Gregory Nisenboim
Institute for Advanced Science in Arad

Scientific Schools for Children as a Bright and Effective Way of work with Schoolchildren.

If one considers the demand for education within non-formal media in “Russian-Speaking Street”, one could see that the overwhelming majority of schoolchildren aim at attending mathematical, computer and the English language circles.

Next to follow are sports and art. And only afterwards the interest to physics, chemistry electronics, technical simulation, etc. emerges. The disproportion of demand distribution is simply incredible. As it has been demonstrated by activities of various IAS circles during a number of years, even under conditions of the same and regular advertising of the circles of the said three types only a few show some, if any interest for the circles of the third type, while hundreds of schoolchildren show a great interest for the rest. Nevertheless nobody would dispute the fact that the sciences mentioned in the third group (physics, chemistry, electronics, technical simulation, etc.) are no less important for modern society, than those constituted by the first two groups. At the same time it is worth noting that this problems is specific not only to demand but to supply as well. The reasons here are various, but the principal one is that of poor financing. Indeed, teaching mathematics, and foreign languages would require nothing but a piece of chalk and a blackboard (a tape – recorder would not be superfluous, though). As for the subjects of both the second and the third group, they require specifically equipped premises. But while the necessary technical equipment for the second group is available at a reasonable price, the third group needs technological materials and process equipment. This gives rise to some unique problems due to their uniqueness or high cost. For instance, such a simple device as a lever balance to demonstrate physical experiments costs 120- 250$. When speaking about optics the account comes to some thousands.

How to overcome this state of affairs? I believe this is of paramount importance for the society the future of which rests on the progress and growth of Hi – Tech. To solve the

Problem in question it is necessary to answer the following two questions:

  1. In what way to strengthen the material and technical basis of a non – formal association under conditions of poor financing?
  2. In what way to change children’s demand for education within the field of technological sciences?

In this respect the Institute for Advanced Science in Arad has accumulated some experience. Let us analyses the latter in accordance with the questions just asked.

In what way to strengthen the material and technical basis for specific subjects?

The line of attack on the problem which is free of appreciable financial expenditure is to establish links with various State institutions aiming at getting from them some writhen off obsolete equipment. This is most commonly obsolete computer equipment (printers, displays, system units, etc.) or devices. In such a manner the Institute has obtained some written off equipment from IDF, National Insurance and some Ministries to say nothing of the University of Beer – Sheva. Of course in so doing one should take into consideration that restoring of the obsolete equipment requires much efforts. On frequent occasions only one operating computer could be assembled out of three or four computers received as a gift.

Further there are so-called technological hot - houses where designs are kept for two years, and then the most valuable equipment is sold, the rest being thrown out. Nevertheless one can find many useful things among the remains of the thrown out equipment. And now but not least last. There exists in this country a big trading network, which sells various second – hand equipment. Almost every regional center (Tel Aviv, Haifa, etc.) has big storehouses utilizing mechanical, electronic, optical, etc. equipment and computers as well. It is not infrequent that one can find here the most wonderful things.

In what way to change children’s demand?

Some years ago our Institute announced the admittance to our Summer Scientific School, tenderly named “ A Touch to Science ”, but having a rather strict order of work.

Just imagine: Summer. Heat. Children after a school Year. And incredible as it may seem , they attend our double-graded school and not for some entertainment, but intensive learning. Each grade involves two weeks of five hour’s learning daily. The school was designed to teach a concise course in several fields. These include five basic ones: Programming, Computer from Within, Physics, Electronics and Model Aircraft Construction. Of course all the said subjects are presented as Elements, i.e. according to what we could squeeze into a one 58 hour’s grade of the course. The basic attracting stimulus in this case was a good opportunity for the children to do everything with their own hands, i.e. “Do-it-Yourself” principle. In case it was physics (or chemistry), the children, on being given some necessary instruction, carried out experiments on their own. In case it was electronics, they used a soldering iron. In case it was “Computer from Within” they were to assemble a computer using stored parts, and more than that, they were to start the computer up. It is just here where we use the mentioned written off equipment. There is no examination, but the children are passed in the subject only on presenting a properly functioning computer and on taking into account the time of its presentation. Thus the spirit of competition “who is the smartest” is instilled. Our motto is “Computer assembling is less complicated than puzzle assembling”. In addition anyone on his own accord may take the assembled computer to his place for a while.

And certainly when the course on Model Aircraft Construction is over, the completion in balsa-made glider models is held. On graduating every stage of the course, the children are given a diploma and various memorable gifts (for the most these are PC parts or some electronic components).

Undeniably the children attending the Scientific School obtain information on the history of science and engineering demonstrated by obvious cases. We managed to collect various PC models and their basic components beginning from first specimens, to say nothing of different electronic parts. At one time we even managed to present a museum exposition of computer equipment.

The most important aspect of the Scientific School activity is meeting interesting representatives of the world of science. These are mostly scientists collaborating with our Institute. They all are given some hours to teach the subjects they choose.

The mandatory item of the Scientific School program is a visit to Jerusalem Science Museum and to the Park of Science at Weizmann Institute.

Besides we see The Aviation museum. All this effective by complements the section on science and engineering history and produces indelible impression in children. Our joint efforts during summer are not in vain as well. They stimulate children’s interests to science and engineering so much as they almost in a body, come to join a corresponding circle at the beginning of the school year. Later, on lots of them make up the elite of advanced pupils and demonstrate high marks at examinations for the school- leaving certificate and brilliant results at various competitions and Olympiads. Last year one of them took part in all-Israel Competition of the youth before 21 entitled “The young Scientist”. His design took notice of the jury and was exhibited at the museum of Science in Jerusalem. This year two other pupils have gained first place at all-Israel Olympiad on Electronics for 12 form pupils. We believe we can lawfully be proud of such achievements especially if it is remembered, that Arad is a small town. The lack of time makes impossible for me to cover the work of our children scientific school nevertheless the experience of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Arad demonstrates that such activity only a bright and impressive but a very promising way of teaching children within frame of non-formal education which eventually can radically change the demand for learning technologically oriented subjects.