- “I thought microscale was only for the less able”,
- “It is not chemistry as we know it”
- "It does not train students to be chemists.”
- “If it's not already written into a practical scheme of work as microscale my teachers will not consider any suggestions or deviations from the script.
- Teachers say that these techniques are not the ones that are specified in examination syllabus so students will be at a disadvantage if they are taught in a microscale way.
- “I suppose if a school were not to have sufficient funds to buy in the proper gear then this would be way to go. In general, I feel if you have the right equipment then use it, don't dumb down science for the sake of it.”
I use a microscale approach if it adds more information, is more time-efficient or provides a deeper insight to the phenomena than the traditional version “with the proper gear”. That examination boards are now taking on some these new methods indicates there can be a porisitve benefit.
In the opening session, Jorge received a special presentation celebrating his immense contribution to the microscale approach both in research and education. I then began the first workshop with 8 of the basic experiments, along with demonstrations in making propene, the Hofmann Voltameter, the new heater, and the CLEAPSS colorimeter, which caused great interest. With gases from the Hofmann, my finale was the hydrogen/oxygen rocket which hit the ceiling. I added a new encore; bursting a balloon with drops of orange oil from the squeezed skin of an orange. With a professor holding the balloon, it naturally worked. I had over 60 lecturers, teachers and teaching students in the room (see pictures belwo). I have never had that in the UK. But teachers in Japan are allowed 2 days of subject related CPD a year. I am grateful to Hideyuki Sawatari for the translations and both he and Professor Orgino received their CLEAPSS mug and bunny!
And it was wonderful to meet lecturers and professors who wanted carry out school level experiments; to crack liquid paraffin with me, dye and cloth with Marie. They did not stand back and look on, they "got stuck in" as we say in the UK. The finale in the laboratory was a workshop to make brilliant copper leaves, a Japanese art form but now promoted as an outreach experiment (see below).
Professor Ozuko showed her wonderful microelectrolysis experiments in well-plates which are done by primary children to university students. She retains that love of practical chemistry and innovation which binds the microscale family together.
I am extremely grateful to her for inviting me to Tohuko University in Sendai, and the generosity of their sponsors. (Also to CLEAPSS fro encouraging me as well!) But that group of chemists consisitng of professors, lecturers, lecturers in chemical education, teachers and students in education made a wonderful mix, showing that that information could cross-link over a wide divide of experience. I felt it was a good message to share amongst you all.