SSPC workshop offers exemplary professional development for teachers

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SSPC, the SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals ran the annual 3-day Chemistry Demonstration Workshop at the Dept. of Chemical Sciences, University of Limerick supporting teachers’ development for the enhancement of the Irish education system. The workshop designed to encourage science teachers to become more confident with chemical demonstrations, brings effective learning strategies to the classroom.

Sponsored by SSPC, Institute of Physics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Dept. of Chemical Sciences and Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), the workshop offers opportunity for teachers to incorporate experiments that will capture students’ imagination.

SSPC’s Education & Public Engagement Manager, Dr Martin McHugh said: “The workshop showcases the relationship between the practicality of the work and the enthusiasm for teaching. The Centre has developed the course to give the hands-on experience with various experiments and enhance confidence in teaching methods. Every year the feedback we receive shows it is very useful, engaging and offers teachers a real opportunity to present in the classroom with self-assurance.”

SSPC’s Academic Engagement & Public Engagement Manager, Dr Sarah Hayes added: “This workshop provides teachers with a unique opportunity to enhance their professional toolkit, and develop dynamic and engaging skills, enabling them to return to their classroom and engage young people in a love of science. Teachers need the opportunity to step back from teaching and to develop new skills and new ways of presenting science. These workshops give them the time to build their confidence and expertise, to share ideas with fellow teachers, and we find that they return to their schools invigorated and more enthused about teaching chemistry.”

The workshop includes explosions and some of the coolest reactions in chemistry involving a chemical demonstration show, simple physics demonstrations, Spectroscopy in a Suitcase by Royal Society of Chemistry, and will covers safety aspects and the use of ICT in demonstration. The course incorporates inquiry and problem-based learning methodologies, to enable teachers to utilise demonstrations to stimulate curiosity and problem-solving ability on the part of the students. Teachers work in pairs and are required to research, devise, test and present their own 10-20 minute chemical magic show at the end of the week. This approach offers many advantages, including the future active engagement of students in chemistry projects and teachers can see the benefits of the workshop as chemistry plays an important role both in our lives today and in our future.

Supporting teachers’ development is vital for the enhancement of the Irish education system, to help educators capitalise on the importance of science in everyday life, creating an active learning environment by integrating demonstrations in the classroom helps expand engagement in learning and develop a repertoire of demonstrations linked to the physical sciences.

The SSPC Education and Public Engagement (EPE) programme funded by Science Foundation Ireland plays a key role in communicating the importance and value of science to the wider society in Ireland. The SSPC’s EPE programmes incorporate customised, context-based activities for each stage of the Irish primary and post-primary educational systems. Additional programmes designed for third/fourth level students, industry, and the general public also play a role in the EPE strategy to promote engagement with SSPC’s research, as well as to create a dialogue among all participants about Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM), particularly in the area of chemistry and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

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