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Life Sciences - Balance Sheet report 2010 – 2013

Date 02/07/2013

At the end of his three year tenure as a Biology and Chemistry teacher at the German School Nairobi, Karl-Ludwig Schick looks back and reports on the various activities that have taken place in these years.

In November 2012, there was a programme on ZDF TV, entitled "What must I know today? The new education test in Germany." A questionnaire was produced for the programme, made up of questions in four areas, which were not allocated to traditional school subjects. The reason for this was that "school education" may not necessarily mean a "broader, general education."

We can ask the same question at the school here: "what must a young person know today, to be considered "educated" in Germany?"  What roles do the subjects Biology and Chemistry play in this "education"? Education, after all, is a life-long development; it is a furtherance of practical, mental, cultural and social skills. The 2 subjects Biology and Chemistry make an important contribution to help further these skills in a world that is getting more and more complex each day. The topics that are important for the health and nutrition of mankind all belong to these two subjects: Biochemistry, Genetic Technology, Molecular Biology, Nutritional Sciences, Food technology, Medicine, Medical Technology, Pharmacology, Neurobiology, Psychology, Environmental Management and Environmental Technology. This incomplete list goes to show the indispensable importance of the life sciences in education.

So what has been done at the German School Nairobi in the last three years to achieve some of these aims? Even before he officially started working at the school, in February 2010, Mr Schick made suggestions on improving the regulations concerning the use of hazardous materials. Proper storage and disposal of chemicals is a basic pre-requisite for any science experiments in school. With help from PASCH foundation, the school was able to purchase safety cupboards for the safe storage of chemicals in 2011. In the summer of 2010, I was able to secure equipment for experiments for the school, in addition to making a personal donation in kind worth 2000 €. Since then, we have been regularly doing experiments and practical work in Biology and Chemistry lessons. We have mixed decorative and care cosmetics, produced coloured and artificial materials, considered the acid content in vinegar and in white wine, measured the enzyme activity in livers, bred bacteria, and looked at the process of fermenting and more specifically, its dependence on temperature. For our "laboratory" students, Mrs Schick and I have provided 30 lab-coats.

In 2010 / 2011, Mrs Schick offered a very interesting after-school activity for pupils of the Primary School, involving science experiments. It was taken up by the pupils with a lot of interest. In the Lower Secondary classes, Mrs Pichler and Mrs Schick have regularly carried out microscope studies. This can be quite draining for the teachers, but once you have managed to get right discipline on the part of the students, it can also be a lot of fun for the teachers, too.

At Lake Naivasha, we have carried out water analyses, examined plankton under a microscope, and discussed ecology. We also organized a trip to the Geothermal Power Station in Olkaria. We have stayed in close touch with Dr Purity from the Archeology Institute. She has made presentations to our Upper Secondary students on the "Evolution of Mankind." The National Museum, with its unique prehistoric exhibits is a fixed and important part of the syllabus for class 12.

During the week of the MUN, the non-participating students of Classes 9 and 10 carried out a project entitled, "Sugar and more (Sam)". With their cross-curricular project on Chocolate, Mrs Schick and Mr Keding led their students to create a project that was awarded a prize by the German Ministry of Economic co-operation and Development The Siemen's Foundation carried out a workshop at the school for science teachers not only at the school, but also for Kenyan science teachers in Nairobi. Since then the school boasts of its own "Experimento 10+" equipment.

A highlight of last year's project week was the Chem-Show, executed by students alone. Through his connections in the chemicals industry, I was also able to procure a further donation of 2000 € for the purchase of more experiment equipment. In 2013, under the Federal and State Excellence Initiative, we got funds required for the renovation of the Biology department, and to replace the currently defective fuming cupboard.

The aim of all these activities was to further the practical, mental and social skills of our students, and I sincerely hope that the new Biology / Chemistry teacher will continue the tradition that has been started in the department, with the support of both the Board and the School's Management Team.

Karl-Ludwig Schick, Head of Biology and Chemistry


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