The group of scientists from the Slovak Academy of Sciences is implementing the second year of the Creative Science educational program this school year. It brings experiential physics, chemistry, biology, and technical education to elementary schools. Currently, the program is being implemented in the 6th class, but the authors of the program are already planning its expansion. On this occasion, on Wednesday, November 22, 2023, at the Institute for Heart Research CEM SAS, held an informal conference dedicated to the pedagogical community to exchange experiences and spread awareness of the program among other schools.
The author's collective of Creative Science consists of scientists from the Institute of Polymers SAs, Institute of Materials and Machine Mechanics SAS, Chemical Institute SAS, Institute for Heart Research CEM SAS, and Institute of Experimental Psychology CSPV SAS. The main driving force behind the program's authors is the general decline in young people's interest in the natural sciences in Slovakia and the continuous decrease in applications for natural science study programs at Slovak universities. According to Klára Velmovská from the Comenius University in Bratislava, who oversees the methodological side of the educational program in the subject of physics, it is necessary to start with the motivation for these subjects from the moment when students begin to encounter subjects such as physics, chemistry or biology.
"Students meet with physics from the sixth grade. Since then, we have considered it necessary that they do not receive ready-made knowledge but try to figure out some laws and how the world works independently. They need to receive appropriate incentives, and this project should help with that," explained Velmovská.
At the same time, the Creative Science educational program has captured the attention of primary schools since its launch. "In the first year, 24 schools participated in the program in the subjects of physics and technical education, and in the second, 75 schools. A teacher who applies through our site can receive a creative package of experiments in physics for the 6th grade for the entire school year. There are equipment for approximately 60 different experiments, which are set according to the curriculum," explains one of the guarantors of the program, Alena Opálková Šišková from the Institute of Polymers SAS.
The creation of equipment was also preceded by mutual dialogue between the scientific and pedagogical communities. It was no different in the case of equipment intended for biology. "We have always tried to understand teachers, what and how they teach. Therefore, after conversations with the teachers, we created a biology set in which they will find not only common laboratory equipment but also those that they can use directly in their classes so that their teaching is creative and experiential," explains Miroslav Ferko, expert guarantor of the biology subject from the Institute for heart research CEM SAS.
Several expressions of gratitude and stimulating ideas were heard at the conference from the teachers present. "We received a set of equipment for physics in September. We are working with them, and I have to say that it is excellent that we have all the necessary equipment available in one place. The children are not lost and work a lot in groups. I want to thank docent Velmovska and the Slovak Academy of Sciences for creating such a program, and I believe that it will continue," said Monika Vaňová from Primary School in Tvrdošovce.
"I was surprised how well the handbook and equipments follow the lines of the 6th-grade physics textbook. However, I also found a lot of new inspiring exercises and measurements there; it can be put to good use," said Jana Schreiberová, the principal of Podolie Kindergarten, who saw her only disadvantage in the higher number of students she works with with the class. "With thirty students, sometimes we didn't have time to work on the result or discuss it. The 6th-grade physics curriculum is quite well laid out. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you when you do 8th grade because it's very dense. Thank you for the equipment; they inspired me," J. Schreiberová encouraged the program's authors.
The technical education and physics subject teacher Katarína Radvanská from Primary School in Dolné Orešany appreciated, among other things, the possibility of recycling the device. "The materials and tools can also be used in physics for seventh graders or other subjects. I am happy that this project could continue. Physics for the 7th grade is closely related to seventh-grade chemistry. The topics there overlap in many ways. I'll be happy to test it then," added K. Radvanská.
The event brought a lot of valuable advice, inspiring ideas, and stimulating discussions, which will help the organizers create more targeted support for educators when applying creative forms of experiential education.
The Creative Science program was created with the support of MŠVVaŠ SR, SAS, Comenius University, Slovak Technical University, and civic associations All4Science, o. z., and PREVEDA, o. z. Detailed information and current activities are on the website.

Text : Katarína Gáliková
Foto: Martin Bystriansky

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