Science Inspiration

Science Inspiration

JSI participants at a forensic science workshop

Science studies in secondary schools can be pretty ordinary – read the textbooks, listen to the teacher, watch the teacher do the experiment. But the Junior Science Institute (JSI) is showing students there is a lot more to a subject that relates very much to their daily lives.

The JSI was launched in 2009 to offer students full-day workshops three times a year on subjects that are meaningful to them, such as making their own cosmetics, geology and landscapes of Hong Kong, probability and statistics in daily life, and a night safari to Tai Po Kau.

"We want to offer them something that really can't be done in secondary school," says Teaching Consultant Dr Angela Tong.

The students use equipment and instruments that are not commonly seen in schools and they get to try their hand at using them. As one student said in their feedback form: "We can do the experiments ourselves instead of watching the teachers demonstrating them. We can also ask questions that we are curious about, no matter if it's related to the thing we are learning or not."

The JSI is a group effort by the Faculty of Science. The workshops are led by professors who give a lecture as in a normal university class. Postgraduate students lead tutorials and undergraduate students also help out. About 10 to 12 workshops are organized for each workshop "day" to cater for 300-400 students who choose the workshop they want to attend.

The students earn credit towards their "other learning experiences" for their secondary school curriculum. More importantly, they also get to see science in a new light.

One student who attended the night safari said it "provided a great opportunity for me to learn and experience something outside the classroom and raised my interest in biology, while drawing my attention to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians."

Assistant Professor Dr Billy Hau, who leads the night safari, says the JSI also helps teachers impart a message. "When I give my workshop, the important message is how humans are affecting many of the species, such as turtles and snakes, especially by eating them. The workshop reminds them that even as normal citizens, they can help to conserve these animals. It's raising awareness," he says.

The Junior Science Institute Teaching Team received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2012 of the Faculty of Science for the "HKU Junior Science Institute". The list of team members can be found here.