in Young Students as Critical Science Detectives

When working with Young Students as Critical Science Detectives, the critical science missions cover 5 main areas in the working process

  1. Detecting, mapping, interacting: locally, virtually
  2. Team dialogues and reflections: challenge and mission selection
  3. Science learning on demand: investigations, research
  4. Critical interactions with the science communities selected
  5. Producing and sharing in wide networks the results of the science detective missions

Se also: About Open Science Schooling and Teacher’s role in general

You can download the “Innovation vocabulary” document here

1. Detecting, mapping, interacting: local, virtual

The science detectives will search the community for important and interesting activities linked to science; this will include dialogues with a wide range of community players; the local science activities might very well be linked to virtual science communities relevant to the identified topics. It is important that these science detectives’ activities include serious dialogues with citizens and in particular with the students’ families.

2. Team dialogues and reflections: challenge and mission selection

After the mapping of important science activities in the communities the student team will evaluate the findings: which science activities are interesting and challenging, and perhaps even problematic in a responsible scientific perspective; the student’s team may end up selecing one or two science activities to further investigationg based on their own interests.

3. Science learning on demand: investigations, research

Now the student teams will need “learning on demand”: to be able to interact competently with the selected science challenges that they will need to create basic learning about the science challenges .to engage in; Several learning on demand time-outs can be inserted along the interaction with the selected challenges, but always when the students need the learning; the student team will also engage with virtual communities to look behind the scene, and identify critical voices in a responsible scientific perspective.

4. Critical interactions selected with the science communities and with communities in general

The student team is now ready to continue its critical science detectives activity and engage in various forms of interactions with the selected  science challenges, in the local community as well as virtually, and in their own social networks; the science detecting does not necessarily lead to fixed scientific standpoints or attitudes towards accessing whether the science activity is “responsible science”; the aim is for the students to be able to analyse science and science in the community critically, and to be able to communicate their findings to others. The student’s critical interaction should include re-newed dialogues with citizens and with the students’ families.

5. Producing and sharing in wide networks the results of the science detective missions

To complete the critical science detectives mission the student teams will need to produce documentation of the long process they have worked through – from the first disoriented mapping to the final critical communications; the student teams can choose any form of documentation from website to video as long as the documentation really communicates what they learned on the way; the documentation, or the accomplishment of the critical science detectives mission, will then be shared at three levels: in the school to the other students, to a community workshop to which the parents of the team are invited, and in the students’ social and gaming networks



When this project talks about ‘missions’, it refers to ‘projects’ carried out in real-life in collaboration with real-life science players. But we use “mission” instead of “project” for several reasons:

  • The term “project” was once very innovative, such as in project based learning; however, today the term can mean everything and nothing
  • The term “mission” is much stronger: it refers to strong intentions, the will to accomplish and the ability of critical engagement
  • The term “mission” is used in all sorts of video games, and most young people are familiar with the meaning of missions: working through levels and steps to be allowed to advance in the game and to finally accomplish


Science Detective

Like a detective the science detectives will search the community for important and interesting activities and challenges linked to science.


Critical Science Detective

A critical science detective is critical of the issues from the local area that they have chosen to focus on. But they are also critical of the scientific method they have chosen as well as of the data collected.


Learning on demand

In traditional education the students are taught through the principle of “learning when scheduled”. That is, for example, learning mathematics Tuesday from 10-12. To the students this is definitely an abstract justification of the learning.

“Learning on demand” totally changes this perspective. The students will learn when they need to learn, when it is relevant, when they are motivated, and first of all: the students learn when they need to learn to accomplish their critical scientific missions. This form of learning is based on the students’ interest. In the project this is called “time-outs for learning on demand”.

“Learning when scheduled” leads to short-term remembering, whereas “learning on demand” leads to deep sustainable learning and to the capacity to act. Obviously, schools need to learn how to organize such “learning on demand” – in collaboration with community resources. This is a part of the Open Science Schooling experimentation.