Before the final session of our Uma America training, the SESIM trainers and I pulled off two seminars for the teachers and students involved in the small science centers we’re supporting in four different districts (now officially called ‘municipalities’) here in Timor-Leste. The districts are Bobonaro, Ermera, Covalima and Manatutu.
The centers are called ‘Knua Pratika,‘ which translates roughly to ‘home for hands-on, inquiry based learning.’ They are meant to be resources for all science and mathematics teachers at all levels throughout the district. We are eagerly pursuing continued support for these centers, and would like to open centers in other districts as well.
Support for this project came from a Participation Program grant through UNESCO Paris. It was a small, short-term seed grant, and we had to wrap it up by the end of this year.
The first seminar was at the Maliana KP, and was given by the four KP staff themselves. I went with Mestre Caetano to support the event.
We began with sponge activities as students and teachers from various nearby schools trickled in. We made rubber band launched paper airplanes, and checked for sunspots with the KP’s small telescope. We found no sunspots, but one eagle-eyed student noticed the newly waxing moon, less than 20 degrees from the sun, a faint crescent in the early brightness.
After the intro, we split into three student groups and one teacher group and rotated among four sessions offered by the four KP.
Manatutu KP presented a look at the xylem cells in plant stems. Mestra Ivonia set up some microscopes we brought together with the Maliana KP’s microscopes and we all had a look after her description of what there was to see.
A teacher from another school in Maliana happened to have more in depth info than Mestra Ivonia, and presented this during the teacher group’s turn at this session. Mestre Caetano and I were happy to see teachers openly sharing information without embarrassment or ego issues. This is what the KP are supposed to inspire.
The Ermera KP presented a demonstration of their simple rope and inner-tube rubber pump. It can pump in both directions and supply two sections of a house from a single well.
Here’s the video.
Then they spent the bulk of the sessions having participants build model houses to check for earthquake stability on the shake table.
They added an fascinatingly simple model of a seismograph made from a spring, a pen and a paper-covered can. The one in the photo here shows horizontal vibrations; the other model in the background was made to show vertical vibrations.
The Covalima crew did a nice set of activities on density of liquids, starting with eggs floating or sinking in water with varying amounts of salt and oil.
They culminated the session by placing red colored hot water and clear cold water together in two bottles, mouth to mouth, first with the hot on top, then on the bottom. What do you suppose happened?
High school students from Maliana, the host KP, presented the set of three pratika they’d used to win at SESIM’s World Science Day event. Participants had the chance to try any of them. Erosion and sediment in runoff water were documented in three bottles with different coverings on top of the soil.
Tar, nicotine and various other crud was collected in a filter atop a bottle ‘smoking’ a cigarette as the water drained from its base. The resulting crud was viewed under a microscope to inspire people to avoid smoking.
And finally a frame of nails was strung with strings to show how large number multiplication can be done without using the familiar algorithm. Strings’ intersections are counted and summed to give an accurate answer.
The following week, we brought 5 teachers from each of the KP to our central lab here in Dili for the final seminar of the program. The thrust of the seminar was to spend the remaining supply money and use the resulting materials to prepare pratika for their students.
National Director of General Secondary Schools, Manuel Gomez de Araujo opened our seminar, calling for the coordinating teachers to make their KP a vibrant model for good education in their districts.
We then opened and tested some of the devices. Here Mestre Caetano, SESIM’s leader of the Knua Pratika program, is showing the teachers how to use the blender and laminating machines.
The KP sites also got chick incubators, multi-function printers, solar panel systems, power supplies, laminated posters of the planets and the periodic table, safety glasses, air compressors, long extension chords, and a bunch of other smaller materials.
The main project we constructed with them was a rocket launcher for paper rockets, described in an earlier blog. It turned out to be a massive project involving wood, PVC, various fittings, and compressed air hoses. Everyone learned a lot and the second day ended with successful launches from all four newly-built rigs.
It was a happy mob collecting all their new treasures to head back and show their fellow teachers. We hope their administrators will also be pleased with the haul, and help support this project into the new year.