A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first intensive module for my Masters Programme for Science Communication. It lasted two weeks, every day from 9 am to 4 pm. It was held at the Singapore Science Center, and our guest lecturers flew all the way from Australia to conduct the module and workshop (depending on who is attending the module and for what purposes).
It was quite tiring, having to sit in for the lessons every day, but at the same time rewarding, as I actually learned a lot about science communication on a deeper level now. Being a module at a Masters level. The topics and concepts covered during the two-week intensive period were sometimes technical and abstract. Many contemporary issues were discussed with regards to Science Communication, such as what Science Communication really means to us as educators, scientists and even the general public. We also learned the evolution of Science Communication as an expanding and increasingly more important field of science to be taken seriously.
In between the topics to ponder on, we also got the opportunity to learn from the very best in conducting science demonstrations and the innovative ways one can use when conducting science demonstrations to the general public or a specific audience. The hands-on experience was invaluable, as it really opened our eyes to a myriad of ways we can approach in teaching certain basic science concepts using demonstrations. The most striking aspect of science demonstration for me was the popular misconceptions in science when conducting certain classic demonstrations. It brings potential pitfalls in using science demonstration as a tool to teach science and it taught us to be keenly aware in how we should perform certain demonstration without introducing misunderstanding or cultivating certain misconceptions about the science along the way.
Overall, I had fun with the module. Now comes the challenging part, which is to complete a series of writing assignments that are going to take some time to complete it. It will constitute about 70% of the final grade (30% being participation marks and a group presentation that we did on the final day of the workshop).
The submission deadline is the last day of July, which gives me about a month to complete those assignments.
The Science Bucket was the last assignment for the Semester. Each of us were tasked to perform a science demonstration in front of a live public audience at the Mendel Auditorium at the Singapore Science Center last Saturday. It is an open event, where anyone who visited the Science Center on that day were free to pop by and see our demonstration done live. Each of us were given 15 minutes to do the demonstration and explain certain scientific concepts for a lay person to understand.
For my science demonstration, it was all about eggs. I demonstrated the strength of the eggshells by explaining the shape that rise to its strength. I then demonstrated that the eggs are stronger than most people would imagine by stacking thick books weighing 12 kilograms in total on top of just 4 eggs. It was a fun demonstration that involves enthusiastic young volunteers to help me stack the books on the eggs without breaking them. I was quite amazed by their enthusiasm. Almost all the young children sitting in the auditorium were clamoring for a piece of the action and an opportunity to take part in the science demonstration. And it wasn’t just my demonstration that piqued the most interest. Almost all other science demonstration performed by my classmates needed volunteers and we had no shortages of that.
It was a really long Saturday. Our day began at 8am in the morning, ending all the way till 4.30pm. But it was an eye-opening experience. It was my first time performing a science demonstration in front of a live audience. I was a little nervous, but I was more excited to perform it, probably because of all the kids who were so keen in learning science through our demonstrations that we did on that day.
At the end of the day, everyone was so relieved that it was finally over. The amount of planning was just insane. It took weeks of planning, delegating who do what, when. And we also had to do our own rehearsals to make sure that our science demonstrations works and to iron out any kinks along the way so that when it comes to the actual day, the programme would run smooth as butter. And it did run smooth as butter. Everyone chipped in and no one complained about anything. Everyone was helpful and cooperative and despite knowing each other for 4 months, organising the Science Bucket and going through it smoothly was a testament to our bond and friendship we have cultivated since we first started school.
Now that the semester is over, we have one more module that all of us will be taking, and that would take place in June. It will be an intensive module, meaning it will take place the whole day, everyday for 2 weeks. And then it would be over. In addition, this would be the only module that all of us will be seeing each other again, before going on our separate ways. Some of us are full-time students, and they will be continuing their studies in ANU, taking different modules from the part-timers. It would be the last time we gathered together. Looking forward, I think I will be a little bit sad to see them go. But I know that we will all continue to keep in touch in the months to come. At the end of the day, each of us will graduate from the course. That is everyone’s end goal.
Now that I am officially a student again (graduate student), I eagely look forward to my night classes on mondays and wednesdays every week. Everytime I walk through the campus and on to my faculty of science bulding, I am constantly hit by pangs of nostalgia. Even though I was an NTU undergrad, seeing those kids milling their way around the campus, going about their daily acitvities, heading to this class and that lecture hall, made me realise how much I miss school. I miss school. Alot.
I graduated from NTU with a bachelor’s degree 4 years ago and it seemed only yesterday I attended my graduation ceremony, undertook my exams at the end of every semester, dragging my ass down to every lecture I had to sit in, and countless hours cramming just so that I can achieve my desired grades (second-class upper). Of course, there’s more to just studying and attending lectures. There were the orientation camps that I participated in, and helped organised in subsequent years. The school activities, volunteer work, exchange programmes. Life was so vibrant as a student. Looking back, I wish I could do more, I wish exams werent important, so that I can focus on things that were important to me. Making friends, trying out new stuff, be more adventurous and just fooling around. Truly, I have said this many times. If there were one moment in life where I could have a chance to relive through it all over again, it would be my time in NTU.
Still, I am grateful to be given the opportunity to experience all those things, and now that I am a NUS student, I can catch a glimpse of what campus life is like in NUS. For this semester, I will be going back to NUS for my lessons twice a week, and that would be it. The rest of the times are online lectures, intensive modules, perhaps a chance to attend classes at ANU. Going to NUS for my classes is like walking through memory lane. It’s like opening a photobook that you have longed forgotten, tucked deep within the recesses of an ancient bookshelf. As you flip open the dusty photo album, there you are, snapshots of your life laid out in front of you, experiencing campus life, living life as if there was no tommorrow.
A few months ago I applied for a Master’s degree programme in NUS. It’s a Joint Master’s in Science Communication between NUS and Australia National University. Just yesterday I went for an interview after being shortlisted for the programme.
The interview went ok. It was held in some recreation room in the School of Science building and the atmosphere was very relaxed. I was interviewed by a panel of professors and they asked general questions about educational background and the work I am currently in. They also asked me how this course would enhance my work and future career in research and science in general.
I was nervous heading to the venue. But once I reached the holding room to wait my turn, I managed to calm down a bit and had a little conversation with another person in the room. She was also shortlisted for the course and was awaiting her turn to be interviewed. It happened that she is a teacher of 7 years and that she recently completed her part time degree course at the Singapore Institute of Management. I was quite amazed at the fact that apart from being a full time teacher, she managed to have time to take up a full fledge degree course during her remaining free time after work. She told me it was really tough juggling work and school at the same time, much less for 4 years straight. What amazed me even more was that she had the ambition to further her studies, just like what I am doing right now, still having the energy to take up another 2 years of study to complete this Master Programme. She took a break for about a year upon completing her part time degree before applying for the Master Programme. I respect her deeply for her tenacity. Being a teacher in Singapore is quite stressful and you are expected to work long hours, beyond just simply teach. I hope she gets into the course. She truly deserves it.