Day 10: Science Classes at Bicol Regional Science High School

My second day at Bicol Regional Science High School was packed full with class observations, enthusiastic students, guest teaching, and a great deal of learning and growth on my part.

I started the day observing a 7th grade math class. Students were practicing adding and subtracting integers, with a focus on negative integers and absolute values. The teacher displayed a PowerPoint presentation on a 40-inch TV mounted above the chalkboard. After some direct instruction which was augmented with a tutorial video, the teacher clicked through several slides that each listed a dozen or so practice problems. This seemed to be the equivalent of a teacher in the states handing out a bunch of photocopied worksheets. The students were so eager to be called on! Seriously--nearly the entire class raised their hand hoping the teacher would call on them for each question. With some of the trickier problems it became clear that many of the students were volunteering to answer before they knew whether or not they could solve the problem. My students in Massachusetts will rarely, if ever, raise their hand to answer a question unless they are fairly certain they know the right answer. Here is Sir Lloyd running his class:

That said, the vast majority of the problems were solved correctly on the first try. Once called on, students would stand up and loudly and clearly state the problem and the answer. That is, if the problem on the screen was -7+|-2|=? the student would say "Negative seven plus the absolute value of negative two is equal to negative five." The teacher would ask if the class agreed or not and the entire class would say "yes" in unison before moving on.

Next up was an 8th grade Physics class. The class started with performances (called "outputs") demonstrating what they had already learned the day before. They were studying the concept of work. The performances included a skit demonstrating situations in which work was done and in which work was not done, a song about the fundamentals of work (one student played the beat on a cajon), and a dance (that didn't seem to connect to work.... but what do I know about interpretive dance?) I had been asked to teach a short lesson. I taught a fairly standard lesson on work, very similar to what I would teach to my juniors in Massachusetts. The students were a bit shy, and it was tough to figure out how much they already knew. We had a few minutes left over at the end of class so their teacher invited them to ask me about science education in the United States. No one spoke up, so we opened the floor to any questions about the United States. "Is it true that 90% of Americans are allergic to peanuts?" was the first question I was asked. Now that one surprised me! We took a picture together following the class. The students' teacher is in white pants on the right:

Mid-morning the entire school reported to the outdoor gym/auditorium for a whole school anti-drug assembly presented by the Ligao City police department. It was conducted in Filipino, but I was able to get the gist of it. It reminded me of some of the "scared straight" approaches to drug education you'd see in the U.S.

After lunch Angelo and I were scheduled to give cultural presentations on our schools and communities to all 12th graders. We had a two hour block to present and take questions. I talked about Westwood High School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts, Boston, Tom Brady, my family, and my hobbies. To "introduce" the students of BRSHS to the students of WHS, I showed this "hype video" from a semi-recent Spirit Day and this video on "what's one thing you'd tell the world." I also showed this short intro to Boston, and this live performance by the Dropkick Murphys as we distributed Teachers for Global Classrooms rulers to all students at the end of the session. Angelo's presentation covered similar topics, but for Hawai'i.

I was asked lots of interesting questions, including:

  • How much does tuition at your school cost? [Answer: Zero, with a follow-up explaining how schools vary by town and how property values adjust accordingly.]

  • How did you meet your wife?

  • How often do you attend Celtics games? [Answer: I'm more of a hockey fan...]

  • What song by Metallica best describes you? (I had mentioned metal, and Metallica in particular, in the "hobbies" section of my presentation) [Answer: Battery because Battery is my favorite to begin with and batteries rely on Physics to function.]

  • If you couldn't be a teacher what would you be? [Answer: Working with startups in either edtech or environmental sustainability.]

  • Is MIT affiliated with NASA?

  • What differences have you noticed between American schools and schools in the Philippines? [Answer: There were several that I gave that I will chronicle at a later time. I also emphasized many of our similarities as well in my answer.]

  • How do you celebrate July 4th? [I intentionally omitted my family's obsession with watching the hot dog eating contest on TV in my answer.]

Next up was a 7th grade lab activity. Since the school year here had just started, and since BRSHS starts in the 7th grade, this was actually the first time the students had been in the lab. The class was called Research I, which is focused on teaching the fundamentals of the scientific method. For this lab, students were developing their observation skills. They looked at various slides under microscopes and made detailed drawings of what they saw in their notebooks. The teacher explained to me that what they were observing (plant cells, mites, etc.) wasn't significant, but how they were observing was. In the next class, she explained, students would report their observations and then, with her guidance, construct a definition of observation. Students were enthusiastic and excited, either by the lesson, or by the fact that it was their first time in the lab, or by both. Bicol Regional Science High School, being a science-focused exam school, has better lab facilities than most schools in the Philippines, I'm told. Students will utilize one of the two labs on campus at least four times per quarter.

To finish the day, I attended a pair of classes that were presenting their projects (outputs!). The first was a science class presenting posters about the negative effects of smoking. The effects were organized by whether they affect the circulatory system or the respiratory system. The other class presented performances about volcanic hotspots based off of a lesson Angelo had given about the origin of Hawai'i earlier in the day. Here is a skit depicting the volcanic formation of the Hawaiian islands, with a real volcano as a backdrop!

I am really enjoying my time at BRSHS. Everyone--students and faculty alike--are so friendly. I am learning a TON. I can't wait until classes start again tomorrow!

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