Another round of practical physics teacher training

11 October 2016

IOP volunteers Mike Branfield and Gerry Blake ran further successful practical-physics teacher-training in Tanzania this July. The training took place in three different locations and involved teachers in 18 secondary schools.

Overall, the training aims to address a misconception commonly held by teachers in Tanzania that it isn’t possible to teach practical physics without equipped laboratories. With that in mind, the training demonstrated a number of experiments with low-cost equipment donated by the IOP and inexpensive, locally found resources. These demonstrated how to make basic force meters with elastic bands and cardboard and using meter rulers to showcase difference classes of levers. It was an interesting moment when many experienced teachers gave incorrect predictions and led to the realisation that training was needed. The kit provided was well received and invoked numerous questions that were explored through discussion and further experimentation - two fantastic outcomes.

Alongside the donated equipment, volunteers also demonstrated how equipment can be made from local resources. For example, volunteers used second-hand supercapacitors to build solar-charged voltage supplies for LED ray boxes. Given that Tanzanian classrooms are kept relatively dark in order to keep cool, the kit worked very well.

Students were also given the opportunity to share their ideas and experiments with the volunteers. One particularly impressive piece of kit was an electroscope made entirely from recycled materials. The student who developed it, 15-year-old Joseph Leonard, did so in preparation for the 2016 Young Scientist Tanzania competition, and it’s a brilliant idea that can be easily reproduced in other schools at low cost.

Another positive outcome was the exchange of information between teachers. All agreed that it was vital to stay in contact and would continue to work together as a local network of teachers. Participants were full of enthusiasm for continuing the project and many volunteered to co-ordinate the networks in addition to their teaching responsibilities - a third fantastic outcome.

Further teacher-training is on the horizon for 2017 with volunteers establishing more training centres to increase the IOP’s reach across Tanzania. Volunteers are also looking at the possibility of sourcing all equipment in Tanzania; this would put funds into the local community and prevent inevitable delays when importing materials.