The Accra College of Education (AcCE), through its Teaching and Learning Resource Centre, in partnership with Michael Gregory, a Canadian science educator from France and a Scientix ambassador for France, organised an ‘Experiment Share’ for its student teachers and students at Ideal College Senior High School on 22nd February 2022.
The ‘Experiment Share’ engaged students in a series of live science experiments using low-cost and locally available materials to make science education practical, engaging and fun.
With a mission to “practicalise science for students”, Gregory and Christoffer Akeploo, a science tutor from St. Francis College of Education, have been exploring ways to support schools and Colleges of Education, to encourage more practice-based science in the classroom. Mr Akpeloo and Gregory have embarked on several science outreach programmes to local schools in the Volta and Oti Regions. They have also developed several Teaching and Learning Materials (TLMs) for the St. Teresa’s College of Education Resource Centre with accompanying instructional videos to guide teachers in creating science TLMs.
Accra College of Education’s Teaching and Learning Resource Centre was established in 2020 and supports College tutors and local schools with practical ideas and TLMs to make lessons engaging and fun. The Centre also supports student teachers to create or borrow TLMs during their On-Campus Teaching Practice. The Centre is also open for use by local schools —and this has helped the College to build stronger relationships with these schools.
The Principal of AcCE, Dr Samuel Atintono, ensures that the Centre is well-resourced and has a vision of expanding the College’s national and international institutional partnerships. He believes that these partnerships will increase student teachers’ exposure and allow more connectivity to learn new things and create communities of practice. “We can share best practices and work out how to scale this to the other 45 Public Colleges of Education so that they can also benefit from these practical demonstrations.”
Dr. Atintono continued that “one of our biggest challenges is having the equipment for use in our laboratories. TLMs are alternatives that supplement and promote teaching and learning. We are therefore happy that this activity has been organised for our students; we hope this is not a one-off exercise. The exercise has been beneficial, and we look forward to scaling it up and engaging more institutions.”
Mr. Emmanuel Annan, the Coordinator for the Resource Centre, explained that “we took a step to go on an outreach to primary schools and some Senior High Schools after receiving a donation of simple science experiments from the Institution of Engineering and Technology through T-TEL. We visit the schools to donate some of these science experiments and support them in learning how to build and use them. I hope we can continue our outreach to other Senior High Schools so that teachers can weave some of these practical science demonstrations into their classroom lessons. If, as a result, some students find interest in the teaching profession, then that becomes (the) icing on the cake.”
About 100 students participated in the practical demonstration exercise held on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, at the ICT laboratory of the College. Tutors from Accra CoE and Ideal College SHS also participated in the exercise.
The students made a gas thermometer, created cardscopes (using low-cost lenses to demonstrate magnification) and undertook experiments on surface tension and static electricity.
Students sitting in groups for the practical demonstrations
The students used a glass bottle, one-hole stopper, tubing, balloon, and coloured water to make the gas thermometer. This experiment turned out to be a fun activity because students worked in groups. Each group was tasked to create a gas thermometer by following an assembly instruction pasted on the wall a few metres away. The groups had to plan and assign tasks to each group member. Some team members’ roles were to read and relay the step-by-step process to their respective groups as part of a competition to see which group could successfully calibrate their thermometer the quickest. In the end all the groups successfully created a gas thermometer and observed the temperature rise and fall by creating heat from rubbing their hands. The activity tested how groups communicated to achieve the task on hand effectively and efficiently.
Groups trying to generate heat by rubbing their hands together
Next, the students explored static electricity using two drinking straws or the inner and outer parts of a pen and a bottle of water. The activity showed how items are charged through static electricity. The students rubbed both straws rapidly against paper so that the friction caused electrons to transfer from the paper to the straws, leaving both straws negatively charged. Students then carefully balanced one of the straws on top of the bottle. They then put the other straw close to the balanced straw and the straw started to move away from the first straw. By moving the straw round the bottle, the balanced straw could be made to spin on top of the bottle. Students then used a pen (which was neutrally charged) and saw that the straw moved towards the pen. This demonstration showed that like charges repel and opposite charges attract.
A student demonstrating static electricity
To demonstrate the cardscopes, students were given small acrylic lenses to make microscope attachments using smartphones. They drilled holes in the cardboard similar to the size of the lens. They inserted the lens in the hole parallel to the smartphone’s camera and used elastic bands to hold it firmly. Using the phone camera as a microscope, students then captured photos of common objects around them, such as money, skin and hair.
Students testing their cardscopes on each other
The final experiment demonstrated that water has surface tension. The facilitator placed plain paper over a plastic cup full of water. He then flipped the plastic cup (with the water) and the paper to show what would happen next. The students observed that the water held up the paper. By implication, the high surface tension held the water up, consequently preventing it from spilling.
Michael showing the students how surface tension works
Students actively participated and contributed during the pre-discussion and practical sessions. They had various experiences to share and were excited at the opportunity to co-learn. Some students observed that the practical sessions had enabled them to connect the theory and practical application of knowledge.
Ms. Abdul Rashid, a Form 3 student of Ideal College SHS testified, “I participated in a series of experiments that I have read in books and have never seen before. I think this is great exposure for me. I can remember everything that I saw. Science is not hard to learn, especially if you practice it as we did. I believe I can apply some of the lessons in my examinations and pass.”
Ms. Abdul Rashid after the practical demonstrations
The ‘Experiment Share’ was a great way to get the students to learn some simple scientific processes. It invigorated the students’ critical thinking skills and understanding of how science works.
Emphasising the importance of the experiment sessions, Isaac Mabe, a Level 100 Bachelor of Education student-teacher from Accra College, said, “I am likely to specialise in science. The sessions were fun, and I want to do similar things in the classroom when I become a teacher.”