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A secondary schoolteacher at the “Hands-on Science” Conference in Braga

The 3rd edition of the “Hands-on Science” conference was held in Braga, Portugal, from 4 to 9 September 2006. The aim of this international conference was to participate in the improvement of Science and Technology teaching by promoting hands-on experimental practice in the classroom.
Eleni Kyriaki, one of the Xplora teachers who give classes of Science and Informatics, took part of this conference. She gives her feedback below.


«Hands-on Science» sounds wonderful to secondary level science teachers. Some would ask: what can a participant gain from such a conference?
Although I am involved in the “Hands-on Science” project as a partner, I will try in this article to give my impression of the conference from a schoolteacher’s point of view.

  • Were the experiments presented, tested in the school environment?

There were a wide variety of experiments for primary and secondary level that have been designed, developed and tested in the school environment of different countries (Spain, Portugal, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Belgium). A lot are made using cheap everyday materials, others require more sophisticated constructions.

  • Are the presented experiments included in the curricula?

Quite a few experiments are variations of classical school experiments.
Some others are non-conventional; they are based on innovating ideas. They can be demonstrated at special Science Fairs events.

  • What about simulation tools?

We all know that simulation programs help us a lot in explaining an experiment or a theory. I saw wonderful simulations of non-rigid bouncing bodies developed by Dr. Haertel. I also found the Physlet Physics of Christian and Belloni very interesting.

  • Was it inspiring?

Yes, some really were. I was particularly impressed by the experiments presented by Prof. Hugh Cartwright. It was almost magic and didactic at the same time; static waves in a metal bar that produce “wavy” flames, liquids that mysteriously change color and a lot more.

  • Was it about how students become serious in studying Science?

Yes, some speeches were against the modern way of doing things easily and quickly, and not paying enough attention to details. Science is related to hard methodic work. I attended some very good presentations that emphasized the ways and tools that provide students with a solid background. Professors Chisleag from Romania and Tavares from Brazil were among them.

  • Was it about the future?

Quite a few experiments use new technologies to get accurate measurements and a better analysis. Some of the experiments relate to modern research and are not yet fully explained. For example: a plant that grows towards the center of a circle when being centrifuged for a long time.
I also appreciated the hand made robots presented by the Portuguese team. They were dancing and playing football. I could see students of all ages excited with their toys. They were trying out their programs incessantly on their laptops, working and enjoying themselves. Isn’t that what we all want?

  • Was it about the past?

Some historic experiments were presented. The idea is to reproduce important experiments from the past, using modern methods (e.g. computers and sensors). The teacher can refer to inspiring elements from the history of science.

  • What was very interesting?

Besides some of the presentations, I really enjoyed the discussions. I met some enthusiastic professors and teachers mainly from Europe, passionately talking about their work and their students.

  • What was missing?

- I saw many interesting things at the conference; I really would like to have step-by-step instructions published on Internet so that I can apply some of the ideas in my school. 
- I would like to have access to videos of the experiments presented at the conference. (Prof. Dorrio is working on it)
- I hope that there will be a detailed evaluation of the project, which will help me in selecting the appropriate didactic material. It was mentioned that this task would be given to an external Institute (Prof. Berezovska).

  • Were there any students attending the conference?

There were students in the workshops and at the robots demonstrations. They were conducting experiments, having a lot of fun. The work of some students that took part at the Science Fairs competition was impressive.

  • What about the proceedings and the organization?

The proceedings are included in a thick book or a CD. The search options are very good.
The local organizing committee did a good job in selecting the people that helped us; they created a friendly atmosphere. “Unfortunately” for me, the food was very good too. The center of Braga is wonderful with a lot of churches and “geometrical” gardens. And Bom Jesus is really beautiful.

I come back to my initial question: what did a participant gain from the conference?  I think I have already answered…

Contact: Eleni Kyriaki
Please click here to visit the "Hands-on science" website.

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