Teaching is a Process, It’s not a Factory

Scientists for Tomorrow’s (SfT) third round of Professional Development (PD) workshops, which focused on building a solar powered car to explain the module of  “Alternative Energy,” took place on Saturday March 7th, 2015.

Instructors from 8 different Chicago Public Schools (CPS) who just integrated into the SfT program for the Winter 2015 quarter, arrived at Columbia College Chicago’s 623 Wabash building and enjoyed a quick Dunkin Donut breakfast.

After the instructors were powered by coffee and donuts, Marcelo Caplan, Associate Professor of the Science and Mathematics Department and co-founder of Scientists for Tomorrow, took the lead.  Around 9:00 AM Marcelo gave out the lessons plans to the instructors and started the workshop with a PEP talk explaining the programs main goal, which is to promote science and technology in the communities. “We promote kids, we don’t promote institutions.” Marcelo said.

Marcelo also showed the instructors the different resources the web page: www.scientistsfortomorrow.org has to offer. He also displayed some videos of past activities like the last “Family Science Day” at the Field Museum, where more than 600 kids and parents from 25 communities attended.

He encouraged the instructors to watch the video tutorials, read the handbooks, and follow our social media accounts to learn more about the program and get the best out of this educational experience. “We’re not judging you or evaluating you. Our task is to support you.” Marcelo told his audience.

“This is not your bible, this is your guide.” Marcelo said as he pointed to the lesson plans. Even though the tutorials are complete and the lesson by lessons are concrete, instructors are encouraged to try the experiments before class and contribute with their own creative ideas.  Our program not only focuses on the kids and the community, but also enlightens instructors and guides them through the teaching process.

At 10:00 AM everyone was out of their seats. All of the instructors along with CCC students Jose Perez, Martin Bayang, Maria Dantas and Andrea Salcedo, who also collaborate with SfT program by filming, photographing or writing about SfT events, participated in various games and activities.

“You have 1 minute to figure out how to light the lamps!”  “Make the buzzer work!” Marcelo yelled. At first, most of the participants had no idea how to complete these challenges, but by trial and error they eventually succeeded. This is one of the principles of our organization, let the kids learn as they experience by themselves.

Participants bumped each other as they passed energy charges in the “human energy circuit” dynamic, wrote paragraphs describing how their lives would be without energy, measured the voltage and current of lamps, and drew lamp circuits on the board. With these activities Marcelo explained most of the energy concepts and emphasized why it’s necessary to use alternative energy to preserve our non-renewable resources.

After a quick lunch break, construction time was finally here!  Marcelo gave out the materials and everyone started building their solar cars as a team. He didn’t just say “Cut and paste this here.”  Marcelo guided the instructors through the process and taught them the importance of every part of the car.

The table was full of saws, soldiering machines, batteries, wires, wheels and lots of glue! With the song  “I feel good” as the background music, participants measured and cut the dowels and paste the frames and even soldered the wires of the car.

By 4:00 pm, all of the participants had a smile on their faces as they looked with amusement at their creative product.  The base of the car was ready!

As the day came to an end, Marcelo had a brief talk with the instructors where everyone agreed this had been a unique learning and bonding experience. “At the end we worked as a team. We united as a community,” said one of the instructors.

After a long day of work, every instructor left with their toolbox and cardboard box ready to teach what they had just learned to their students!

Andrea Salcedo
SfT- Staff Journalism Student

To check out the pictures follow: SfTinitiative