Fifth Anniversary of Thailand Children’s University – Inspiring and Cultivating Scientific Thinking among Youth
On June 2, 2017, the Chevron Enjoy Science Project, in collaboration with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST), and 18 network universities, celebrated the fifth anniversary of Thailand Children’s University (TCU). HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the event and observed students’ science experiments. Dr. Atchaka Sibunruang, Minister of Science and Technology, and Dr. Narong Sirilertworakul, Director of NSTDA, guided HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn through the activity stations, while Mr. Brad Middleton, Managing Director of Chevron Asia South, detailed the progress of the Chevron Enjoy Science Project as well as its role in supporting Thailand Children’s University.
The event featured special lectures delivered by experts from Bielefield University (Germany)’s Teutolab, TCU exhibitions, and 20 interactive stations for students. Participants were immersed into the wonderful world of science through stations based on the Royal Initiative’s New Theory on Agriculture, amazing color-changing plants, molecule counting, and other cutting-edge topics. Beyond experiments and lectures, TCU organized training seminars for instructors from network universities to develop learning activities. In addition, participants received the “Guidebook to Thailand Children’s University Activities: Enjoying Science and Cultivating Scientific Thinking.”.
Committed to improving education in Thailand, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn launched TCU in 2012. During the pilot phase, NSTDA, IPST, and eight universities implemented TCU with the aim of promoting diverse scientific activities among primary and lower secondary school students under the tutelage of instructors, researchers, and mentors, including undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students who provided advice and guidance. To expand the impact of TCU, the implementers partnered with Chevron Enjoy Science in 2016, which has helped the initiative reach larger segments of society and the general public. Ten regional universities have been added to the TCU network, making a total of 20 participating organizations, enabling the project to reach youth nationwide. In its five years of existence, TCU has delivered 63 activities and reached more than 30,000 youths.
TCU focuses on inspiring children to learn about science and gain knowledge that extends beyond their school textbooks. Participants learn to find ways to connect science to their everyday lives and apply what they have learned to create innovations that benefit all aspects of society. The project emphasizes learning through experiments, with researchers and experts providing advice and guidance.
In 2017, TCU aims to expand activities to reach another 6,000 youths nationwide, as well as organize trainings for teachers and partner organizations in order to develop and enhance their capacity to design and deliver high-impact TCU activities. Already this year, TCU has trained over 50 academic staff.
Those interested in following the activities of Thailand Children’s University can download the “Guidebook to Thailand Children’s University Activities: Enjoying Science and Cultivating Scientific Thinking” at http://www.enjoy-science.org/th/resources/research-and-findings
International Experts Lead Training on Experiential STEM Learning Activities
On June 3, 2017, TCU, in collaboration with the Chevron Enjoy Science Project, rolled out training to equip over 50 teachers and instructors in the TCU network with the knowledge and understanding to organize diverse types of experiential STEM learning activities that will inspire students to learn. The training was led by Professor Dr. Rudolf Herbers and delegates from Teutolab, Bielefeld University, in Germany, and involved linking experiential STEM learning to the context of Thai society to develop activities under two interesting topics: “Rice: Not Just for Consumption” and “The Environment: Plastics Polluting the Oceans and Beaches.”
Teachers and instructors in the TCU network gained valuable knowledge and understanding from the training and had the opportunity share their experiences with distinguished lecturers, helping pave the way for further development of experiential STEM learning activities for TCU in the future.
Dr. Chatchawal Wongchai, Lecturer at the Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Phayao University.
Activities Contributor to Thailand Children’s University
Phayao province is renowned and ranked first in Thailand for its organic rice cultivation. Today, organic rice cultivation in the province is experiencing problems due to the use of pesticides to eliminate freshwater snails in rice paddy fields. These chemicals have leaked into natural water sources. The Faculty of Science at Phayao University therefore visited affected areas to seek ways to protect and improve the quality of organic rice. We found that freshwater snails were one of the main causes of the destruction of farmers’ organic rice, contributing to widespread damage in rice paddy fields, economic losses for farmers, and chemical contamination in natural water sources.
The Faculty of Science conducted research on how to inhibit the growth of freshwater snails in rice paddy fields. The field research techniques carried out by our students at Chun district, Phayao province, are now being introduced to the Thailand Children’s University Project by Phayao University, with primary and secondary school students being provided with the opportunity to study the lifecycle of freshwater snails and measure the size of snails living in rice paddy fields and natural water sources. Students who participated in the work were able to apply their mathematical skills to measure the snails’ size and volume, in order to conduct further research to determine the amount of natural organic chemicals that should be used to inhibit the movement of snails of different sizes in each rice paddy field. This is one example of how experiments in this project are not confined to laboratories, but actually present opportunities for participants to apply their STEM skills to solve local problems. The project is driven by the cooperation of students from the undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, primary and secondary school levels.
I believe Thailand Children’s University has greatly benefited children and inspired them to be passionate about learning science, math, and other STEM subjects. They will also be able to apply their STEM knowledge to solve problems in their daily lives and local communities.