CHESS/iEarth joint course on “communication skills in outreach and teaching”

Kjersti Daae and I led the CHESS/iEarth joint course on “communication skills in outreach and teaching” in Bergen in September 2021; here is a short summary:

CHESS is training the climate scientists of tomorrow, iEarth is changing teaching culture in Norwegian geosciences. Naturally, PhD students from both centres have a lot to talk about, and that they are coming at it from different angles makes it even more interesting!

This course started out virtually in spring, and for 13 weeks, we met online for two hours to discuss a diverse range of topics with super interesting guest speakers:

  • Ivar Nordmo spoke about different metaphors of learning, and how the way we speak about learning influences our thoughts on the matter
  • Virginia Schutte gave us insights and practical tips both on JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) and on science communication
  • Kikki Kleiven gave us new ideas about teaching geosciences
  • Sam Illingworth made each of us write 3 poems! (See a selection below)
  • Jostein Bakke gave us many tips for good outreach
  • Cathy Bovill and Mattias Lundmark worked with us on “students as partners”
  • Anders Alberg gave many suggestions for building good supervisor-supervisee relationships
  • Mirjam Glessmer talked about building networks in academia

And then, in September, we were in the lucky position to actually run an in-person workshop to bring it all together!

We ended up being 8 participants physically in Bergen (enjoying the beautiful new rooms in the basement of the Geophysical Institute, and the excellent catering from the new café there!) and one participant joining online.

The three days were structured to start out with a generous coffee break combined with a morning activity: Some fun science communication practice. On one day, for example, we wrote five lines about our research, and then checked with the xkcd “upgoer 5” editor which of the words we used are not part of the “ten hundred” most common words! We then rewrote and found out that some people are “rock-knowing” and others work on “the big blue water”!

On another day, we made fortune tellers (some of us got distracted with the “kitchen oceanography” examples on the table, i.e. creating double-diffusive layers with milk and coffee… Which led to a lot more kitchen oceanography using coffee later on!)

Picture by Torgny Roxå


And on the last day, we tried to visualise things that are difficult to imagine, e.g. how wide a low-pressure system is relative to its height. Here is a nice example of showing how temperature has changed over a very long time (Thanks, Vanja, for jumping on the idea of using toilet paper rolls — I have always wanted to try that!).

But the most important part of the workshops were our phenomenal guest speakers.

Robert Kordts let a session on microteaching and gave helpful feedback (some of the things tried out in the microteachings were directly implemented as outreach for the Bjerknescenter the next day!). Anders Alberg worked with us on providing feedback and understanding research ethics. Torgny Roxå helped us get into why some people resist knowledge. And on the last day, Kikki Kleiven and Helge Drange shared their experience in doing science communication as climate scientists, and gave feedback on our own attempts.

All in all, a super inspiring three days!

Thank you to CHESS and iEarth for making this possible, and for our cool group of participants and guest speakers of being so constructive and engaged!

Leave a Reply