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Monthly Archives: May 2011

…this blogging.  Just to let you know that I am having a lot of difficulty uploading to this blog.  The last entry took me several hours and I had to start again many times.  So if you are reading this and thinking “why did she not position that better?”; “why are they out of order”, or some other such observation….I apologize.

Mr. Tarimo, Biology Teacher

Flexibility is the key around here.  Students are on break these next two weeks so we decided to take the opportunity to get the Form I hands on Microscopes.  I showed up Monday to find that a field trip from Saturday had been rescheduled for Monday so many of the form I students were hoping to go to Marangu.  After trying to find keys to unlock doors etc…we took the 15 students who were not going and gave them a chance for a head start.  They became our ‘experts’ and we then used a few of them today (Tuesday) to show the others how to care for the microscopes and to prepare and view a slide of onion cells.  The boys I think felt good about (proud) to do this.

Boys explain how to care for the microscope

Today, to manage the group we split them in two and introduced them to Bill Nye.  I showed them the program on cells and I think they enjoyed it.  They were able to watch it twice, except that the power (that we borrowed from the primary school) went out after the first run through in the second group… Too bad.  We were going to show the Form IV group a movie about DNA…so we’ll try again tomorrow.

Bill Nye Sells them on Cells

These kids are also on holiday but Mme Kisanga has had a class of I’d say at least 50 students for the last two days and we expect the same throughout the two weeks.  Next week we plan to do some food testing with them.

"free falling?" magnets

In Form IV, I set up some electromagnetism stations. They investigated magnetic fields around magnets using iron filings and compasses. They performed the Motor Principle and made a speaker. They induced current in a coil and then in an extension cord using Earth’s gravitational field and used Lenz’s Law to explain why the magnet floats down the copper pipe. This went really well except that the power went out the second we turned on my new expensive power supply, so they could not see fields around wire until Day II.

Mapping Magnetic Fields

On Day II we had power, (for a short while) and could show magnetic fields around w

ires and solenoids. We discussed all the findings of the day before and then when I was going to show them slides of the accelerator at CERN, … the power went out. That’s just the way it is around here.

Two students in particular showed a keen interest in doing more science and we’ve decided to hold some weekend movie sessions.

Calculate that changing Flux


I smiled when I asked them if they were going to be on holidays soon for the month of June. The response was….

“We have already started our holidays, day before yesterday”. Here students come to school even on holidays because they have an opportunity to learn more.

Yes....there's a teeny, tiny, little induced current!

Watch the low coefficient of friction on that inclined desk!

We tried to do this lab on Wednesday but had to abandon it due to lack of readiness and safety reasons.  We are working with strong acids and bases and I didn’t want to take any chances.  Doing a chemistry lab with 70 students would be difficult at the best of times.

Too bad chemistry is no fun.

We have to modify our procedures…for example we had to do the lab sitting down.  We felt this was, in the end, safer than having that many people moving about.  I now have just about enough safety glasses for everyone.  On Thursday we tried again and had a successful session.  It did mean we had to do a lot of waiting on tables in order to reduce the amount of traffic in the room but it turned out well.

Testing pH

They created the red cabbage indicator and tested it on 10 samples of varying concentrations of HCl and NaOH.  They then calibrated the cabbage indicator using Universal Indicator paper.

Last Friday I visited Kiboriloni SS having not heard from them in a while.  I found that Janeth was not getting my sms messages.  She is also quite sick with flu and malaria.  We made plans for several lab activities for this week.

Monday we started with optics in Form III.  The room was extremely difficult to manoeuvre through as there are 80 desks and no spaces.  Somehow we managed to talk about focal points for mirrors and students used their mirrors to find the image position of a light bulb.  Since they cannot move around, we discussed how the image position got progressively shorter and gradually becoming constant as we looked at results obtained towards the back.  (Ok so it wasn’t as clear as all that) This is how we eliminated the need for each student to stand up and move FAR AWAY from the light source.

Locating images in curved mirrors

Hey, they are starting to get it

Tuesday I woke up before the sun.  There was no power so I gathered my things together in the dark and headed off armed with my 6 foot, 3 inch copper pipe which we will use Wednesday for electromagnetism.  I took two dala dalas and got myself to school by 7am.  At Kiboriloni students were actually there and you can always count on the fact that someone will find you and help you carry your things from the highway.

Amazing the difference

Amazing the difference

So we spent an hour organizing the classroom.  We gathered like desks together to form groups of 6 facing each other in order to do group activities.  It was quite a chore but having experience in my own class arranging the right and left handed desks (stolen in under cover of darkness from other classes) and white and brown desks, and with many students to help, we were happy with the results.  The photos will show a much more structured class where you can even walk from one side to the other without climbing over chairs or desks.  We planned it so that if you needed a lecture format the front side of each group could just turn their desks around, in place, and then everyone is facing the front.

Measuring angles formed by the laser as it passes from air to plexiglass

Tuesday we had two optics activities going on.  A qualitative refraction activity with parallel glass blocks and a quantitative lab to discover the relationship between the angle of refraction and the angle of incidence.

Checking their skills at parallax

Preparing the refraction activity

After the class, an English/History teacher was asking me how I was seeing their school.  I started to tell him about organizing the desks and so we stopped by the class to see them and…… my disappointment……they and the students were completely gone……..turns out it wasn’t their permanent classroom so they took all the desks back to their room…..Tomorrow is another day.  We’ll start again.

We had 10 people out to Workshop V.  We worked on an Acid / Base Indicator lab, a Food testing lab and some electromagnetism demos.

With our new improved white board…and power taken from the primary school (130m away), Form III gets to see how the human eye responds under stress.

I’m heading to Arusha tomorrow to investigate a new source for equipment.  Having trouble finding a power supply.

A teacher from Moshi Secondary School is interested in twinning his school with a school overseas.  Moshi SS is an all boys school, fairly well established (old) offering Form I to Form VI. These are 6 years of high school, following grade 7.

If you would like more about this I can put you in contact.  I’m not really sure what is involved but you could probably make it something mutually beneficial by talking with the teacher.

We are slowly moving into the new term.  We have a workshop coming up next week.  We will focus on activities for nutrition…food testing. In physics we will do some electromagnetism.

I also want to focus on the nature of us as people to remain in our comfort zone and raise some awareness for the discomfort that risky new ventures presents and the pride and excitement that results from doing so. I think many teachers are holding back from revising their programs.  I also know this takes time.  From the perspective of a teacher, often you need to ponder ideas for a while before being ready to apply them in your classes.

Last week, finding myself without teachers or students, I went to Dar Es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania.  I should say I went through it because I ended up on the beach on the coast at a lovely resort that is not yet finished.  I spent 3 beautiful days relaxing under a palapa and enjoying the tides and fishing boats….and the rain just to keep you on your toes.   It is like a very nice Mexican beach without all the people and vendors.  Long bus ride though…10 hours there and 10 hours back…very squished.

Thank you for all the comments coming in. I have been having some bad luck with my technology but will try to keep updated.

We thought it would be smart to paint a white board on the back wall.  We watched the movie about the human body pushed to the limit and it was difficult to see on the concrete wall.  I brought the paint and the students did the rest.

That's the clothes

Watch out for your uniform...paint very watery

Watch out for your uniform...paint very watery