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Hello everybody

I am Maria Amelia Martins-Loução. I am a portuguese biologist following an academic career at the University of Lisbon. Now, that I am retired I have been dedicated to science promotion events and that's why I touch World Cafe initiatives. 

I have been applying this method to environmental problems as well as to science education.

I would love to read about your experiences.

Best regards

Maria Amélia Martins-Loução

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Replies to This Conversation

Dear Maria Amélia:

Very interesting. If I understand you apply the methodology of World Café in both scenarios environmental problems of the community, and as a pedagogical tool in college. If so, I wonder in the first case if you seek the participation of all stakeholders around the problem and the effectiveness of the method to reconcile differences. In academia, how to get students (especially postgraduate) do not think that the class has become a conversation that takes away quality and depth of learning from their theoretical knowledge expectations?

Luis

Environmental Sciences

Welcome, Maria Amélia - come on in!  I look forward to our conversations.  Can you say more about how you have been applying World Cafe to environmental problems and science education? 

As you will see, our group has been relatively still some time.  That's about to change.  In part because I will be inviting students from Claremont Lincoln University, where I am consulting and am also a contributing faculty member, to join the conversation.  And in part because this online forum is about to be enlivened.

Thanks to Amy Lenzo and the World Cafe Community Foundation we will soon see updates to the entire World Cafe Online Community space - simplifying the navigation, updating materials, archiving threads and groups that are no longer active, adding things and transforming others.  By the end of February, the World Cafe Community will have a new face to greet its 20th anniversary.

Warm wishes from the soggy Phoenix desert, overtaken by Super Bowl frenzy,

Christine

Dear Christine and Luis

Thanks for your reception!
Let's talk then about my first experience as hosting a World Café.
It was organised within the international year of mathematics for earth. I have coomissionered an exhibition on Earth Planet evolution and my idea was to bring teachers from biology and maths to WCafé during that year to show how important is math for the understanding of processes along Earth evolution. I prepared 10 different sessions where I invited always a mathematician and either a physics (for the Big Bang events), a biologist or a geologist to work together for questions organisation.
I have had different difficulties:
1. To make them (researchers) understand that they do not need to standing talk, just walking and synthesise knowledge on smart and motivated questions.
2. Join maths with the others....although I have ha very good experiences. The worst thing is to get mathematicians involved!
3. To bring teachers from math since they thought, at the beginning that "that event were not for them"! Although not so many joined the sessions the few ones who did after the first experience they accompanied the rest of monthly sessions.
4. It was very difficult to get people enough at beginning -this was organised Saturday morning - but at the end I got an interesting group.
The other experiences were also good only at the second attempt. The topic was about the need to rise awareness about the need of reducing inputs of nitrogen in the system. Why people have to care and how to act. Of course this brought much more discussions since people only react to CO2, not with nitrogen. And when they understood I was talking about food they also step back since they are not farmers just consumers! These events were directed to both teachers and students and it was very interesting to put them talking about real problems of environment and health motivating discussions that could be moved within classrooms and outside. This served the proposal of inquiring at natural sciences classrooms.
In academia is really difficult to attract students about this thematic subjects. Awareness of new real problems are very difficult to approach. I took 2 years but I never gave up.
This was a short overview. I hope have clarified you
Best regards
Maria Amelia

Thanks for all the details, Maria Amélia.  Let me make sure I understand...

Your first World Cafe Hosting experience was to facilitate 10 different sessions for researchers, mathematicians, physicists, and teachers of biology and math focused on Earth Planet Evolution.  Is that accurate?

Do you know Open Space Technology?  If I have understood you, here's what came to mind for me as I read about your situation.  Perhaps the OST principles/existential truths have some relevance here.

  1. You had difficulty helping people understand the importance of their participation, and how the process supports dialogue rather than monologues.
    • One of the OST principles is "Whoever comes are the right people."  I have found that to be true, even when I'm initially disappointed in low numbers of participants.
  2. Are you saying that it is very hard to get mathematicians involved?  Do you have a sense of why that is the case?
    • 2nd OST principle - "Whatever happens is the only thing that could have."
  3. It sounds like once the mathematicians got a taste of the rich conversations, they were happy to participate.
    • Two more OST principles - "Whenever it starts is the right time" and "When it's over, it's over."
  4. In the beginning, not many people participated but in the end, you had an interesting group.
    • "Whoever comes..."

Do you have any idea why it's difficult to attract students to your topic?  Congratulations for never giving up in 2 years!

Warm wishes from a warm Phoenix evening,

Christine

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