Practice Deep Dive - a teacher's perspective

In this issue, Jose Viñas offers us a fresh perspective on a range of inGenious practices. Jose is a teacher from Spain, a keen member of our Community and extraordinarily dedicated to passing his love of science onto his students. As part of his extensive efforts to enthuse his classes, he’s tried and tested several practices with his pupils. Read what he has to say about the activities – and get inspired!

Please introduce yourself and your schoolJose Viñas

My name is Jose Viñas. I work as a Natural Sciences and Biology teacher in the David Buján Secondary and High School, in Cambre – a town in the Galicia region of North West Spain. Our catchment area is mixed, with both residential areas and farms. A Coruña, a city of 200,000 inhabitants, is just 10 km away.

How did you get started with inGenious?

Two years ago, we became a European Schoolnet pilot school as part of the Xplore Health project. This wonderful experience allowed us to find out more about European science projects and encouraged us to get involved in other ones. As a programme, inGenious is ideal - it provides a new perspective in the teaching of STEM subjects.

Which practices have you tried, and why were they chosen?

So far, I have tried four inGenious practices with my pupils: Electronic Dice, Streetlighting, Superbenz workshop and Sensor Adventure. Most of the practices were chosen by the Science teachers’ group, based on the description provided by the Teacher Community platform. However, the Superbenz workshop was chosen thanks to the information provided during an inGenious meeting I attended, where it was recommended by other teachers.

Jose and his colleagues field-tested a number of inGenious practices with his students. Here’s what they did, what they discovered and what they recommend: Practices tried and tested

Did you combine these practices with the curriculum?

Our group of teachers agreed that including these activities in the curriculum would be most effective, since we will reuse them for subsequent years.

Most of the practices were employed at the end of a term, as a final project where the students are called on to apply the knowledge learned during the previous months.

Would you recommend them to other teachers? What tips do you have for using them in classrooms?

I strongly recommend these practices.

As for how best to use them, teachers should give a special attention to the preparation and organisation of the practice. In my opinion, you have to adapt the practice and make it yours, fitting it into the curriculum and your pupils’ needs. After all, you’ll know better than anyone who your students are – and their strengths and limitations.

girly diceIs there anyway the practices could be improved?

The way they are used could be extended into different areas. Take the Electronic Dice practice as an example. It can be used to show how the technology works, but once the dice is built, it can be employed to explore the statistical analysis of its random results.

In my opinion, any practice can be used in various ways: as a recipe, as a compilation of activities learned during the course, as an opportunity to increase creativity, or as a starting point to investigate different solutions to a problem.

Additionally, it would be great to have the chance to share different solutions adopted by teachers, their different ways of developing a practice and evaluating it.

Has your pupils’ interest in STEM subjects improved significantly since you joined inGenious?

I think it´s a bit early to answer “yes” to this question. The results will only really be clear in five or ten years’ time. However, my initial feeling is that the practices help to create a friendly environment in science classes. Good experiences related to science definitely help increase interest in it.

What sort of practices would you like to see in the future?

I feel we would benefit from practices related to biology: generated by hospitals, analytical laboratories, food enterprises and pharmaceutical companies. In these cases, both virtual practices and practical experiments could work well to raise the students’ interest in the subject.

Are you planning to try other practices?

In our school, we are interested in trying practices related to chemistry – but we need to introduce the practices offered by inGenious in our curriculum step-by-step. Next year, we’d like to include Xperimania or other activities related to chemistry.

Were you and your school already involved promoting STEM before joining inGenious?

My colleagues and I believe that the best way for a student to learn science is by teaching science. It doesn't matter if the students are shy or confident, academic or not: they all know something about science that can be shared with their schoolmates.

With that in mind, in 1993 a mathematics teacher from our school named David Buján launched an interdisciplinary event involving science, languages and history, where the students could show other students their work. Today our school is named after him.

That event inspired us to do something bigger. Eighteen years ago, the science museums of our city started a science festival each May. It is called "El Día de la Ciencia en la Calle" or "Science Day in the street" and our school was one of the first to participate in this project (* see photos below). It’s aimed at taking science out of the classrooms and research centres and into the community. Currently, we are also starting to share these experiences in the Virtual Science Hub, promoted by the Global Excursion project.

In addition, we also take part in science competitions and undertake long-term experiments, inspired by the interests and questions raised by the pupils themselves. We are also proud to announce that we have just been chosen to represent our province in a regional science competition.

Do you have any other recommendations for science teachers?

Teachers – don´t be scared of having fun! Fun science experiments lead to serious results and help ensure the students are happy to come back to school the next day, craving scientific knowledge. A happy, relaxed environment pushes the student to ask searching questions. Remember – curiosity is the basis of science

Jose Viñas, inGenious Teacher, Spain

One of the main aims of a science teacher is to enable students to use the Scientific Method as part of their daily lives. Science has to be a tool to solve our problems and understand what surrounds us, but science problems for students are usually different from teachers’ science problems. This is the reason why we have to listen to our pupils and design a curriculum adapted to their needs, offering them the knowledge that allows them to solve their own daily life problems and defeat the misunderstandings and urban legends that surround some aspects of the discipline.

El Día de la Ciencia en la Calle

Published: June 2013