Following Up on Dow Chemistry Class Awakening Childrens Experimenting Spirit with Small-Scale Chemistry Laboratory

General Press Releases Tuesday August 19, 2014 16:43
Bangkok--19 Aug--Siam PR Consultant

An afternoon science classroom with over 50 students became alive as Mr. Kosol Manjit, a science teacher in the upper secondary level at Maptaputphanpittayakarn School in Rayong, brought out plastic boxes about the size of an A4 piece of paper. Inside each of them were small objects including Petri dishes (shallow plastic containers for use with chemicals), pins, dry batteries, connection wires, toothpicks and operation charts, all of which were distributed to students who were working in groups.

Today, we’ll conduct an experiment on electro-hydrolysis. Inside each box is a set of small-scale chemistry laboratory tools. You’ll get the opportunity to experiment and observe the result by yourself,” said Mr. Kosol at the beginning of his class.

In the classroom, each group of students was concentrating on their experiments under close supervision by Mr. Kosol. So far, 21 schools in Rayong have participated in the Dow Chemistry Class project as pilot schools, introducing the small-scale chemistry laboratory technique, an experiment technique recognized by the UNESCO and widely used on an international level, to their science education after the teachers received the small-scale chemistry laboratory technique training in February and March.

Due to limitations on science education at Thai schools, which on a large part focuses mainly on memorization, the students have to use their imagination to understand theories and textbooks and do not have opportunities to conduct real experiments. Therefore, they lack the motivation and interest to study science. As a leading science-driven Thai company, Dow Thailand then conceived the Dow Chemistry Class in collaboration with the Chemical Society of Thailand under the Patronage of Prof. Dr. H.R.H. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak with a mission to allow science students to conduct real chemical experiments, train their analytical thinking skills as well as observation and problem-solving abilities in a scientific way. The project aims to create opportunities for Thai youth to study science effectively, which will lead to progress on science education in Thailand.

The implementation of the Dow Chemistry Class is concentrated on the development of teachers’ skills in conducting classes. The project trains science teachers various techniques on how to carry out chemical experiments safely and organizes workshops on using and teaching with small-scale chemistry laboratory tools. It aims to equip the teachers with knowledge and skills in teaching and designing learning materials that are suitable for science education in Thailand. The training has been well received by the teachers in Rayong.

To find out the outcome of the Dow Chemistry Class training, the project conducted a follow-up and evaluation session on the classroom application of the small-scale chemistry laboratory technique by the 61 teachers from 21 schools who have participated in the project. The project’s working committee visited the schools to observe the teachers while conducting their classes in order to provide more guidance on how to best use the technique and look at the students’ response. The follow-up and evaluation is an initial indication of the effectiveness of the teaching, assessing whether the teachers can apply the acquired knowledge and experiment and teaching techniques to their classes and develop a teaching style that is suitable for the subject at different levels. In addition, this follow-up activity helps to boost the teachers’ creativity in developing their teaching style, which will lead to better performance of the students who are the future of the Thai science community.

Ms. Poranee Kongamornpinyo, Public Affairs Manager of Dow Thailand, said, “The Dow Chemistry Class is another social responsibility activity by Dow that aims to strengthen science education in Thailand with a sense of sustainability. Thanks to the follow-up, we have learned that the teachers have acquired necessary knowledge and skills for teaching, allowing the students to learn and improve their scientific thinking for conducting new experiments effectively. The team behind the Dow Chemistry Class also has an idea to develop a long-term, in-depth and expansive training course for this project so that it can lead to the establishment of a science teacher network that promotes the transfer of knowledge and teaching techniques. However, the push for the development of science education cannot come only from Dow or the Chemical Society of Thailand. Schools play an important role in supporting and implementing the project to achieve its goals. They are the medium for the knowledge transfer, the catalyst for exciting learning and experiments that make science become an interesting, tangible subject.”

Talking on the idea of using small-scale chemistry laboratory equipment in classroom, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Supawan Tantayanon, who is an immediate-past president of the Chemistry Society of Thailand and a chemist of international achievements participating in the follow-up activity to give further guidance on chemistry teaching and experiments, said, “The application of the small-scale chemistry laboratory technique at school may be a new thing for Thai teachers and students. But I believe both the teachers and students will gain greater benefits from and have more fun with this new technique and the equipment. The technique reduces hazards as it uses only a minimal or necessary amount of chemicals. This helps solve the problem at its root cause, minimizing the chances of accidents and reducing waste from experiments. So, it helps conserve the environment. More importantly, conducting an experiment with the small-scale chemistry laboratory technique is easy and fast, thus helping the teachers to reduce the burden of having to prepare equipment. It saves time and allows all the students to conduct an experiment together. Meanwhile, the technique can help strengthen the relations between the teachers and the students and enable the students to understand the lessons better.”

After finishing his class, Mr. Kosol said, “After having applied the small-scale chemistry laboratory technique to my class for a while, I’ve found that the students started to have more fun learning science. They could remember and understand the lessons better through experiments. I usually begin with introducing the students to the tools, explaining experiment procedures and allowing them to conduct an experiment by consulting the handbook. This encourages the students to observe and think and write down the results by themselves. At the same time, I try to let them see that science is an everyday subject, something they can apply to their daily life. As a teacher, I also have to follow up on their learning, observing what is useful for them, giving them guidance without directing too much. This is so that our children can develop science knowledge that is up to international standards and prepare them for the onset of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) late next year.”

Thanakorn Kasien, a Matthayom 6 student at Maptaputphanpittayakarn School, said, “Previously, videos were the main learning medium for science class. The teachers tried to explain the theories, but sometimes we didn’t understand because there were no experiments. Now that we have small-scale chemistry laboratory equipment for experiments in class, I’m very excited and have more fun with science and the experiments. I also feel that science has become a subject closer to my life and isn’t as hard as I thought.”

Thipakorn Matin, another student in the same group as Thanakorn, added, “The small-scale chemistry laboratory equipment really helps me understand the theoretical part better because I can observe the changes that occur in an experiment, from the beginning to the end. I can focus better and have more motivation to study science and conduct experiments with other lessons in the future.”

Another member of the same group, Chantima Tohpetch said, “I’m glad and thankful that Dow Thailand values and supports science education. The project not only makes learning more interesting, I also feel safer during an experiment.”

Although the experiment on electro-hydrolysis had ended, the classroom remained alive as the students continued to discuss and share their experience and ask the teacher about what they still wanted to know. And this is how a true science classroom should be.

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