Attracting interest - fuelling motivation

Pupil’s laboratory at Friedrich Wöhler Grammar School

How do you bring the natural sciences to life, with project work across different disciplines, in a way that motivates pupils to become closely involved in science and technology – and not switch off? This is the key issue being worked on in a new science skills centre at Friedrich Wöhler Grammar School (FWG) in Singen, in partnership with regional universities and businesses. The Steinbeis Transfer Center for Didactics of Technology and of Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences played a central role in developing the new concept.

How do you make a car as streamlined as possible? What effect does a rear spoiler have? How does the honey get from the honeycomb into the jar? What does the nanostructure of a water-resistant surface look like? This and many other questions are likely to be investigated by teams of pupils at Friedrich Wöhler Grammar School and neighboring schools in the new pupils’ laboratory center for science and technology, or NwT. The building, which is currently being constructed by the town of Singen, will house a pupils’ laboratory, the very latest science rooms and a modern library.

The natural sciences and technology (NwT) core subject was added to Baden-Württemberg’s school curriculum in 2007/08. This key subject examines interdisciplinary topics from the viewpoints of the various sciences. The aim is to deepen pupils’ understanding of the fundamentals of biology, chemistry and physics, as well as the earth sciences. They should also be encouraged to think and work more scientifically; the focus lies in experimental and project-based assignments.

Horst Scheu, head of the Steinbeis Transfer Center working on the project and headmaster of Friedrich Wöhler Grammar School, has been helping the pupils’ laboratory off the starting blocks by working closely with firms and universities in Singen. In turn, they are inputting with ideas, skills, materials, and even donations. An association called “Singen active location marketing” set up a team to coordinate the competence centre, which has also had several years’ backing through partnership with the pupils’ engineering academy SIA – a cooperative model for extracurricular training at schools, universities and business.

Friedrich Wöhler Grammar School is particularly proud of the projects it has realized to date. Wind tunnels and a glass beehive are just two of the installations that will be moved into the pupils’ laboratory once the new building is completed. The equipment will allow pupils to conduct airflow experiments on energy efficiency, analyze foodstuffs, and try out different observation techniques on the bee colony.

The list of planned projects is enough to make anyone want to go back to school: Horst Scheu is planning to introduce a scanning electron microscope for inspecting surfaces, a microbiology laboratory, and medical technology experiments. Naturally, all of these projects depend on the ongoing scientific backing of nearby universities and institutes.

The new NwT curriculum has anchored practical and project-based tuition in everyday teaching at Friedrich Wöhler Grammar School. By the latter half of this year the pupils laboratory will be open to pupils from all schools to conduct complex experiments that would be unthinkable at individual schools. The pupils’ laboratory thus enriches the scientific and technical landscape of regional education.

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