|The main objectives of the BLOOM project are to raise awareness on the bioeconomy and to establish open and informed dialogues, co-created by European citizens, civil society, bioeconomy innovation networks, local research centres, business and industry stakeholders and various levels of government. BLOOM is creating spaces for the needed debate on preferences and values concerning the bioeconomy; for interaction and exchange of information, knowledge, meaning and aspirations, with the aim of establishing consensus on how a bioeconomy can be realized. Across Europe, five regional hubs have been established to foster public engagement in the bioeconomy and to create a space of exchange and debate. Moreover, 20 pilot teachers who teach physics, biology, mathematics, engineering, technology or chemistry representing schools from 10 countries, have been selected in order to produce new bioeconomy teaching resources, test these resources in their schools/classrooms and provide feedback on their implementation.
My very first interaction with BLOOM – Boosting European Citizens’ Knowledge and Awareness of Bioeconomy Research and Innovation – happened in 2018, when I was writing the application of our school – BHAK and BHAS Wien10 – for the European Schoolnet pilot teacher project. I associated the extremely appropriately chosen abbreviation BLOOM with an innovative process that is about to start, to travel around the world and to fascinate every single person caring about the environment and the future of our planet. Fortunately, our school was selected for the participation in the BLOOM project. The acceptance of our application boosted my motivation to search more intensively for materials, initiatives etc. in the landscape of the Austrian bioeconomy. Surprisingly, Idiscovered that the Austrian government had not even developed a bioeconomy strategy. It seemed to me, that our country was in a deep winter sleep concerning the bioeconomy. Since then, I see myself as a bioeconomy ambassador in the Austrian educational system, desperately seeking for events dealing with the bioeconomy or offering the stage to sensitize the public about BLOOM and its future significance.
My engagement in the bioeconomy features a local and a regional context. The local context refers to the educational activities in BHAK and BHAS Wien10 predominantly. We developed together with the students and my colleagues the learning scenario “Examining the thermal properties of bio-based building materials”, which was tested during natural science classes twice. We gave a special emphasis to the bioeconomy during the natural science day that took place on 20th December 2019. A workshop on thermal isolation using bio-based building materials was organised for the participating students. The introduction of the workshop was dealing with the term bioeconomy, as the majority of our students had never heard of it. They were not able to give a definition of the bioeconomy and to distinguish between green economy and bioeconomy. We wrote a report about the natural science day and published it on the school homepage. Consequently, we could inform more than 1,500 students and teachers about the bioeconomy and its significance for the future social and economic development. In the meantime, our students became experts in the field and they are welcome guests to various workshops, webinars and conferences.
The regional context refers to numerous co-creation workshops organised by the Ecosocial Forum in Austria. For instance, on 16th January 2019, a co-creation workshop on sustainable packaging took place with stakeholders from different economic sectors. During the event, the participants had the possibility to discuss intensively what the packaging of the future should look like. Special emphasis was given to how the bioeconomy can reduce the mountains of packaging waste. The ideas created during the workshop gave me additional motivation to continue working in the bioeconomy field.
Five months later, on 18th June 2019, the Austrian and German hub invited my students to a second co-creation workshop. The focus of that workshop was on promoting understanding, creating awareness and communicating the bioeconomy in the Austrian public. Especially, in the context of “Fridays for Future”, the organisers were interested in the opinion and perspective of younger citizens and students who are willing to deal with the topic of bioeconomy at school. The issue of communicating the bioeconomy in the society kept my students occupied in November 2019 as well. They were again welcome performers in a co-creation-webinar due to their expertise. The objective target of that event was to develop framework conditions and core questions for a 60-minutes television discussion for the Austrian local TV station “Dorf-TV” in Linz, Austria. The broadcast will take place on 22nd April 2020. Finally, I would like to highlight that my students and I participated at three different conferences on bioeconomy in the last school year.
Moreover, my involvement in BLOOM sensitized my thoughts and eyes to a new world full of potential called bioeconomy. My role as an educator is not only to develop learning materials suitable for teaching bioeconomy but also to create learning spaces that will promote the interdisciplinary approach needed in this field. Consequently, under my initiative a teachers’ team was set up in September 2019 that developed by the end of December 2019 a concept including cost estimate for a future classroom lab at our school. The realisation of the so created concept is the first preference of our headmaster and it is due to my participation in BLOOM.
I have been continuously involved in environmental issues that deal with bioeconomy to a certain extent. For instance, I managed the two-year Comenius project “Different places and different approaches to environmental challenges in a world in transition: a SWOT analysis”. The project analysed environmental aspects such as waste management, low carbon and mobility, urban energy infrastructure, urban shape and green spaces in the future or ecological attitudes. Students and teachers from eight different countries participated in the project. However, my engagement in environmental topics changed its viewpoint through BLOOM. My perspective concerning bioeconomy widened.
Given my extremely high sensitivity for ecological matters, the involvement in BLOOM inspired me to start working on a concept for a multilateral Erasmus project that will focus on different aspects of the bioeconomy in as many countries as possible. A first informal meeting with teachers from Germany already took place in Vienna.
Finally, it is my pleasure to highlight that BLOOM is not only a project in which my students and school are involved. BLOOM became my lifelong philosophy in my private and professional life.
Written by MMag. Dr. Nikolinka Fertala, teacher at BHAK and BHAS Wien10, Austria