The world is steeped in science; it takes very little to touch its ‘magic’. It is the best laboratory that exists to show the wonders of physics, chemistry and biology. However, it takes inventiveness, knowledge and desire to organize experiments that succeed in fascinating young students. This should be every teacher’s daily challenge. It is for Lucia Lanfiuti Baldi who discovered and experimented with this approach as a SeedScience volunteer. Now she applies it in her life as a teacher.
Italy – Tanzania round trip, but with a suitcase full of experiments and emotions
With a degree in Astrophysics in hand, Lucia wanted to dive into the historical aspects of science and its educational aspects. Looking for an ‘out of comfort zone’ experience, but inherent to her professional objective, she found SeedScience and set off. Six weeks in Tanzania to attend teacher training ‘in the field’.
“I participated in many meetings with local school teachers, helped design new experiments and visited many schools. It was a wonderful experience both from an educational and a human point of view. There was no shortage of opportunities to get to know and exchange with villagers, precious moments that I keep in my heart,’ the young teacher recounts. Yes, on her return to Italy, in fact, Lucia then started teaching mathematics and science at middle school and, in the following years, mathematics and physics at a high school. She confesses: ‘I immediately brought an escape room on climate change developed by SeedScience into a classroom. To this day, I am still ‘recycling’ all the experiments I had helped invent during my experience in Tanzania, including the strategies for proposing them”.
Lab4All: learning to invent experiments SeedScience’s style
Perfectly in line with the SeedScience mood, Lucia was also a member of the Lab4All jury in the 2021 edition, with a focus on climate change. Dedicated to Italian schools and in collaboration with the association Orizzonte, this project asks students to think of experiments to be carried out with recycled or easy-to-find materials. As if we were in Africa. They film them and present them to the jury, explaining what they have thought and what they want to try.
“I’ve seen the students put themselves on the line showing skills that would otherwise never have emerged. Lab4All is a class project that fosters unity and collaboration. For the students, it is an opportunity to see scientific phenomena with their own eyes. This is not taken for granted in Africa, but not in Italy either: there is a lot of work to be done on laboratory education here too. It is also a strong stimulus to reflect on what the right to quality education means, how it is not taken for granted to access it in the same way that finding ice or electricity in an African school is not. Indeed, it is not always easy to propose experiments that seem feasible everywhere in Italy. This aspect also came up often during teacher training and is an important component of the SeedScience project, especially for those participating from Italy’.
Bottles, beans, branches: teaching people to love science requires little
Sometimes laboratories in Italian schools do not shine with innovation and efficiency, but SeedScience trains on how to do a lot with a little. With what is around each of us: a lot of ‘hidden’ science that, with the right experiment, can be shown.
“I learnt that it is possible to teach science through practical, fun and simple experiences, without big tools. I came back with many insights for my current teaching activity in Italy. Especially in middle schools, there is always a need to involve and enthuse children to make the lesson active and participative. In addition to a long list of experiments to propose, the learning approach is valuable. Nowadays, before going into the classroom and proposing a new topic, I always ask myself how I can make it engaging and interesting with an experiment, even a small one, but one that involves them personally”.
Lucia gives us three, three that for her are three aces up her sleeve in the classroom, in pure SeedScience style.
To observe the transpiration of plants, we compare the water remaining after several hours in two separate bottles. One with a branch with leaves and one without. It sounds trivial but the difference is so great that it will amaze the youngest.
Again with plants, we can have fun seeing how the bean seeks light, even if we force it to grow in a cardboard box with a thousand obstacles and a hole at the top from which it sees the sun. Moving on to the less ‘spectacular’ balance of solids, Lucia in middle school took advantage of the ‘Flip bottle challenge’ to show her pupils how it works. A perfect example of applying the SeedScience method to everyday life in Italy. “It’s a game they play during recess: they throw a bottle with water in the bottom trying to make it land on its feet. I used it to show that for solids to remain in equilibrium, the centre of gravity must fall within the supporting surface. It worked: everyone grasped the dynamics immediately, much better than when I explained it with abstract drawings on the blackboard”.
Article by Marta Abbà with the contribution of Lucia Lanfiuti Baldi.