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Science Projects at Senior School

Published:

Paul P. Borg
Science and Technology Coordinator

The teachers of the Science and Technology Department of San Andrea Senior School leave no stones unturned to give science education as well as a sound science formation to students entrusted in their care. The need has since a long time been understood that the school must not simply give science education to students and rely on their certification. Science and technology staff must therefore constantly seek ways and means to form the young mind as well in preparation to an understanding of the scientific and/or technological applications encountered beyond the school boundary walls. Theories and principles discussed in class-room or laboratory interactions must move out of the text-book and find their realistic justification in the real world and well beyond flat examination questions.
With this in mind, a number of extracurricular activities are organized annually by the Department, the Science Soiree and the Stephen Hawking Science and Technology Project being the more important. On Friday 4th May 2012 the Science Soiree was held at the school, whereas the Stephen Hawking Science and Technology Project finals were held on the 18th May.

The Stephen Hawking Science and Technology Project
This science and technology project is held annually and was this year held for the 13th consecutive time. Since its inception it was devised with specific aims in mind, the most important being
• to trigger and spur students’ interest to discover new things;
• to encourage, build and develop such skills as research, synthesis, investigation, communication, analysis and evaluation;
• to increase self-esteem and discover latent natural abilities.
The achievements of wheelchair-bound Professor Stephen Hawking, particularly his determination to reach his goals and pursue his studies and research despite physical difficulties, are attributes that the Department believes should be brought to the attention of all students. His sheer tenacity in study, curiosity, learning and discovery is an example students could emulate to overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties. His Brief History of Time, and A Briefer History of Time, are books that give a new understanding not only of life around us, but also of the whole universe. The study of some aspects of the universe has now also been included as part of the MATSEC syllabus. Professor Hawking’s first publication stirred some quiet waters in the literary and in the scientific worlds as it managed to bring science to the public in a very simple and rather attractive way.

This Stephen Hawking activity is a compulsory event made available to all Grade 11 (Form 4) students, to be held over one scholastic year before they sit for their ‘O’ Levels. They are asked to work in groups of three, and present work in the following three consecutive areas of assessment:
• A written researched and investigative assignment not necessarily based on set topics of the certification syllabus. Scientific investigative methods are encouraged all along.

• A seminar or public viva voce presentation by the students on the topic. The presentation is eventually used not only to test the comprehension and preparation of their chosen topic, but also as a very practical, communicative and useful way to deliver and share with peers acquired information.

• The use of visual aids, AV resources, 3-D models, experiments and whatever other means to show their understanding of the chosen topic.

Seminars and discussions are held throughout the year as an extra-curricular activity during the mid-day breaks supervised by the science teachers.  During these seminars a short list of the best groups is made. The final presentation of the short listed projects is held in the presence of parents themselves and an independent adjudicating panel frequently made up of university lecturers and subjects’ EOs. The school administration generously offers that the group getting the highest number of marks would be presented with a return ticket for an educational visit abroad.

The presentations this year included a wide variety of topics, some of which being ways to economise on the school’s electrical consumption, effects of weight of  school bags on the supple spine, light factors affecting the PV energy generation, energy generated by different turbines, conditions for mushroom farming, plant growth under different frequencies, most effective electric kettle, tensile strength of the hair, and many others. The team judged to have the best presentation was composed of Jeremy Borg Myatt, Andrew Cutajar and Elena Pocock, who carried out a thorough investigation to identify the best sound insulating materials at different frequencies.

The Science Soiree
This year’s soiree included the presentation of all the participant science and technology projects of the Stephen Hawking project, as well as projects by the Graphical Communications students and interactive experiments in Physics, Chemistry and Biology by different grades. Besides this in-house in-put, several  local entities that are seemingly not directly involved in education were this year invited to be present during the soiree to help the endeavor of the Department make science more relevant to the students.
The Health Department was present with the anti-smoking campaign, whereas SEDQA presented information about the danger of drugs. As educators the department feels that need to keep young people away from smoking and drugs is today not only a health requirement but a social need that has to be addressed effectively already when the student is very young. The students were encouraged also to start from an early age understanding the beauty of Mother Nature and their natural environment by the active presence of NTM, Nature Trust Malta, WasteServ and PARKS. It was a joy for parents and adults seeing students absorbed in their interest in plants and the need to take care of trees and the maintenance of a clean and pollution free environment. Pots with compost and seeds of Aleppo pine (\nuber), carob (]arrub), sandarac gum (g]arg]ar) and other trees were distributed. IMS (Integrated Marketing Services) exhibited very a useful stand exhibiting robots and other interactive educational resources. Microsoft Partners in Learning kindly made available a full size educational Planetarium helping the Department to improve the education and learning experience through ICT. This was the first time this Planetarium was erected at a school in Malta.
These projects in science education and formation are all in line with the school’s ethos to develop the individual personality holistically and with the spirit of the Framework of the National Curriculum. The staff knows these extracurricular activities are sheer hard work that needs devotion and determination. But beholding the great and lasting benefits reaped by the students makes the effort more worthwhile and desirable as a justification of their professional commitment and teaching vocation.

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