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Permanent European Resource Centre for Informal Learning – PENCIL

The three-year project PENCIL (Permanent European Resource Centre for Informal Learning) aimed to combine field programmes and academic research identifying ways to transform informal science activities into innovative quality tools for science teaching. 14 science centres/museums created mini-networks involving schools, pupils, teachers associations, research laboratories, educational authorities, education and science communication specialists to run “pilot projects” on new ways to conduct science teaching.

A new brochure summing up PENCIL's main results is now published (download here, pdf). Also the final deliverables are available online.


The main results of PENCIL are as follows:

1. An online resource centre with high quality tools for science educators
The resource centre was based on the collaboration of two universities and two Ministries of Education. It assessed and monitored the pilot projects in order to generalise the outcomes, and identified the criteria of innovation and quality that should become the standards for setting up future science teaching efforts.

2. The European Pencil Community, an active and ever-expanding network
The resource centre conducted a motivation study amongst the youngsters participating in PENCIL to identify the elements that make the change in their attitude towards science thanks to the project. At the end of the process, the hundreds of teachers involved were brought together into a new science teachers’ network that validated the outcomes and the identified criteria.

At the end of the project the network had over 4200 registered users in the PENCIL community on Xplora. This figure is ever-increasing thanks to the nature of Xplora as a permanent resource.

Besides the PENCIL community, 440 schools, 1350 teachers and 26500 schoolchildren participated in the project. The solid relationships established with the schools will ensure a multiplier effect, continuing to spread the best practice with future teachers and students.

3. A set of concrete criteria for innovation for building relationships between science centres and schools to enhance the quality of formal and informal learning of science.

4. Two European Science Teachers’ Conferences, and sessions at three Ecsite Annual Conferences for professionals in the field of science communication, promoting best practice in work between science centres and schools, and disseminating project results.

5. Results of further studies into motivation, gender and evaluation


The final deliverables of PENCIL are as follows (download as pdf):

D10 Assessment of Pilot Projects
This report presents a series of case studies illustrating the work of the 14 Pencil pilot projects, whereupon comparisons of common features or experiences may be made.

D28 Criteria of Innovation and Quality
This report presents eight criteria of innovation, which may be used to identify effective practice in science teaching and learning at the intersection between formal and informal learning contexts. The criteria are derived from the analysis and evaluation of the products and practices of the 14 pilot projects comprising Pencil, and as such build on findings presented in two associated reports, D10 and D31.  This report has been prepared by researchers from King’s College London, and the University Federico II, Naples.

D24 Pilot Project Outcomes
This deliverable presents the outcomes of the fourteen Pencil Pilot Projects under four broad headings: the objectives of the project (both overall and specifically in terms of learning), the learning activities used, the methodology employed and the results of the project. Annexed material and online references show the materials produced through the projects.

D31 Elements of Evaluation
This report presents a series of findings emerging from the experiences gathered by Pencil’s fourteen pilot projects in carrying out educational programmes at the intersection between formal and informal learning environments and methodologies. For each finding we propose a recommendation by which future projects may build upon lessons learned throughout Pencil.

D23-30 Motivation Study
Do Pencil activities benefit learning? The Pencil Motivation Study presents the theoretical background, objectives, methodology and results with their evaluation and interpretation, drawing together a set of six definitive conclusions on the motivational effects of science centres on learning.

D32 Interpretation of gender differences
In this report we present the results achieved in the framework of Pencil for what concerns identifying and dealing with gender difference in science learning. This report provides an overview of their findings.

D26 Teacher Training Design
This deliverable describes the web-based e-learning course developed for teachers from the findings of the Pencil project, currently online at http://moodle.eun.org and accessible through the Xplora portal www.xplora.org.

D33-34 Science Teachers Conference
The three-day Pencil Science Teachers Conference was held at Technopolis, Mechelen, June 14-16 2007. 110 European science teachers and science centre/museum professionals had the chance to participate in workshops and debates on how schools and science centres can come together at the forefront of science education.

D4 Best practices in co-operation between formal and informal science learning
The present deliverable focuses on identifying the best practice in the NUCLEUS and Pencil projects in comparison with other projects, taking as its starting point the Pencil deliverable D28 Criteria of Innovation and Quality.

D27 Criteria of Innovation
The report focuses on the criteria for innovation relating to ICT use in education. The objective of the deliverable is to assess the use of ICT in the Pilot Projects (PP) and the way new techniques involving ICT to create new science teaching practices were used by the PP.


PENCIL involved the following project partners:

Ecsite, the European Network for Science Centres and Museums,Brussels, Belgium
Project coordinator 

  1. National Marine Aquarium (NMA), Plymouth, UK
    Pilot project: “Marine issues with climate change”
  2. Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (IMSS), Florence, Italy
    Pilot project: “On-line access to history of science museums objects”
  3. Explor@dome, Paris, France
    Pilot project: “Middle school student’s use of ICT in science learning”
  4. Heureka, the Finnish Science Center, Vantaa, Finland
    Pilot project: “Chemistry for primary schools” and Motivation Survey”
  5. NEMO, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Pilot project: “Science centre at school”
  6. Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany
    Pilot project: “Mobility issues with climate change”
  7. Experimentarium, Hellerup, Denmark
    Pilot project: “Future science education”
  8. Pavilion of Knowledge - Ciência Viva, Lisbon, Portugal
    Pilot project: “Ludo-mathematics”
  9. Fondazione IDIS-Città della Scienza, Naples, Italy
    Pilot project: “Social dimension of science, diversity and gender issues”
  10. Bloomfield Science Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
    Pilot project: “Health matters”
  11. Cité de l’Espace, Toulouse, France
    Pilot project: “Future technologies”
  12. Technopolis®, the Flemish Science Center, Mechelen, Belgium
    Pilot project: “Interactive forensic science : Whodunit”
  13. Universeum, Gothenburg, and Teknikens Hus, Luleå, Sweden
    Pilot project: “Learning for a sustainable society” 
  14. Ellinogermaniki Agogi, Athens, Greece
    Pilot project: “The virtual observatory”

European Schoolnet, Brussels, Belgium
Development of Xplora

Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples, Italy
Evaluation and analysis of Pilot Projects

King’s College London, UK
Evaluation and analysis of Pilot Projects

Agenzia per lo Sviluppo dell’Autonomia Scolastica (ex-Indire), Florence, Italy
Development of e-learning teacher training courses

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