STEM 2018 Group continues sharing

We visited a Yeshiva Yzichron Yaakov school to understand how the children study Science combining the teachings of the Bible. We were addressed by Dr. Amnon Shefi, who gave a wonderful presentation on ‘Rotary Hands Across Water’ - A multi disciplinary cross cultural STEAM education on Water and Sanitation and how to solve the global problems of scarcity, lack of sanitation, pollution and leakage through Reclamation, Desalination, Smart Irrigation, Leak prevention and Water management.

We understood how this technology and policy is practiced in Israel since the ancient times, as seen through the teachings in the Bible. Science is integrated in this school with all the academic subjects, and an example of one of the projects was to see how an Old Well Museum was turned into a Physics and Math Lab.

Next, one of the Science teachers of the school, Liat Harnoy showed us how the teachers and students move from the syllabus prescribed, to actual practice in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. How skills + materials +curiosity leads to new knowledge. She showed us how the children in the school are challenged through field trips, one such trip being building a sustainable pond. 

In this project, all subjects got incorporated in the following simple questions - what about evaporation? Size of the pond? Food to use? Measuring oxygen levels in the water? What kind of fish to use? Where to build the pond? The children of classes 7 and 8  spoke about their experiences to all of us and how they had to incorporate new knowledge from different areas.

Rifka, who looks after Science learning and technology in the district spoke to us about how 37 schools learn about and study through the guidelines of STEM. These schools are connected with each other and compare notes on a regular basis.

Next, we visited an Educational Farm where agriculture and farming is taught to all schools in the area. In this farm, trained teachers engage in the farm and its pedagogy. They work together with the Education ministry as well as farmers for the best results.

One example of their projects worked with the children is Biological Pest Control and how to control the Mediterranean fruit fly which causes a lot of damage to fruit. The children not only learn how to protect their fruit from the fly but also spread this knowledge to their parents and their community, which ultimately checks the spreading of the fruit fly even further.
The Simple methods they incorporated are :
To pick the fruit on time from the tree
To pick the fruit from the tree on time
To trap flies with sugar syrup in a bottle. One such bottle is given to each family so this way the whole community benefits.
Young Pest Inspectors are made to go through the fruit and trees.

Our group sat in one of their class rooms and played the games which are played by the children, matching cards and doing simple craft work related to what they learn at the farm.

After the class, we visited the Kitchen at the farm and tasted their delicious, nutritional soup full of organically grown vegetables and lentils containing all the necessary amino acids.

The Composting area was the last visit on the farm and we saw how animal and plant waste are converted to compost-‘ to convert garbage to gold’. The students learn about these methods and take their learning home to show their parents. A lot of research is done on the best ways of composting eg. With earthworms or without, with animal waste or without.
Lastly, we visited a Green House at Ein Shemer Kibbutz which is open 24x7 for children.We saw several projects happening in this wonderful place. Cultivation of Algae, Hydroponics, 3D printing, being a few.

Last Friday Dr. Oved Kedem from the Davidson Institute of Science Education Center lectured us. The topic of his presentation was Science and Creativity. First, Dr. Kedem asked us to re-create a 3D figure on the board—a visual puzzle. It made all the participants have to think differently about how to translate a 3D shape from a 2D plane. We tried this by cutting a piece of paper in various ways, mostly unsuccessful. 

The element of surprise has a big effect on students when they begin studying science. Dr. Kedem called it the “wow” effect. He demonstrated it to us by using a string tied to a pair of scissors on one side and a paperclip on the other, balanced around a pen like a pulley. He asked us to predict what would happen when he let go of the scissor, which object would hit the ground first. None of us were correctly predicted that neither would because we did not consider that the angle incline of the string would make it wrap around the pen, stopping both. The experiment was conducted with very simple materials but the “wow” factor instantly evident to us all. 

Dr. Kedem questioned all participants about their definitions of science and creativity. We found that all our attempts of the basic definitions of scientific concepts are not as fundamental as we usually assume. For children, it is especially important to present explanation of scientific terms (and theories) in practical and creative ways. For example, electricity can be defined in term of magnetism and vice versa. A teacher must be strategic in choosing what pieces or aspects of scientific knowledge to present to pupils, and in what order. In his words, “creativity is meant to provide an open, free, and encouraging environment to permit mind play, connecting the unconnected, and developing the ability to surprise”. Creativity is the learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual. 

In science, harmony is often confined to acoustic phenomena. In the second session, experiments were conducted to investigate sound. Specifically, how we can not only hear sounds, but also hear light, and even hear music without our ears. None of us believed at first. But he showed that the angle of incidence from a flashlight, picked up by a solar cell could be translated into frequency variations, which then are translated into sound. We made a microphone and speakers from simple paper cup, copper wire. The brain is what is responsible for our interpretation of phenomena, not individual organs assigned to particular sensations. 

The relation between the universe and scientific explanations (which aim to explain reality) has in the past been motivated by theological desires for harmony. For example, Platonic solids, heliocentric conception of the universe, the music of the spheres.. Listening to Bach’s music and “listening” to planets represent the same principle. Scientists like Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, were all motivated by a harmony that they believed was an aspect or part of the universe and life.

Using just a copper coil, a strong magnet, a paper cup, a mirror, free audio recording software (Audacity), and a radio; a simple and effective model of microphone as well as speaker was made in about five minutes. Using simple materials has the added benefit that students can take the things that they’ve made their own hands. They’re happier and more excited to engage in science. Playing with toys and objects in what children are supposed to be doing. We were all surprised that very simple materials and equipment could be so effective in demonstrating relatively complex scientific concepts. 

We have learnt that science for children is not just about trying to make students have deep understanding of scientific principles and rigid theories. Developing self-learning skills without formal instruction is a more desirable goal. It is more important to encourage students towards creation and creativity. 

© All Rights Reserved