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POPUCH – Popularization of Chemistry

Hana Bartková

Institute of Chemical Technology Prague (Czech Republic)

[email protected]


The aim of this paper and presentation is to highlight major goals and approaches and to share practical experiences in training of science teachers and enhancing students motivation gained in the project POPUCH (Popularization of chemistry). Chemistry is a laboratory-based discipline. High school chemistry knowledge points are characterized by a more casual, some content also brings an abstract result, many students have strong interest in learning chemistry for students entering high school, after gradually lost interest in chemistry and therefore, as a high school chemistry teachers must effort to study high school chemistry teaching, and continuously improve their teaching. Among them, learn and master in teaching the skills to stimulate students is a very important part. The objectives of the project are popularization of chemistry and new chemistry fields mainly towards secondary school students. One of the activity is very popular among students, that is Lecture in Modern Chemistry - an interactive 45 minutes classroom show about chemistry as a life science and chemistry in everyday life (e.g. What do we know about the sense of smell and taste? What are fragrances and flavors?).

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Comments about this Paper

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2013.01.18

Posted by Andrés Parra (Spain)

Message: This is a relevant document that details the experience that is being carried out in the Czech Republic to make Chemistry more attractive and motivational for students.

POPUCH is a Project of the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Prague that was launched in March of 2010 and that will last until 2012. It is financed through the European Social Fund.

Its objective is to make Chemistry popular and to bring it closer to the Science and Technology students, and more specifically to bring it closer to the Chemistry students in Prague´s secondary schools. Along with this there is a need to train the Science teachers in Science Didactics.

Chemistry is considered a difficult science and it is not very motivating for students such that many of them get bad results in later assessments/evaluations.

They cite the use of overly rigid teaching techniques, which are based on rote learning as opposed to reasoned and experimented techniques, as the main causes of said problem.

In order to achieve the objectives of the POPUCH Project, three types of activities have been developed:

1.Modern Chemistry Conference. It´s an interactive talk for students by ICT instructors about current topics such as: fragrances, superconductors, combustion, fuel, etc. Around 4800 students have participated in the event.

2.Chemistry from high school chemists. Practical experience in the ICT lasting one day for students in vocational training in secondary education. 400 students have participated.

3.High school students in the role of researchers. Activity for advanced students done over a two-day period by students of the specific research groups of ICT. 135 students have participated in this actvitity.

I consider that, even if it isn´t excessively innovative, this Project and the activities that are done here are very attractive and motivating for the Chemistry student. In fact, something similar is being done in our Autonomous Community with the development of Science Week, where they carry out different scientific activities in different schools, such as the Science Faculty and in the Science Museum of Granada.

Date: 2012.10.03

Posted by Elif Tuğçe KARACA (Turkey)

Message: This paper is relevant to CIAAN because it refers a project that aims to make chemistry a more popular studt area in science and also the other aim of the project is make chemistry more attractive and fun area for secondary students.

Actually the paper tells us that chemistry is a difficult area and discuss the lack of motivation fort he students but we can not see any details about it,the paper dos not give any scientific and statistic iformation about the lack of motivation,the author tells that there is a problem in studying chemistry for students but actually dos not giveany examples about it. There is not any brief information about the situation in the secondary schools students chemistry problems in Prague.
The paper does not exlain the obstacles that students face.The paper only mentions that chemistry is an diffiucult subject to study and students address it with fear and they loose their motivation easliy for chemistry.
The Project has two main parts an done of these part is Modern Lecture of Chemistry and this seems a creative idea, it could bee good to have details about the lectures.The paper reprts that they had successful experineces but there is not any statistic reports about it.The paper presents the difficulties that teachers face in chemistry but after the Project had finished,there is not a lasting solution for these difficulties.

The Project includes 5000 students and also 40 teachers as participants,this is a large sample for a study and it’s wondered what these all partcipants think about the Project,do they think it should continue or do the students have changed their prejeducie for chemistry?

Finally, it can be said that the idea of the Project is interesting and the studies seems good but after reading the end of the paper, there could not be seen any creative and different solutions for the students lack of motivation for chemistry,there is no new information or solutions for the difficulties in studying and teaching chemistry.

Date: 2012.09.28

Posted by Maria Nikolova (Bu)

Message: The paper presents results of a project which is carried out in Prague, the Czeck Republic, and is related to the promotion of chemistry science and its use in everyday life. What the project aims is to employ modern teaching methods in the development of students’ knowledge of chemistry, thus increasing their awareness of how attractive it can be and helping them overcome the fear of studying the subject. Teaching chemistry in an enjoyable way encourages students’ motivation for learning without posing difficulty.
The paper reports a growing tendency towards a decline in the number of students choosing to study science, particularly chemistry, in their tertiary education. It mentions young people’s interest in social sciences with no relevance to their future career. This global trend is the cause for the development of the project which aims to change young people’s attitude towards science studies. Through explicit teaching and the use of easy to understand means, as illustrative experiments, multimedia lectures and engaging students in scientific research projects, chemistry can become interesting to anyone wishing to do it.
The paper explains students’ lack of motivation to study chemistry with insufficient equipment for practical laboratory work and lecture-based teaching deprived of illustrative experiments. Another important factor of motivation that the paper mentions is the role of the teacher who has to be qualified and experienced and to introduce students to chemistry in an exciting and understandable way, as chemistry is often wrongly promoted by many of the teachers.
The causes for low motivation, reported in the paper, are essential. When teaching lacks the use of attractive practical experiments, multimedia presentations, computer animation or other activities of enhancing students’ interest and facilitating their understanding, then learning chemistry becomes a tedious task.
The paper does not offer explanation of the obstacles that students face. It only mentions that chemistry is not an easy subject to study and students address it with fear and conviction that they will fail successful learning. Dealing with these obstacles, namely, is the objective of the project described in the paper..
The initiative to popularize chemistry in school, set up by our colleagues in Prague, is remarkable. Helping students acquire chemistry knowledge through interactive lectures, practical experiments and involving those interested as researchers in projects, is the right approach. It will allow students to enjoy chemistry and identify its relevance to their future career. The project will also benefit students who do not contemplate careers in chemistry providing them with chemical literacy, building logical thinking and skills as a result of experiment performance.
These methods of promoting chemistry are applicable in Bulgaria provided that each secondary school has the necessary laboratory for practical work. Otherwise, the project activities described in the paper will be difficult to follow. Teachers will have to put much more effort keeping strictly legislative restrictions
The paper does not present the difficulties of chemistry teachers to keep update to the continuous progresses of the research.
I would like to say that under the conditions of today’s globalization, scientific information can be easily gained in every part of the world as long as Internet connection is available. What teachers need is to constantly keep abreast of the continuous progress of science. Being imaginative and experienced, they could always devise way to incorporate recent findings in the teaching content.
The paper does not offer specific approaches to exploiting at school level the recent findings in the field of chemistry. However, it proposes an indirect solution through one of the project activities, i.e. engaging advanced students of particular interest in chemistry in research projects. In the role of researchers students present the results, thus raising their schoolmates’ awareness about recent findings in the field of science.

Date: 2012.09.27

Posted by Michelle Herbert (Ireland)

Message: The paper is relevant as the main aim is to make Chemistry more attractive as a subject and entice students to take up the study of it!
There are many points mentioned that would cause the students’ lack of motivation to study chemistry, all points are relevant but there is a more clarification is required in order to analyse the problems better. Reasons given include; “better salaries in other fields”, “rigid teaching methods … lacking experience or equipment”.

The main obstacles facing students in successfully choosing to study Chemistry are again focusing on teaching methods employed. It speaks about unattractive teaching methods used and not enough focus on relevant up to date chemistry topics.

The paper does not include any successful experiences in motivating student to study Chemistry, the study finished in June 2012. Statistics have not been included to see has the number of students undertaking Chemistry increased. Seeing as the initiative only finished in June it will take time to see has the project goals been obtained.
The project divided its activities into:
1. Modern Lecture of Chemistry
2. Chemistry for Secondary School Chemists
There is no indication or outline of what each of these presentations is about or what type of technology it involves so would be very difficult to implement in my Chemistry classroom.

There is little reference to the difficulties chemistry teachers face to keep up-to-date with the continuous progress of research. There is no mention of an updated syllabus simply refers to teachers may teach with little or no use of practical equipment or without the use if “illustrative experiments”

The paper briefly discusses the initiatives undertaken as outline above. It would be fantastic if this programme could be implemented in Ireland but it does not seem feasible due to location and funding. Maybe if the teachers were shown these new ideas and able to access these new pieces of technological equipment then they could in turn show students and try and encourage the uptake of the chemistry subject.

It would be great to see how successful this project actually was. More than 5000 students and 40 teachers participated in the project so it would be very interesting to hear their viewpoint about this initiative and how successful they found it on ground level.

Date: 2012.09.20

Posted by Charizanos Panagiotis (Greece)

Message: This paper is relevant because it refers to a project that aimed on one hand in the popularization of chemistry and on the other hand in rendering the chemistry subject more attractive to secondary school students.

In general, the paper deals with issues which are relevant with the lack of student motivation. However, it does not give any detailed explanation for the causes of this phenomenon except of one sentence that mentions that “High school students often tend to memorize facts in chemistry without understanding the problem so they cannot succeed”.

In relation with the obstacles students face in addressing chemistry the paper mainly focuses on the fact that the teaching methods employed in secondary education in Czech Republic are not attractive.

The paper does report a series of successful initiatives undertaken by ICT Prague in order to motivate students to study chemistry. The initiatives were based on three types of actions namely, Modern Lecture of Chemistry, Chemistry for Secondary School Chemists and Secondary School students in the role of the researchers. In my opinion, these initiatives could also be very useful also in the Greek educational setting, since in many cases there exist well equipped school chemistry laboratories which remain unused.

The set of activities presented in the paper were funded by a European project. It is not certain whether such successful initiatives could be repeated on a more permanent basis since funding is always necessary but not always available.

The first two actions of this project could be exploited in secondary education but in my opinion they are not very original. It is important that the authors present quantitative results of the actions. On the other hand, the third action constitutes a fresh and novel proposal that could drastically enhance students’ motivation to enter the magical world of chemistry and in general increase public awareness for its usefulness and all around presence.

Date: 2012.09.10

Posted by Grace Kenny (Ireland)

Message: This paper is relevant as discussed an initiative set up by the Institute of Chemical Technology Prague, to encourage an interest in chemistry in secondary school students. It involved offering the students interactive lessons in schools, and also taking them to the IT to participate in laboratory based sessions.

The paper offers some reasons for the lack of student motivation to study chemistry - level of difficulty of the subject, lack of credit attached to it in society, lower pay than other professions, rigid methods of teaching employed by teachers and a lack of practical laboratory work. These causes are relevant as they are all factors that students experience here in Ireland when considering the study of chemistry. In particular the lack of support that is available to students who find the content difficult, and the lack of emphasis on the more practical application of the science within the school.

This paper does not offer any information as to whether the initiative, set up in Prague secondary schools, was successful. The project was not due to finish until June 2012 so it is possible they are still gathering data on this.

The paper does not presents the difficulties of chemistry teachers to keep update to the continuous progresses of the research. It merely mentions that some secondary school teachers may teach with little or no use of practical experiments or have little practical experience themselves.

The paper mentions that during the initiative groups of secondary school students were invited to attend the IT to participate in research projects. This would allow students to work on some recent and relevant areas of chemistry. While this is an interesting idea it would not be possible to reach out to every secondary school student in the country using this approach, due to location and funding.

The initiative also introduced some lectures into secondary schools that specifically focused on chemistry as a modern branch of science and its necessity in everyday life. These lectures were highly interactive to maintain student interest and focus more on chemistry as a practical science. This solution is defiantly possible and feasible but would still need to be relevant o the curriculum for exam purposes, so this might mean having to compromise on exploring some of the more modern applications of chemistry.

All in all the paper offered some interesting ideas but did not show any data that proved they worked.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.