research on permafrost. “Projects like this are vital, because they bring together science and the public. Wiebke’s research into students’ preconceptions helps us to prepare suitable material for our students in various learning situations. We really enjoy sharing findings form polar research with teachers,” confirmed Benjamin Runkle, while his colleague Lars Kutzbach added, “Fundamental research shouldn’t be carried out for the ivory towers – it’s very important that the public hears about the latest findings.”

Link to the flyer