Four day physics workshop held in Sifoe

7 January 2014

For the third year in succession the IOP Sifoe Centre hosted four days of workshops at the beginning of December 2013, giving a further 41 Gambian teachers the opportunity to come together and develop the skills of using practical work in their lessons.

Senior Secondary School (A level equivalent) teachers took part in activities involving light, heat and mechanics, with the emphasis being on utilising equipment that can be sourced locally and cheaply. Examples were using a lighted candle to replace a ray box as the object in an optics experiment, or adapting tomato paste tins as calorimeters.

Upper Basic School (Key Stage 4 equivalent) teachers tested out a number of experiments from Joe Brock’s excellent Teaching Practical Physics Anywhere, and were particularly impressed with the experiment to find ‘The most powerful pupil’! They too were shown how local materials can be adapted, for example using a charcoal burner and pieces of scrap metal to demonstrate heat conduction.

Teachers were also very keen to receive suggestions of small demonstrations of physical phenomena that can easily be carried out by pupils themselves, and we resolved to develop a library of such demonstrations, tailored to the Gambian syllabus and circumstances. Examples were given such as using a spoon as a concave and convex mirror.

Laurie Mansfield and Steve Atyeo, the IOP coordinators for The Gambia, were very pleased to be able to leave much of the organisation and planning to our two representatives there, physics teacher Samuel Koidia and Saidu Gbla who works for the charity jolerider.

A very important part of the workshop programme is the opportunity it gives teachers to get together and discuss all the issues that make it difficult to successfully teach physics in The Gambia. Although an email group has been established and a number of the participants have also joined the Centre’s Facebook group, Internet access is at present problematic, and nothing can replace the face-to-face contact that the workshops provide.

The Sifoe Centre is being furnished using local craftsmen, with the addition this December of shelving in the Centre’s prep room.

The Gambian Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education continues to be highly supportive, and a further very positive meeting with ministry representatives gave us much encouragement for the future.

For 2014, we hope to accept the invitation of schools ‘up country’, to take our workshops out to the provinces, with the intention of training senior teachers there to continue the development of their more junior colleagues. We also plan to spend more time visiting workshop participants in their schools to see them in action and help inform the programme’s growth.