What world do we long for?


Institutional Communication Service

23 November 2020

What are an environmental engineer and a surgeon doing in third grade? On Friday, 13 November, SUPSI researcher Francesca Cellina (Institute for Sustainability Applied to the Built Environment) and Pietro Majno-Hurst (full professor at USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Head of the Surgery Department of EOC) paid a visit to the third graders of Istituto elvetico Lugano to talk about sustainability and answer the children's questions.

The visit took place within the project "What kind of world do we long for?". The question has been asked to all elementary schools of Lugano by USI L'ideatorio, to promote a reflection on the role of science in our society, in particular by investigating children's desires and priorities. Starting from the work done in class by the children and their teachers - drawings, questions, reflections - the interest in the theme of environmental sustainability has emerged. The two institutions then selected their two most suitable experts taking into account disciplinary skills on the one hand, and the ability to inspire children on the other.

Francesca Cellina and Pietro Majno-Hurst accompanied the children in an exciting discussion on the evolution of energy consumption over the last 100 years, the concept of energy footprint, the different types of clean energy, without forgetting the issues of mobility and the effects of individual choices on the environment and health. Starting with simple questions such as, "How did your great-grandparents go to school?" or "How many light bulbs do you think you can turn on with the energy generated by a bicycle ride?". - the experts tried to convey some fundamental aspects to children, to encourage more informed and consistent choices. The children were able to ask their questions spontaneously during the whole meeting, and the speakers took the time to satisfy their curiosity.

Chiara Santinon, one of the teachers in charge of the class, gave positive feedback: "It was important for our students to be able to interact with other realities, to escape the classroom routine and interact with adults. The issues addressed were not always simple, but the children were committed to understanding the message, grasping its importance. At school, we often dealt with ecology-related topics. Meeting with experts coming from the outside reinforced our message to the students. It helped them understand that environmental sustainability is important and that everyone, whatever their age, can do something to promote it".

The initiative was designed to bring children closer to the new East Campus, a place where researchers from the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) will work to build the future of our society by contributing to its progress in the following disciplines: Medicine, Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Mechanical Engineering, Management and Electronics. The new East Campus will thus be a place of study and research but also a place of reflection on the world and its residents, nourishing the great debates taking place at the international level. What world do we want to leave for future generations? What actions can help improve the conditions of the world? And what can and should science do? Starting from these questions, and taking inspiration from the 17 great goals of the UN, teachers were asked to discuss with their students about the possible actions to build a more beautiful world for all. The works carried out will be collected and presented at the inauguration of the new university campus (March 2021) and shown to researchers to inspire the academic community in their daily work.