In September, SESIM was fortunate to host Stuart Kohlhagen, Science Nomad and previous director of Science and Eduation at Austalia’s Questacon museum. We had been corresponding with him for several years, and finally the good nomad just bought a ticket and made this collaboration happen. He spent just over a week, and what a productive week it was.
We shared ideas and resources for three days at our national lab for pratika, and then took off to the districts where we visited two of the small science centers SESIM has been supporting for a couple of years. Called Knua Pratika, or simply KP, they are local resources for all science and mathematics teachers. At the Maliana KP, Mestra Noemia hosted us to give an all-day seminar for more than 50 students and teachers from local schools. Here are some highlights:
We got away with a remarkably short introduction by the school director, after which we got right to work building the exhibits we were to leave at their KP.
Stuart brought some fancy cordless tools to complement the ones the KP has already. We found the girls ready for action. Here they’re cutting out a hyperbolic slot for the exhibit where a straight pipe is swung surprisingly through the curved hole.
Another group worked on center of mass demos with randomly shaped pieces of cardboard. By hanging them two or three times together with a plumb bob, the center of mass could be determined and the whole piece could then be balanced on that point.
After a break, we brought the students back together and Stuart showed them some light phenomena with “pinhole” mirrors, round and square, holes in papers letting the sunlight through, and pinhole viewers.
Then we brought out the classic string model, in which you demonstrate the light path with volunteers acting as the light, the hole and the screen. It’s so clear that little explanation is necessary.
After that we played with pressure and air motion in various ways, including blowing little aluminum foil balls around cups with straws, which is a remarkably fascinating thing to try.
We wrapped up the pressure activities with compressed air rockets, of the soda bottle variety.
Meanwhile, with the other group, Mestre Caetano was demonstrating the wonders of fermentation and distillation of seedpods from the mimosa tree. With a blender and yeast to kick start the fermentation, alcohol so concentrated that it will ignite can be obtained in less than a day.
Next day we traveled to the fledgling KP in Liquica. In 2019, the U.S. Navy SEABEES will be constructing a nice building for the #1 Secondary school there to use as their KP. Meanwhile, they use whatever room is open, and fill it completely with eager students, as we soon saw.
Again we built simple exhibits and showed them the center of mass and fermentation/distillation activities. SESIM’s Xefa Jacinta also demonstrated her recently developed geology activity on the difference between continental and oceanic tectonic plates.
At the same time, small groups from Liquica KP were presenting to Stuart the activities they had prepared for our World Science Day competition in November. One interesting one was on numbers that follow certain shapes: triangles, squares, pentagons, etc.
Finally, we ran through the pressure and air activities as well as a few mathematical activities that had people working out puzzles on the floor tiles.
The puzzles turned out to mimic how computers work, following algorithms and counting parity bits. It was a quick blast of science and mathematics, but we got the feeling that the students were energized to continue well on their own with their teachers’ good support.