More quantum physics, please! Teachers and scientists meet in Dresden to discuss new ideas for school curricula
The ct.qmat Cluster of Excellence at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) and the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) has embarked on a cooperation with the German Network of Excellence of STEM schools, MINT-EC. The aim is to incorporate the latest quantum physics research findings into the school curriculum as quickly as possible. Teachers from secondary schools from all over Germany are now meeting with the scientists in Dresden. At the center of the exchange are the research topics of ct.qmat and a revolutionary approach of teaching quantum physics through play: gamification, for which the award-winning games app “Kitty Q – A Quantum Adventure” serves as a trailblazing example.
This Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, will see the launch event for a joint project between the Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter and the German Network of Excellence of STEM schools MINT-EC. For the coming two years, the so-called themed cluster on quantum physics will bring together teachers from all over Germany that have set themselves the goal of developing school materials that will allow them to integrate current quantum physics research into the school curriculum, starting as early as grade 6. This shared enterprise is the culmination of an intensive exchange between the teachers and the scientists from ct.qmat. A particular focus will be on the gamification approach, as exemplified by the “Kitty Q – A Quantum Adventure” games app developed by the Cluster of Excellence that has so far been downloaded a 150,000 times and received multiple accolades.
“Germany is a leading nation regarding the investment in quantum technologies. However, in science, too, there is a struggle to fill the demand for qualified scientific personnel, especially when it comes to fundamental STEM subjects. That is why we have set ourselves the task of fostering the interest of children and teenagers in physics in general and in our research in particular,” explains Prof. Matthias Vojta, speaker of the Dresden branch of the ct.qmat Cluster of Excellence. The ct.qmat scientists, along with teachers from German MINT-EC schools, are therefore striving to implement an application-oriented and playful approach to create the new modular school material on the topic of quantum physics.
Gamification: teaching physics made easy
In modern didactics, educational games are seen as a promising avenue for teaching scientific content in general, and quantum physics in particular. According to Carsten Albert, a ct.qmat scientist studying the implementation of gamification elements in the physics curriculum, this methodology proves to be particularly successful for teaching physics. “Previous studies have shown educational video games to have a positive effect on the students’ motivation, learning achievements and social interactions. This is generally understood to be a result of the digital native generation’s proximity to digital media,” explains Albert. “That is why the Kitty Q app mirrors the current zeitgeist not only thematically, but also didactically. And because it has been designed for children ages 11 and up, it can be implemented as soon as they start their very first physics classes.”
The status quo of quantum physics in German schools
Until now, quantum physics has been taught in German schools starting only at the upper secondary level and following a traditional and historical approach. An exception constitutes the state of Bavaria, where the topic is introduced starting in grade 10. Every German state familiarizes the students with the fundamental principles of quantum physics; however, the curricula fail to include its gripping phenomena or revolutionary applications. “The technical development in the area of quantum materials and quantum technologies in the last couple of years has been groundbreaking. If Germany aspires to take on a leading role in this scientific area, it must ensure that the most current scientific findings will reach the students fast, and much earlier than they do now,” emphasizes Vojta.
Teachers and scientists working together
Teachers and scientist need to partake in a professional dialogue so that students can profit from new scientific findings early on. For this reason, the first day of the kick-off event for the MINT-EC themed cluster on quantum physics in Dresden will focus on the four research areas of the ct.qmat Cluster of Excellence: topological electrons, quantum magnetism, topological photonics, and topological functionality. The second day will be dedicated to the didactics of quantum physics. New teachers interested in participating in the ensuing two-year-long project may join it at any time. The goal is to create innovative concepts and practical teaching resources for the physics curriculum which will then be published as part of the MINT-EC script series and made available in the form of modular teaching materials.
- Berthold-Brecht-Gymnasium Dresden
- Gymnasium Ulricianum Aurich
- Gutenbergschule Wiesbaden
- Hölderlin Gymnasium Heidelberg
- Jakob-Fugger-Gymnasium Augsburg
- Johann-Schöner-Gymnasium Karlstadt
- Kaiserin-Friedrich-Gymnasium Bad Homburg
- Kaiser-Karls-Gymnasium Aachen
- Steinhagener Gymnasium in Steinhagen
- Universitätsschule Dresden
Date & Facts
13 Sep 2022
“Kitty Q – A Quantum Adventure” app
The award-winning mobile game “Kitty Q” was developed to familiarize children and teenagers ages 11 and up, and girls especially, with future study options in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Physics in particular is one of the subjects with an especially low proportion of women. With “Kitty Q,” the ct.qmat research alliance between the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Technische Universität Dresden takes an unusual approach to recruiting young talent because it addresses a very young target group. The game has been available for download in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store since fall 2021, and has been downloaded 150,000 times to this day.
Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat
The Cluster of Excellence ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Matter is a joint research collaboration by the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and Technische Universität Dresden established in 2019. Close to 300 scientists from more than 30 countries and four continents carry out research on topological quantum materials that reveal surprising phenomena under extreme conditions such as ultra-low temperatures, high pressures, or strong magnetic fields. The Cluster of Excellence is funded by the Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments and is the only cluster in Germany that traverses federal state lines.
MINT-EC – the national STEM schools Network of Excellence
MINT-EC is a national excellence network of German secondary schools with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It was founded in 2000 through an initiative of German employers’ associations and works closely alongside their regional educational outreach programs. MINT-EC offers a broad spectrum of events and support for students as well as further training and networking opportunities for teaching staff and school management. The network currently encompasses 338 certified schools with about 350,000 students and 29,000 teachers. Since 2009, it has been under the patronage of the Kultusministerkonferenz – the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States of Germany. The main sponsoring institutions of MINT-EC are the Federation of German Employers' Associations Gesamtmetall through its initiative think ING., as well as the Siemens Stiftung and the Bavarian employers’ associations bayme vbv and vbw.
© Tobias Ritz/ct.qmat
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