Food for thought at school


Once a year, the Ars Electronica Center invites its ambassadors to come to Linz – to not only to inform about new offers in the coming school year, but especially to get feedback and suggestions from the teachers themselves. AEC Ambassadors are teachers from diverse types of schools that have agreed to promote the activities of the Ars Electronica Center with its numerous workshops, themed tours and special formats in their school. As a thank you the involved teachers get an annual pass, discounts on bookings for their class visits and an invitation to the AEC Ambassadors Day, which also took place this year again, this time on Thursday afternoon of April 3rd, 2014, at the Museum of the Future in Linz.

A extracurricular learning center introduces itself

Wolfgang Zechmeister from the secondary school of the Kreuzschwestern in Linz describes it as a “win-win” situation: “On the one hand, for teachers, you get a very good impression during the Ambassador Day of what’s new here at the Ars Electronica Center. There are always interesting exhibitions that we visit with our school again and again. On the other hand, it is a good targeted marketing of the Ars Electronica Center. Both sides so have a huge success.” The success in which the AEC Ambassadors are involved can be counted with numbers: In the school year 2012/13 the comprehensive educational program was used by more than 2,695 groups with a total of about 35,000 pupils.

How we deal with technology…

The fourth Ambassador Day consisted of a manifold program of lectures and guided tours, garnished with a final dinner at Cafe.Restaurant.Bar CUBUS, on the third floor of the Ars Electronica Center. The artistic director, Gerfried Stocker, took time to do a keynote speech on the transformation of our society, which takes place through our way of using technology. “In the global swarm of radio waves, the U.S. government saves all signals, commands and calls. The National Security Agency (NSA), the most secret of all secret services, listens around the globe and around the clock …”, this is how “Der Spiegel” describes a situation of which we are reminded again and again in the media these days.

It is a popular example that Gerfried Stocker often uses in this context. Finally, it is a report that was not published this year but 25 years ago. It is an example that shows us that it is not the problem of technology today, when we talk about surveillance, but it is all about the question of how we deal with these technologies. Saying that we don’t know anything about it, would be a lie.

Science meets Art

Andrea Fröhlich and Nicole Grüneis of the department of Education & Culture Mediation presented the wide range of lectures, tours and workshops for school classes and teachers at the Museum of the Future as well as the infotrainer Barbara Schmidt: “For me, it’s nice to see that you can prepare each topic for the school and find access for all pupils, no matter how old they are,” Barbara Schmidt notes. She fulfills her role as an info trainer and guides school classes through the the Museum of the Future.

“Just take the lectures of this type: They show very nicely this high voltage of how the Ars Electronica Center deals with specific topics. Gerfried Stocker presents in his lectures artistic projects, but also tilts back into scientific areas. The interleaving to hear a lecture and then go straight into an exhibition of this topic that is an unique experience you can hardly get anywhere else. And that makes it very much alive,” said Andrea Fröhlich during a break on the main deck of the Ars Electronica Center. Nicole Grüneis underlines the importance of the event:

“Events like the Ambassador Day have a high quality – for the schools as well as for the Center – because they provide a space for discussion, together with the teachers. The creation of such an exchange is very valuable because the school as institution works quite differently than the institution of the museum. Here, we come together and we will be informed and we will discuss about what we ultimately have in common, the mission give our pupils a broad spectrum of growing knowledge.”

The fact that a constant critical questioning is necessary, also showed the lecture with Prof. Dr. Michael Rosenberg of the Catholic-Theological Private University Linz. His reflections and questions were related to how we deal with synthetic biology, which allows us to create life in the laboratory. Thus, the exhibition “Project Genesis” asks the questions: If we can make living things according to our ideas – is this making sense? Is this ethically acceptable?

Impulses for teachers

Bärbel – she does only want to be mentioned by her first name – is glad that the Ambassador Day was launched: “I’m involved from the beginning with this day. It is not only designed to have you come here and look at that. We even get input at the Ambassador Day to go deeper into these topics. The atmosphere is great, you are invited, actually they take care of you, and you also get food for thought, so then you will later actually say that you will come over again. Yes, and the final part of this day is always very nice.”

The school program of the Ars Electronica Center is diverse. The “zOOm INs” set their focus on one exhibition area and offer a mix of guided tours and workshops where pupils can approach to a socially relevant theme in the museum. Questioning is also here part of the concept: Do the working materials fit which the Ars Electronica Center has offered? What wishes do the AEC Ambassadors have if they want to use the Ars Electronica Center as an extracurricular learning center? With a trip through the virtual landscape of rarities that have accumulated in Deep Space in the last five years, the museum director Christoph Kremer stretched ultimately an arc towards the end of this day at CUBUS. Maybe a quote from Bärbel summarizes the day very well: “I was unfortunately a little too late, but when I came to the info desk, I heard three people calling my name, which I liked very much.”

If you are also teacher at a school and want to be an AEC Ambassador, read more on!