World Science (and Mathematics!) Day camping event 2016, Timor-Leste
On November 10 and 11, the Center for the Study of Science and Mathematics, SESIM, within the Timor-Leste National Commission for UNESCO, held a highly successful commemoration of World Science Day for Peace and Development, including a pratika (hands-on, inquiry-based, experiential lesson) competition, a camping event for more than 400 students and teachers, relevant seminars by 15 local educational institutions, and an exposition with more than 50 presenters.
This is the fourth year we’ve done this event, and it’s become our yearly publicity event. Our relation with UNESCO makes it a natural, and the timing is good, because most schools and students are either finished with their final exams, or finished preparing for them. The international event is really just for science, but here in Timor-Leste, we always involve mathematics teachers and students, knowing the need is just as great for support and promotion in that discipline.
We at SESIM began months ago with an open invitation to all teachers of junior high and high school science and mathematics around the nation to form teams of 4 students and one teacher to enter the annual pratika competition. When all the entries were received, 28 of the best were chosen and invited to present at the celebration. These were declared winners, and each school represented received a small cash prize and a set of tools and equipment to help them further develop pratika.
All teams were transported to the camp site, just outside the capital city Dili, with all their equipment. After the first night of camping, the judges, consisting of 4 experts in the areas of mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry, visited the student teams and asked them questions about their pratika, helping them more clearly explain and elaborate on the concepts in a correct and concise manner. In this way, the teams were fully prepared to engage with the public on the third day during the big exposition.
In the afternoon of the second day, representatives from 15 local institutions, including universities and educational organizations, presented seminars in various areas of science and mathematics. Topics included petroleum extraction, rock and soil types, reproductive health, industrial design, and civil engineering. In the evening short science films were shown on a big screen, followed by the full-length Australian movie Paper Planes, which has been dubbed into Tetun, Timor-Leste’s lingua franca. A campfire followed during which students shared songs and camaraderie, and then headed for their respective tents, boys on one side of the camp ground, girls on the other.
On the final day, after morning calisthenics, all the competitors, all the seminar institutions, as well as more than a dozen more student-teacher groups presented pratika activities for the crowd of participants. A program followed, including speeches from the donors, the secretary general of TLNCU, and the Director General of Basic Education in the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education, who officially represented the Minister of Education. Other esteemed guests included the president of INFORDEPE, the national teacher training institute; the Timor-Leste UNESCO Antenna Office; and Dr. Ai Sugiura, specialist on climate change education.
Finally, additional “Favorite Prizes” were given to a single team by each judge, donor, and visiting VIP. The event ended with several science demonstrations including SESIM’s new explosive volcano model. Participants and competitors were then transported back to their home schools. It was a smashing success by all accounts, and we’re already plotting and scheming for next year’s event. Here are a few photos.