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Young Science Journalists Take to the Zoo

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Thirteen budding young German science writers recently grilled veteran scribes to learn more about the field during a three-day workshop “The Intelligence of Animals” run by Spektrum der Wissenchaft. Spektrum is the name of Scientific American‘s edition in Germany.

The young reporters, “Wissensschreibers,” between 12 and 16 years old, learned about the essential skills of science reporting from the Spektrum der Wissenchaft editorial team.

As part of the workshop, the youths also researched and interviewed staff members at the Heidelberg Zoo on a range of topics. These efforts included interviews on the conservation of Roloway Monkeys, a discussion with the zoo’s elephant keeper, a look at how chimpanzees paint and an opportunity to write a feature story about sea lions.

The workshop was the idea of Kirsten Baumbusch and was funded by an award for science communication with Spektrum neo, Spektrum’s sister title for younger people. “The editing team was clear it wanted to learn more about its younger readers and see what they find the most interesting in science and what kind of stories they like,” says Baumbusch. “It was also a great way to introduce and raise awareness of the magazine with many of the participants.”

The pilot workshop is the first of several to be rolled out in the next year, each focused on a topic covered in Spektrum neo. The next workshop, on astronomy, is set for September.

“First of all they learn to think like a science journalist,” Baumbusch says. ”They learn to find the right questions, ask people about their research and to write an exciting story. The teaching team is built up of editors and journalists and participants get to see how Spektrum neo is put together.”

The participants see the whole process from design to marketing and targeting audiences. They also have an opportunity to “meet and greet” Editor in Chief Carsten Könneker.

The workshop has already spawned a success story, with two participants being invited to run a workshop with young scientists at the DKFZ (German Cancer Research Centre). They will teach future scientists how to communicate their research to the public at a ‘Life Science Lab’ aimed at young people ages 14 and up.

“The feedback has been fabulous and most of the attendees want to become full-fledged science journalists now. They all worked really hard and created some great stories, interview and photos which are now up online,” adds Baumbusch.

The students’ articles and features can be viewed at:

For more information on the workshops and information on how to apply, please contact Kirsten Baumbusch,

Alex Jackson About the Author: Alex Jackson is the editor of the Soapbox Science blog at Nature and currently manages Nature Blogs. He’s been writing about fascinating people in health, technology and science for more than eight years both at regional and national level. Alex has previously contributed to the BBC, National Geographic, Scientific American blogs and Geographical magazine. A stout Yorkshireman, Alex is currently cast adrift in the city of London, where gravy boats are hard to come by.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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