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Stephen Hawking Project 2010 – 2011

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Stephen Hawking Science and Technology Project
 

Nurturing Science Education at San Andrea Senior School
In an effort to create an awareness of the necessary interaction with the natural and cultural environment in students as early in their life as possible, the science department of the San Andrea Senior School has come up with a number of educational activities that trigger the student’s investigative interest.

In an effort to create an awareness of the necessary interaction with the natural and cultural environment in students as early in their life as possible, the science department of the San Andrea Senior School has come up with a number of educational activities that trigger the student’s investigative interest.

The department basically endeavours to make students depart from a strictly examination-based assessment, towards a more practical mode based on skill-development assessment. Whilst keeping in mind the need of certification, teachers introduce structures that encourage individual curiosity and develop investigation. Initiatives are taken to actually challenge students into being curious, ask questions, seek answers and plunge into hands-on experiences in order to be satisfied. The department creates platforms aimed at literally letting students loose to quench their own curiosity. This vision incorporates initiatives that inspire, build and develop important skills like research, synthesis, investigation, numeracy, communication, doing, analysis, evaluation and other skills so much required by a future adult to relate with society and with the environment.
Extracurricular initiatives have been therefore organized as a pedagogical means already for a number of years with the aim of complementing SEC programmes in the sciences, as well as kick starting latent abilities and skills that lay dormant in the student who frequently is unconscious of latent characteristics in his or her possession. We believe that school visits to industry and to sites that show the theoretical principles in their technological, frequently industrial applications, are important and beneficial. But we tend to give more weight to the student’s own discovery of this applicability by providing him with different mechanisms to take his own initiatives and use his own imagination. At the same time we monitor the progress made to reach his aims on his own whilst we feed him with the required methodological and theoretical support to guide him towards achieving the answers required.

With these ideas in mind, the department has devised several activities such as the Energy Terrace (solar water heater, pv panels, greenhouse etc.) and the Stephen Hawking Science and Technology Project activity which has been already orgainsed for eleven consecutive years. We also organize other activities such as enjoyable Scuba Diving Sessions in which students are taken for educational dives and lessons that combine entertainment with the illustration of some physics principles. The Cineforum is the presentation of educational films or full feature films including discussions and information on the themes featured.

The tenacity and determination of wheel-chair bound Professor Stephen Hawking who has had astonishing achievements in Astrophysics despite his great physical drawbacks, is used as a symbol for students never to give up their quest for discovery. His determination is used to help each one depart from his, or her own, level and reach the required heights of achievement not obtainable by other methods. It is a joy for all the stakeholders, parents and teachers alike, to witness the great input by the fourteen or fifteen year olds set on the path of discovery learning.

“I am glad to be of service to science in Malta…”
Professor S. Hawking during a meeting with San Andrea staff and students some years ago

The initiative involves hard work by teachers but witnessing the immense frequently incredible efforts by some students leaving no stone unturned to somehow prove their point with available tools and knowledge is a joy not to be missed. The discovery by some individuals of latent inbuilt talents makes the organization and participation in the project not only worthwhile but indeed a sine-qua-non in the San Andrea annual calendar of events. A substantial number of students remain hooked to their area of interest discovered during the project by deepening their quest even during tertiary education. It is such a joy for us educators watching them dishing up information from institutions all over the country, conducting interviews, taking decisions, evaluating …

San Andrea team placing third in the NSTF Young Scientist contest 2011

The initiative involves hard work by teachers but witnessing the immense frequently incredible efforts by some students leaving no stone unturned to somehow prove their point with available tools and knowledge is a joy not to be missed. The discovery by some individuals of latent inbuilt talents makes the organization and participation in the project not only worthwhile but indeed a in the San Andrea annual calendar of events. A substantial number of students remain hooked to their area of interest discovered during the project by deepening their quest even during tertiary education. It is such a joy for us educators watching them dishing up information from institutions all over the country, conducting interviews, taking decisions, evaluating …The initiative involves hard work by teachers but witnessing the immense frequently incredible efforts by some students leaving no stone unturned to somehow prove their point with available tools and knowledge is a joy not to be missed. The discovery by some individuals of latent inbuilt talents makes the organization and participation in the project not only worthwhile but indeed a in the San Andrea annual calendar of events. A substantial number of students remain hooked to their area of interest discovered during the project by deepening their quest even during tertiary education. It is such a joy for us educators watching them dishing up information from institutions all over the country, conducting interviews, taking decisions, evaluating …

The San Andrea students who participated in the NSTF Young Scientist contest 2011 with their Science Teachers and Headmistress
 

The Organisation


The Stephen Hawking Project 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, but on whatever topic.
  • A seminar or public viva voce presentation on the topic.
  • The use of visual aids, AV resources, 3-D models, experiments and all other means to show their understanding of the chosen topic. Experiments and investigations are then exhibited during a special Science Soiree.

Seminars and discussions are held as an extra-curricular activity during the mid-day breaks supervised by the science teachers. During these seminars students are grilled with questions by peers and teachers alike, and a short list of the best groups is made. The final presentation of the short listed projects is held also publicly in the presence of parents themselves, other guests and an independent adjudicating panel frequently made up of university lecturers and experts. 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.
In their treatment of the chosen topic and its development for the presentation, a completely free hand is given to the students, but they are encouraged to be disciplined yet adventurous, creative yet practical, original yet inquisitive, cautious yet adventurous. Letting the kids literally loose, to experience the joy of discovery learning will always be an opportunity for them to experience the real objectives of the whole idea.
The cross linking of the sciences with other areas such as technology applications, computer soft-ware and Technical Design is inevitable in many cases and highly recommended and encouraged. As teachers we promote constantly the de-compartmentalizing of science subjects and the spreading of investigation using whatever tool available. The idea of information acquisition, (research and evaluation, synthesis and analysis) is discussed at length. This proves to be such an important area that it has to be addressed in more detail in the future.

Diversity of Topics

The following are some of the titles tackled so far over the years: satellites, horses, the electromagnetic spectrum, the car engine, logic gates, the lungs, the concept of time, alternative energy from dung, C02 absorption and algae, mould and bread, magnetic levitation, the structural strength of an egg shell, alcohol concentrations from different fermentations, time and milk, hydroponics etc. Diversity of subjects chosen only shows how important it is for us adults to provide that appropriate platform giving the students the opportunity to develop their own creative and imaginative skills.
This year’s winning team investigating the amount of helium required to lift the team, was made up of Faye-Dominique Cachia, Sarah D’Alessandro and Sarah Papagiorcopulo.
When all is said and done, the whole exercise of the Stephen Hawking Science and Technology Project at San Andrea is in actual fact also aimed at bringing the student, as an individual, face to face with an important – and grave – reality very early in his/her life: is information to be at hand, knowing that information is readily available at the simple click of a button, but not really striving to possessing it? Or should information be in the head, learned, digested, possessed, and utilised by the individual, anywhere, anytime, according to need?
We believe all the acquired knowledge can be modified by the individual according to personal requirements, choices and decisions and this is what eventually makes up a complete person. From its inception the whole project was meant to help the young student learn of the need to strive to live a better life in harmony with the natural and cultural environment. We encourage them through the project to be inquisitive and to investigate what gave rise to little or big changes that made life what it is today. The sooner that feeling is absorbed by our students, the better it is for them in their quest for responsible adulthood, despite inevitable drawbacks and difficulties that seem insurmountable. I never tire recalling what Professor Hawking told me through his synthesizer when we met him several years ago: I am glad to be of service to science in Malta…


Paul P. Borg
Science & Technology Coordinator
San Andrea Senior School.

 

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