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An imaginative approach to hydrogen and fuel cell technology for young students and their teachers

At a glance


Purpose of the EU project FCHgo (Fuel Cell HydroGen educatiOnal model for schools, Call H2020-JTI-FCH-2018-1 n. 826246) is to encourage a culture of ecological awareness and to develop behaviors based upon sound knowledge of key technologies by the coming generations. It aims at creating educational material for young learners (primary and secondary schools) and their teachers to be used in primary and secondary schools about science and technology of hydrogen fuel cells.

We will address a number of challenges faced by citizens in industrialized countries. Among these are a lack of basic understanding of the role of energy and energy carriers in physical and biological systems; lack of specific knowledge of fuel cell technology (such as the functioning of chemical batteries and fuel cells, the role of hydrogen as an energy carrier); a lack of understanding of the interaction of technological, environmental, economic, and social systems. Better understanding of such challenges by a larger number of people, from pupils to their families and acquaintances will be central for technological, economic, and social progress that is to guide and help us through the transformation of society toward sustainable energy systems.

From a scientific and engineering viewpoint, we make use of modern developments in physics, chemistry, and systems engineering, and integrate it with the best knowledge available regarding FCH technologies. But Young children cannot be expected to understand such complex systems derived from a top-down approach originating in formal science and engineering. Therefore, we will develop a narrative approach to FCH technologies, suitable to young children and consistent with a formal path without any loss of stringency.

Narrative has received much attention in recent investigations into science education; it has become clear that there is a wide range of forms and uses of narrative in science. We concentrate upon a meaning of narrative that is closely tied to conceptual structure and understanding of science.

The human mind creates images of the working of forces of nature that can be rendered in stories [1,2,3] or in animations using visual metaphors. A sample animation about the exchanges of energy occurring in an imaginary perpetual motion machine has been developed by M. Deichmann [4]. We plan to fabricate a similar video about fuel cells.

Visual metaphors telling the story of the interaction of forces of nature in energy systems can also be cast in the form of plays. We shall produce such energy plays where students act as energy carriers in systems that create chains of processes (such as sun to solar cell to electrolysis of water to producing an electric output by a fuel cell to driving an engine or lighting a lamp).

While empowering the imagination and imaginative rationality with the help of stories and play of forces of nature (such as sunlight, hydrogen, electricity, heat) is in the foreground for young children (8-12 years of age), making use of imaginative rationality in the creation of mental and computer models from stories told and re-told, forms the core of a methodology for older students (12-18 years of age). Moreover, stories provide a repository, for adolescents, of much detailed knowledge about a subject that is more properly conveyed narratively than, say, in printed tables or long expositions.

Stories of forces of nature interacting in energy chains have been converted into graphical representations [5] using the same metaphors as those that structure stories and play in general. Process-diagrammatic techniques provide us with didactic means for older learners where story-worlds (models) are created in a form that is intermediate between story or play and formal computer models. Among educational materials, instructions how to use simple physical objects that allow students to assemble process diagrams for a large range of concrete systems will be given.

In conclusion, our methodology will be centered on narratives (stories and plays for the youngest) and provide direct physical as well as mental involvement for pupils. Students and teachers will be involved in telling and creating stories or narratives, experiencing the assembly and the functioning of simple toys or devices. They will discuss forces of nature acting in the toys and devices, design and play how forces of nature act and involve energy, construct process diagrams with more or less formalized iconographic materials, reflect upon FCH technology, applications, and job opportunities. The EPDM will provide didactic materials and teacher guides for the network of schools and stakeholders that will make use of this project.


[1] Hans U. Fuchs, Annamaria Contini, Elisabeth Dumont, Alessandra Landini, and Federico Corni (2018), “How metaphor and narrative interact in stories of forces of nature”. In: Michael Hanne and Anna A. Kaal (Ed.), Narrative and metaphor in education: Look both ways. Abingdon, UK and New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 91-104.
[2] Fuchs, H. U. (2013a). Il significato in natura. In Corni F. (ed.) (2013): Le scienze nella prima educazione. Un approccio narrativo a un curricolo interdisciplinare, Erickson, Trento, Italy. English version: Meaning in Nature—From Schematic to Narrative Structures of Science. Retrieved from LITERATURE/Literature.html.
[3] Fuchs, H. U. (2013b) Costruire e utilizzare storie sulle forze della natura per la comprensione primaria della scienza. In Corni F. (ed.) (2013): Le scienze nella prima educazione. Un approccio narrativo a un curricolo interdisciplinare, Erickson, Trento, Italy. English version Designing and using stories of forces of nature for primary understanding in science. Retrieved from LITERATURE/Literature.html.
[4] Deichmann, M. (2014). Im übertragenen Sinne. Metaphern und Bildvergleiche in der Wissernschaft (Bachelor thesis). Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Zurich. Movie to be found at http//
[5] Fuchs, H. U. (2010) The Dynamics of Heat. Second Edition. Graduate Texts in Physics. Springer, New York. (First Edition, Springer, New York, 1996.)

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