YACs in Argentina
Young Ambassadors for Chemistry came to South America from May 9th to 15th. 2005
I arrived in Argentina after a 13 hour flight and 2 hours sleep and was met by Monica Tosi, the Science Across the World coordinator for South America, tired but excited about the prospect of taking YACs to another location.
This is our second YAC event, following on from a fantastic week in Taiwan last year.
The initiative is sponsored by the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC www.iupac.org) and GlaxoSmithKline (www.gsk.com) through Science Across the World (www.scienceacross.org).
The workshop was hosted by ESSARP, the English Speaking Scholastic Association of the River Plate (www.essarp.org.ar) in the heart of Buenos Aires.
Colleagues from around Buenos Aires followed a three day programme of workshops which focused on the Science Across the World programme of educational exchanges and preparing Science Day events for young people in order to raise public understanding of Chemistry.
Participants were signed up the Science Across the World programme and got the chance to get their hands on the programme materials which focus on getting students involved in investigations of local lifestyle and culture through Science issues and then exchanging this data with partner classrooms around the world.
Over the three days we attracted 13 teachers, each of whom expressed surprise that there weren’t more teachers at the workshop, that it should have been publicised more among the language teaching community and that it is difficult to get teachers into workshops in Argentina for a number of reasons, not least because getting time off school for such events is a problem.
Having said that, all of the teachers who attended were very enthusiastic about the Science Across programme and the YACs idea to the extent that the group produced a plan of action themselves for introducing the programme in their schools, sharing it among colleagues and developing it in the region.
Colleagues built models of DNA from sweets
… and produced and presented their own line of cosmetics
Eva, our trusty assistant at ESSARP, produced a wonderful booklet of the Science Across materials in the two languages, Spanish and English.
Thanks also to Tomas for providing technical assistance quickly and effectively whenever we shouted for help.
Monica Tosi spoke about the development of the Science Across programme in South America, recent events and future plans.
Dr Norma Nudelman (FCEyN, UBA, CONICET superior researcher, member of the Academia Nacional de Ciencies Exactas) spoke on the topic of ‘Green Chemistry for a Cleaner World’. Dr Carlos Calvo (chief of the Biological Chemistry department in FCEyN, UBA researcher in the ‘Leloir Institute’ CONICET) gave a presentation on the theme ‘From DNA to Cloning, a story that is just beginning’.
Thanks to our partners in the initiative, small and large. Bio Rad (www.biorad.com) provided us with a free DNA extraction kit as a prize for our cosmetics workshops for the best ‘performer’ in the group. Dolores was pleased with this!
Cognis (www.cognis.com) also provided us with detergent for the cosmetics workshops.
More than 30 students worked on cosmetics and DNA models in the events building of the beautiful Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires.
The Autumn weather behaved for us to bring in a flow of visitors throughout the day as children built a DNA model from sweets and produced lines of cosmetics.
The final DNA model was about 5 metres in length and the youngest group of cosmetics chemists won prizes including a YAC t-shirt for their cosmetics TV commercial.
Many thanks to Horacio Kagami (firstname.lastname@example.org) the managing director of the Fundacion Espacios Verdes for allowing us to set up our YAC camp for the day in the Japanese Gardens and for hosting this wonderful day. The excitement and enthusiasm of the children, their activity and noise made sure that we attracted lots of attention from the passing public. Exactly what we wanted!
Finally, it was great to have Nicolas Fossati with us, the young artist who designed our YAC emblem. Nicolas designed the emblem when he was still at school but has since gone on to study art at University in Buenos Aires. Thanks Nicolas and good luck!
PS – final thoughts…
This was a small group and we’ve learnt some useful lessons about publicity and networking with schools for future similar events. My hat goes off to the colleagues who came to the workshops. They worked very hard often travelling long distances to get to be with us after a full day’s teaching. Their enthusiasm for the Science Across the World programme was clear and we look forward to having them in our growing family of participants. It has always been our experience that once we get a group of teachers in a room together and we have the opportunity to present them the Science Across programme, they invariably love it. The same thing happened here. Formal lines of communication didn’t seem to get our message across and we need to find a different approach in contacting schools and teachers.
Coincidentally, I met Analia Kandel (email@example.com) headteacher, radio presenter and teacher trainer at the University of Buenos Aires and we discussed the issue of getting teachers to workshops. Not only did Analia agree to promote the programme for us and arrange for sessions with Monica Tosi introducing the programme to trainee teachers, but she also got me in to her school, Boston College, before I left to teach three lessons with over a hundred students on a selected number of Science Across activities. She also introduced me to 7 of her teachers in the short time I was there. Perhaps there’s a lesson for us here on ways and means of contacting teachers and networking in Argentina.
If the teachers can’t come to us, we need to go to them!
Celebrating DNA 50 in Argentina, June 2004
I’m about to leave Buenos Aires after a week of celebrating the DNA 50 with the British Council in Argentina (www.britishcouncil.org.ar).
I believe it’s the last in a long series of British Council DNA 50 events all over the world.
Children have been building strands of DNA from sweets in Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan and Siberia among other fantastic places, and the last event looks like it's here in Buenos Aires! What a finale!
Mary opens the workshops…
The week started with a couple of hours rest from getting off the plane to going to the Saint Andrew’s School where the week’s events were to be hosted and starting the first genetics workshop for 11-12 year olds. Each day was filled with all manner of DNA and ELT related activities. Tom Bradley, a teaching assistant and biologist working in Cordoba, showed groups around the exhibition and Joaquin Fargas and team from the Exploratorio hands-on science museum in Buenos Aires (www.exploratorio.com) ran DNA extraction activities.
Meanwhile, students came to work with me on Science Across the World’s pack of activities Talking about Genetics around the World (www.scienceacross.org).
We looked at media representation of genetics issues and children were asked to consider and express their own understanding of genetics.
Children working on DNA cartoons…
We set about creating cartoon faces by mixing face parts and genetic code and children were offered prizes given by the British Council for the best creation and its presentation to the class. This activity is from materials available, as well as many, many others, at the Biology and Biotechnology Research Council website (www.bbsrc.ac.uk). These DNA faces became an exhibition within the exhibition as the week went on. It was great to have children working on this theme with the exhibition as a backdrop. Crick and Watson watched on as children put their genetically modified creations together.
We also looked at variation in each group. The children had to investigate similarity and difference in their own class and record their findings. Hair, and eye colour were researched as well as ear lobes, middle finger hair, and tongue rolling. Lastly, students counted taste buds to identify any Supertasters in their class.
When we had time, we also did DNA origami. I picked this up from a colleague from Austria (www.dialog-gentechnik.at) and the activity is useful for the language of instructions as well as providing a great visual for looking at the structure of DNA.
Variation in the group… Supertasters…
There was also a workshop offered for colleagues from bilingual schools in Buenos Aires where we presented the programme and outcomes of the Teaching Science through English seminar that was run by British Council Seminars in Sheffield in February this year.
Joaquin discusses Science around the world…
Virginia Petrella, a bilingual teacher of science in Buenos Aires, and Joaquin were both at this event and presented both personal and local perspectives on the success of the seminar. Monica Tosi also presented a local perspective on her work with the Science Across the World programme in Argentina including Science Across workshops she has run and the Eating and Drinking exchange she is doing with her students at the T S Eliot School in Buenos Aires. All of the teachers present, as well as those accompanying children to the workshops were offered free subscription to the Science Across the World programme of exchanges.
Nobel Prize winner Sir John Sulston wowed the student population of the audiences, in fact he wowed everybody, who came to listen to his talk and put questions to him on a variety of issues related to genetics. The week was closed by Paul Dick, Director British Council Argentina.
Sulston talks with the students…
It was a great week and one which has already laid foundations for future activities. Young Ambassadors of Chemistry will come to Buenos Aires, in the near future. Monica, Joaquin and Virginia are a team looking into broadening their work together and this will include expanding Science Across the World in South America. There’s also talk of Exploring the Solar System, Climate Change…
A great week! Many thanks to all who made it a success, especially Mary Godward of the British Council and Fabien from the host school.