Children arrive and observe. There are two tables: one represents food from the Americas, the other brings the products already consumed in the Old World before the 15th century. The fruits and seeds stimulate the kids’ curiosity and, above all, their appetite. But before trying it, there are stories to tell.

These stories are focused on the origin and circulation of cultivated seeds that form part of ReSEED´s research. Examples from the daily life are given. The students are asked about the fruits they see in their grandparents´ garden or the varieties of apple they eat or have heard about. They learn about plagues – that can travel with the seeds – and famine episodes in European History.

ReSEED team interacted with students from elementary schools in Lisbon as a result of the partnership with the project “Germinate a seed bank”.

In January 2020, ReSEED interacted with about 300 students from elementary schools in Lisbon, Portugal. It was a result of the partnership with the project “Germinate a seed bank”, funded by the Municipality. This concluded the first phase of ReSEED´s science communication action called “The historical journey of the seeds: food and biodiversity”, aimed at raising awareness among children and adolescents about the importance of plant biodiversity and preservation of the local seed varieties.

“Anecdotal stories allowed us to show how historical research can reveal such interesting and important results, not only showing the importance of seeds and their conservation for life on earth but also the importance of social sciences, so often overlooked in the scope of environmental sciences”, highlights ReSEED´s researcher Inês Gomes.

The first implementation of this communication action took place in July 2019 in a two-hour session for 20 high-school students.

Fine-tuning the method

In this phase, the goal was to test the language, timing and resources to communicate the project´s research journey to a younger and non-specialist audience. The first implementation took place in July 2019 in a two-hour session directed to 20 high-school students in a summer week organized by the Institute of Social Sciences (University of Lisbon) to open the door for the ones interested in the field of social sciences. 

The first part was an activity with 16 of the stories above mentioned and the second part was a quiz. The students were divided into smaller teams and answered 24 questions, part of which contained information presented on the previous activity.

The second implementation was held in November 2019 in an elementary school in Lisbon. The group of 200 students aged from 6 to 10 was divided into 4 sessions. The stories were adapted to the age and school level. A similar method was chosen for the action in January 2020, in 11 sessions with an average of 25 children in each.

“This first phase was very important to fine-tune the language and the way we bring scientific knowledge of History to such a specific audience. Now we are going to focus on communication with other audiences but we will definitely return to the children at the appropriate times”, explains principal investigator Dulce Freire.

In November 2019, a group of 200 students aged from 6 to 10 was divided into 4 sessions in the second implementation of the action.