To overcome learning deficits and to support pupils in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic, the German government has launched the programme "Catching up after Corona". Since February 2022, the school laboratory of the German Research Centre for Geosciences Potsdam (GFZ) has offered the first two cycles of afternoon workshops on this topic with the project "GEOtogether" - with great popularity and good success. The third round is now starting with the new school year. In specially designed geoscientific courses, pupils from two cooperating schools can experiment together on site at the GFZ. They can discover and experience new things, not only about volcanism, earthquakes or sustainability, but also about their own strengths and interests.
Corona consequences for pupils
The Corona pandemic has brought a considerable amount of stress for students: homeschooling, technically and didactically difficult distance learning, the associated isolation, the partial lack of professional guidance and feedback. Learning together in the usual sense was hardly possible, learning delays and psychological and social stress were the result.
The GFZ "GEOtogether" project
In order to counteract these Corona consequences, the Federal Government has launched the programme "Catching up after Corona" for the years 2021 and 2022 and funded it with one billion euros.
Within this framework, the "GEOtogether" project has been running in the school laboratory of the German Research Centre for Geosciences Potsdam (GFZ) since February 2022. There are two partner schools in Potsdam for this: the Fontane Oberschule and the Helmholtz-Gymnasium. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays during regular school weeks, afternoon workshops are held for groups of ten to twelve pupils each - with a strict hygiene concept. The project is aimed at primary school pupils in grades 5 and 6, as well as grades 7 to 10.
The two AGs offer the 85 young people special experiences and encounters at an extracurricular place of learning.
Communicating the joy of learning and independent work
"Although the name of the BMBF project suggests otherwise, the funded area for the extracurricular places of learning is not primarily about catching up on learning material, but about the joy of learning and also about strengthening social interaction," explains Manuela Lange, the head of the GFZ School Lab.
In the workshops, the students can conduct their own geoscientific experiments under supervision on topics such as volcanism, earthquakes, fossils and sustainability. In the process, they also learn what it means to work scientifically and to think across disciplines. By acting on their own, they can discover and develop individual strengths.
Insights into geo-research and career prospects
And last but not least, they gain insights into the diversity of research at the GFZ. Since the afternoon workshops take place on the campus of the Albert Einstein Science Park on Potsdam's Telegrafenberg, visits to laboratories and encounters with scientists are also possible. This makes it possible to impart knowledge and experience research in an authentic atmosphere, where science really takes place. This can also help when choosing a career later on: Geoscience offers interesting prospects not only for graduates of a degree programme, but also for various apprenticeship professions.
Positive balance and outlook
Two project cycles have been completed since February 2022. Project manager Manuela Lange draws a positive interim balance:
"The popularity of our courses is great and we experience the added value the children gain from visiting the Telegrafenberg Science Campus and experimenting together. It is particularly pleasing that we can reach children in this programme who we have not been able to reach with our offers so far. The students enjoyed the workshop so much that some of them would very much like to take part in another round.
One participant told her classmates: "I learned many new things in the workshop. I learned a lot about processes that take place inside the Earth, which I didn't understand before and which were not taught at school. For example, I now do know how a volcanic eruption works."
The funding for the project runs until the end of 2022, so now, after the summer holidays, there will be two more project cycles of this kind. Once again, children and young people from the two cooperating schools can take part in the two afternoon courses per week.
You can find more information about the GFZ's school lab here: