Learning, Engaging, Building: a celebration of science
Do you know how to grow a crystal ? The world’s #1 killer? How easy it is to programme a robot to recognize colours, with the right sensors? These questions and many more were answered on World Science Day for Peace and Development, celebrated worldwide on 10 November 2014. This year, the celebration promoted “Quality Science Education: ensuring a sustainable future for all”. Highlights included the launch of the UNESCO World Library of Science, a newly created, free online science education resource for a global community of users, and many fun experiments conducted at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Several hundred children came to UNESCO to celebrate and experiment with chemistry, physics, maths, robotics and programming. There was a special focus on crystals and the structure of matter, as 2014 is the International Year of Crystallography. Youth were invited participate in the “Grow your own crystal” competition: learn how to dissolve samples of different materials and grow large crystals, testing the effects of changing temperature, water softness or other environmental conditions on the crystals. Students will share their results on the Year’s website, and help in analysing the data collected from all over the world to determine the best conditions for growing crystals.
Some students studied minerals using observations and experiments from different civilizations and moments in history featuring simple materials such as sugar, salt, or toothpicks. This exploration of the history of science took them on the path that lead to the current definition of a crystal – a solid body that has an orderly and repetitive internal atomic structure. Meanwhile others gathered around a table to build colourful molecules.
Understanding the structure of matter with a molecular teaching kit. © P. Chiang-Joo / UNESCO
Members of Robogals —an international, not-for-profit, student-run organization that aims to increase female participation in Engineering, Science and Technology— came to explain basic principles of robotics through hands-on activities. The students leaned to programme series of commands using a simple, visual interface, using components such as light sensors, colour sensors, sound sensors, motors, sound outputs, etc. to make the robots “sense” objects and interact with them. Kano kits were also on hand: a computer and coding kit suitable for all ages, all over the world to build their computer, start coding and gain knowledge about electronics and compute. components. It is the perfect educational tool to introduce someone to electronics, programming, robotics and much more.
Learning to programme robots to interact with surounding objects. © P. Chiang-Joo / UNESCO
Microscience kits were a success - veritable portative mini-laboratories made with low-cost material, which make it possible to conduct hands-on experiments without a lab just about anywhere, to explore chemistry, physics and biology. The “Experiencing Mathematics” activity took students on a journey to experience mathematics concretely, see that they are present in our natural world, and are much more accessible than we think. Everyone can try these hands-on mathematics experiments, which develop scientific thinking as well as mathematical tools to solve problems concerning daily life experiences, in their virtual form.
Microscience kits are veritable portative mini-laboratories made with low-cost material, which make it possible to conduct hands-on experiments without a lab just about anywhere. © P. Chiang-Joo / UNESCO
Our young visitors were also taken on a guided tour of an exhibition on the history of genetics “60 years of DNA”, retracing the history of genetics leading up to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, and the advances made since. Identifying the components of the human genome and understanding their influence and effects on the human body have led to great medical advances and the beginning of a new era in medicine.
The highlight of the Day was the launch of the UNESCO World Library of Science (WLoS). Developed through the joint efforts of UNESCO, Nature Education and Roche, the WLoS was created to give students around the world, especially those in disadvantaged regions, access to the latest science information as well as the opportunity to share their experiences and learning through discussion with their peers in a shared learning environment. The online Library has three main parts: Learn, Engage, Build, which is exactly what hundreds of youths did for World Science Day this year!