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Science in Primary School – Successful French Initiative Expands

New Internet Platform in Physics Department at Freie Universität Berlin

№ 270/2007 from Nov 13, 2007

Sonnentaler - A new Internet platform for teaching science in preschool and primary school Image Credit: Sonnentaler

An initiative that was very successful in France will start up in Germany under the auspices of the French Academy of Sciences, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and Freie Universität Berlin. On Thursday, November 15, 2007, the internet platform "Sonnentaler" ( will present itself to the public at the congress of "Bildungsnetz Berlin" in wannseeFORUM Berlin and simultaneously go online. The platform provides assistance and ideas for teachers of pre-school classes and primary school through grade 6 for teaching science with a good pedagogical foundation while making it interesting to children. The internet platform was created in the physics department of Freie Universität.

Sonnentaler currently provides materials for over 100 teaching units. The units are intended to be taught consecutively and cover a large part of the curriculum framework for instruction in general subjects up through grade six. Plans are underway for increasing the number of units on offer. As opposed to many similar projects developed in recent years, this one does not emphasize single experiments, but rather the continuous integration of these themes in general instruction. If teachers have questions or ideas, they can contact experts through the internet platform.

Sonnentaler aims to encourage girls and boys to take an interest in science by questioning, observing, experimenting, and finally documenting their work themselves. They are not expected to memorize the results of experiments performed by others, but rather, should have fun discovering the world. Development of language skills, both oral and written, is part of the project. All of these aspects are objectives of most teaching plans, but the teachers are often not trained to meet these expectations and are often left to their own devices. Sonnentaler hopes to improve the situation.

The themes are taken from all areas of the natural sciences and are often hidden behind questions from everyday life. The unit on astronomy, for example, begins with the question, "What time is it in Paris, Peking, or Sydney?" The authors formulate learning objectives, give the learning level suitable for beginning to use the teaching units, explain the concepts, and suggest certain experiments.

The idea behind the initiative, called "La main à la pâte" in France, came from the Nobel Prize winner in physics, Georges Charpak, and the Frence  Academy of Sciences. It was founded in 1996 and played a major role in renewing science education in France.

In addition to the sponsors, the project is also supported by the French embassy and the education network, Bildungsnetz Berlin. For that reason Sonnentaler selected the date of the congress "Gemeinsam besser! Neue Konzepte und Kooperationen am Übergang Kita – Grundschule" on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007, to go online.

Additional information may be obtained from:

Dr. Jenny Schlüpmann, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: 030 / 838-56055, Email:; Dr. Jens Thoms Törring, Tel.: 030 / 6 91 64 54, Email:

Time and Place of the Congress:

Thursday, November 15, 2007, from 10:00 bis 16:00 hrs in wannseeFORUM Berlin,
Hohenzollernstraße 14, 14109 Berlin