Their activities include halting the decline of bees, extracting water from pharmaceutical waste materials, and campaigning for sustainable fashion. As part of the "Our Common Future" program, high school students are working on real-life research projects connected with sustainability. At the first-ever youth congress, they were given fresh motivation from the likes of former astronaut Thomas Reiter.
Responsible for Their Own Research
"Drawing up a questionnaire sounds easy, but when you actually start doing it yourself, it’s pretty difficult. There are so many things to consider!" explains Lena from Innsbruck. Lena and her fellow students explored the question of whether climate protection projects involving young people help change their families’ attitudes. From the overarching topic of climate protection through to day-to-day family life, Our Common Future allows students to search for scientific answers to everyday questions, thus making science accessible. "It was exciting to see how scientists work," says Lena.
Just like real scientists, the students are also responsible if things don’t go to plan right away. When a team of students from Leipzig was unveiling its self-sufficiently powered bicycle measurement system at the Our Common Future youth congress, the display only showed an orange light instead of any measurements. "That’s bad, right?" asked team member Florian. "No, a red light is bad," replied Antonella. Together, the students got the system up and running without any help from their teachers.
At the first-ever Our Common Future youth congress, 140 students, teachers, and scientists from all over Germany came together in Bremerhaven.
At the "Project Market", a total of 19 teams presented their projects and discussed their experiences and findings.
Regardless of whether the research projects are focused on bicycles or climate change, they all have one thing in common:
they bring sustainability research to life – together with scientists and without the need for "chalk-and-talk" teaching.
At workshops held as part of the congress, the students explored topics such as scientific journalism, science start-ups and environmental psychology.
During this time, the teachers and scientists were busy with their own workshops and networking opportunities.
The students, teachers, and scientists were welcomed to the congress by Professor Eva Quante-Brandt, Bremen’s senator for science, health, and consumer protection.
How does the climate influence people’s lives? The students visited the exhibition at Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost.
Afterwards, former astronaut and ESA official Thomas Reiter gave a talk on space exploration and showed the students how exciting science is.
The two-day youth congress ended with a panel discussion on the topic of digitization and sustainability.
A Lasting Impression
"It’s interesting to find out about things that haven’t been researched before. You then discover things yourself and know how they work," says Kevin from Fürth. He and his peers are looking into how resources can be used more efficiently. Their everyday example for this big scientific question: gold in smartphones.
"As a result of the project, many of my fellow students and I now think more carefully about whether it makes sense to buy a new smartphone or at least consider whether we should recycle our old ones rather than just leaving them in a drawer," says team member Mira. She then begins to explain what the problem is and where the gold comes from in the first place. It’s a subject that is close to her heart.
From the Arctic to Outer Space
Alongside the opportunity to share ideas on their projects, the youngsters also gained unique insights into the world of science at the congress. They phoned the Arctic research base AWIPEV in Spitsbergen, explored the Polarstern research vessel, and visited the Klimahaus museum in Bremerhaven, where they met former astronaut Thomas Reiter, who told them about his work and the topic of space exploration.