by Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin

MANILA – Prior to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), some students in the provinces get to appreciate science because of the Science Explorer and nuLab buses of the Science Education Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-SEI).

These facilities bring science and laboratory experience to students in different parts of the country.

However, with the current situation where mobility is limited and physical distancing needs to be observed, these buses will have to park temporarily.

But this does not mean that students’ learning will also have to stop.

Natural disasters and recently, even public health crises, have brought all educational activities to almost a complete halt, with most schools compressing the academic curricula to take-home assignments, readings, and home-based activities.

Children are left to the guidance of their parents, doing written activities using workbooks/worksheets, or for urban schools to online teaching and learning.

These frequent disruptions in the formal schooling of K-12 students greatly impede the learning of basic concepts necessary in building a strong foundation for higher education.

“Learning the basics in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM at the pre-secondary level is considered foundational in that it serves as the pillars for processing more complex concepts in later years of education,” said Dr. Josette Biyo, director of DOST-SEI.

Supplemental education resources

To ensure that the students’ learning will not be hampered by the current national health situation, DOST-SEI is developing supplemental education resources that will enable the students and teachers to enrich their STEM learning even when they are outside the confines of their classrooms, promoting STEM careers.

This school year, elementary students, especially in the remote areas of the country which do not have a reliable internet connection, and high school students who have access to the internet, will be able to learn the sciences even when they are at home.

DOST-SEI will be collaborating with the Department of Education (DepEd) to enhance STEM learning for elementary students through their RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya and for high school students via TuklaSiyensya sa Eskwela programs.

These programs will be on the roll in time for the opening of classes this school year.

RadyoEskwela for elementary students

Why “balik radyo?” Radio remains the most accessible medium in rural areas.

It has proven to be an effective educational channel in the past when used in combination with classroom learning and/or printed learning materials.

Online learning may be feasible to students in the urban areas but this is not the case for students in many disadvantaged areas in the country who do not have access to a reliable internet connection at home and whose family may not own tablets, laptops, or computers.

For these school populations, information comes from the radio, which is considered to be the second most-used media, reaching 85 percent of Philippine households, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority data.

Communities with no access to the internet, television, and mobile communication have been relying on radio for information.

The basic yet pervasive mass-based channels and approaches again become useful in the delivery of science education for school-age children in the countryside.

This school year, grade school students can listen to RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya, a radio program that will feature story-based science lessons to be aired by a network of community radio which will be the media partner of DOST-SEI in implementing this project for the students.

RadyoEskwela consists of 20 30-minute episodes that are story-based and produced for early, primary, and intermediate clustered grade levels.

The episodes may be replayed by regional stations and offered to the DepEd as learning resources for students who will be in distance learning mode anytime during the school year.

The teachers will also be provided with a teacher’s guide to help them in integrating the episodes in their daily lessons.

These may be downloaded from the SEI website and will also be accessible through the DOST regional offices and Provincial S&T Centers.

Some of the topics for the RadyoEskwela include Mikrobyo, Lutang, Insekto, Pagsukat, Tala, Street Food, and Tubig.

‘TuklaSiyensya sa Eskwela’ for junior, senior high school students

TuklasSiyensya is designed as both a supplement to the traditional learning method for junior and senior high school students and STEM career promotions package.

The modules are designed to help students adapt to the “new normal” and ensure their continuous learning amidst the post ECQ.

Online modules will be produced using the facilities available at the nuLab and based on the existing modules developed by young scientists and scholars who will also serve as facilitators.

It will feature engaging presentations by the scientist-facilitators, process demonstrations, animations, and post-viewing activities to enrich student’s learning experience and inspire them to explore natural phenomenon or know more about a particular STEM discipline.

The results of project evaluation reveal how the scientists who facilitate nuLab and Science Explorer modules can influence the participants in their choice of future careers in the STEM fields.

TuklasSyensya will produce 15 science lessons, each running for 30-45 minutes.

These lessons will be uploaded to an online platform, making it available for access to formal and informal learners anytime.

Topics include aerospace engineering, geological hazards, oceanography, nanotechnology, among others.

The other good thing about this project is that, not only are the students’ learning enriched but that the teachers also get to enhance their teaching skills because they will be provided with 15 teacher's guide to be published online by DOST-SEI or reproduced as low-cost printed materials by DOST regional offices.

Both teachers and students learn from adapting to this online platform.

The country may have been caught unaware by the Covid-19 virus, and it is not certain until when some areas will remain in quarantine, but what is certain is that the earlier initiatives in the area of science and technology education are built on solid ground, strong enough that other initiatives can be developed on top of it.

RadyoEskwela and TuklaSyensya are paving the way for students and teachers to not just cope, but creatively adapt to the “new normal.” (S&T Media Service, DOST-STII)