Anyone who has ever run a practical workshop/lesson will probably have woken up at some point in cold sweats thinking “WHAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK??”
There is no denying it this is a frightening prospect. Being faced with a room full of students, eager and expecting to be dazzled and having your experiments fail.
But this is science… This IS engineering. Sometimes things aren’t going to work and if your not prepared to teach your students this simple fact they are going to be in for a nasty shock when they enter the working world. Plus you are denying them problem-solving skills, the most important tool in an engineer’s tool kit. Part of the engineering process is always going to be things not working and making mistakes. This is something we should be teaching our students at a very young age.
Apart from the lack of resources, this seemed to be one of the biggest obstacles in the Rwandan education system. Teachers in Rwanda are judged against very high standards. They have a very difficult curriculum to get through and are under a lot of pressure to deliver it all and deliver it correctly. It’s scary and I can relate…
Turning up to a new school to run a solar workshop with a new group of students can be intimidating. Turning up to run a solar workshop in a monsoon will evoke “The Fear”.
I know my solar buggies aren’t going to work in these conditions and I could just tell my students this. But isn’t it much more effective (or at least entertaining) to get them all outside and watch them all struggle to find a patch of sunlight?
Heh heh…. Once we had taught them this painful lesson but valuable lesson, we introduced capacitors. Instead of running the buggies directly from the sunlight, they could charge capacitors off the panels and then attach them to the buggies.
Then things got interesting… students started increasing the number of panels, using lamps to charge their capacitors and some bright spark even charged their capacitor off a battery (controversial, but ultimately highly effective). Effectively they were engineering.
The sense of achievement gained from solving a problem yourself, or coming up with an innovative idea can be so much more rewarding than being given the answers. As Lawrence Bragg once said:
“How dull a detective story would be if the writer told you who did it in the first chapter and then gave you the clues.”
Other Practical Lesson Fears
Apart from looking like an uneducated fool in front your young apprentices other fears include:
- Students breaking everything EVER
- Students melting their hands off in a short circuit
- Losing students in the wilderness of “outside of the classroom”
- Someone senior coming into your lesson of experimental mayhem
All of these terrifying realities are no-where near as scary as denying young people the chance to experiment, learn their own mistakes and come up with new innovative ideas.
Keeping them outside the classroom
Educators … EMBRACE YOUR FEARS!!