Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Effective Teaching Through Transforms and Dioramas

Abe V Rotor and Melly C Tenorio
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid 738KHzAM 8-9 evening class Mon to Fri
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Lesson March 1, 2012

Mural of a Forest Stream, UP Museum of Natural History, Laguna

Exoskeleton of insects and other arthropods
showing plates and segments. UPLB Museum
of Natural History, Mt Makiling, Laguna.

Cross section of a typical mushroom, also
showing the diversity of mushroom and
relatives under phylum Mycophyta.


Mini diorama of mountain or Alpine biome,
St Paul University QC Museum.

Dr Abe V Rotor

Students in biology at St. Paul University QC used nails, paper clips, tin can, buttons and anything one can pick around, to make a giant paramecium, a microscopic one-celled animal found in hay infusion or in pond water.

Transforms stimulate both hemispheres of the brain, and they make the students become more aware and sensitive to the things around them. Imagine a series of nails glued along the periphery of the paramecium. It is a perfect illustration of cilia that the organism uses for locomotion, and to think that nails have another purpose and have nothing to do with biology.

Short of saying that this approach is ethnic art, in many ways the students feel at home in the learning process. It is indigenous and simple. It makes use of discarded materials. It is dollar saver because we can do away with imported models that are expensive and may not even apply to local conditions. Many materials around us are waiting to be transformed into something useful if we know how.


Giant stone frog guards a pond at UST Botanical Garden.

These are kinds of transforms and their applications. Many of these are found at the biological laboratory and museum of SPCQ.

1. Examples of transforms in chemistry are models of atoms of elements and molecules of common compounds. These can be made of styropore, plastic and paper materials, better still wood.

2. Size, distance and positions of the planets in the solar system can be conveniently shown in a transform that is perhaps the most common project in general science for high school.

3. In geology, soil profile, cross-section of the earth, and profile of a volcano, are relatively easy to make.

4. Plant morphology, taxonomy and various growth stages, are popular models to make.

5. Embryology is best studied with models, so with the human body.

6. In literature, Shakespearean plays provide a wide choice of scenarios to choose from.

7. For history, significant events are re-enacted through transforms. So with the important people in history. The wax museum in Madrid houses life size personalities and fiction characters.

8. Puppet shows are among the first applications of transforms and dioramas. Remember, the scene of The Lonely Goatherd in Robert Wise’s Sound of Music?

9. The biggest transform, if I call it as such, is the giant bird of Nazca. It is so huge you can only decipher the figure from an aerial view.

10. The boundary of transforms and specimens in many cases is a thin line. Sometimes they are but one. A stuffed bird with simulated environment is a perfect example.

Toy as Transform

As a child the author loved making toys and playthings out of simple things and without spending a cent. For example, a wooden thread reel makes a fine road buggy self-propelled by rubber band that serves like the spring of an old fashioned watch. There is no need of battery and there is no such thing as depreciation. Well, it is because it has few parts and there was no cost involved.

The invention fascinated the kids in the neighborhood. Soon they had their own buggies and engaged in racing, of course a shade of the Tamiya toy race car. The invention may not be worth patenting, but with exorbitant price of cars and spiraling cost of fuel, there is good reason to think of re-inventing the wheel.

Dileptus, a relative of the Paramicium, a protist (Courtesy of Dr Anselmo S Cabigan)

A homestead at the foot of the Alps (Former SPUQC Museum)

Cross section of a tropical island (Former SPUQC Museum)

Sowbug model, Museum of Natural History, UPLB, Laguna

Damselfly model, Museum of Natural History, UPLB, Laguna

When Dr. Anselmo S. Cabigan, a colleague in the teaching profession and a long time friend, showed me the works of his students in biology using nails, paper clips, tin can, buttons and anything one can pick around, to make a giant paramecium, which in nature is actually a microscopic one-celled animal, I thought it is a very good idea, a practical educational tool.

It is because you can expand your imagination and not only confine yourself to your left-brain. Transforms stimulate both hemispheres of the brain, and they make the students become more aware and sensitive to the things around them. Imagine a series of nails glued along the periphery of the paramecium. It is a perfect illustration of cilia that the organism uses for locomotion, and to think that nails have another purpose and have nothing to do with biology.

Short of saying that this approach is ethnic art, in many ways the students feel at home in the learning process. It is indigenous and simple. It makes use for discarded materials. It is dollar saver because we can do away with imported models that are expensive and may not even apply to local conditions. Many materials around us are waiting to be transformed into something useful if we know how.

These are kinds of transforms and their applications. Many of these are found in the SPUQ biological laboratory and the museum.

1. Examples of transforms in chemistry are models of atoms of elements and molecules of common compounds. These can be made of styropore, plastic and paper materials, better still wood.

2. Size, distance and positions of the planets in the solar system can be conveniently shown in a transform that is perhaps the most common project in general science for high school.

3. In geology, soil profile, cross-section of the earth, and profile of a volcano, are relatively easy to make.

4. Plant morphology, taxonomy and various stages in growth, are popular models to copy.

5. Embryology is best studied with models, so with the human body.

6. In literature, Shakespearean plays provide a wide choice of scenarios to choose from.

7. For history, significant events are re-enacted through transforms. So with the important people in history. The wax museum in Madrid houses life size personalities and fiction characters.

8. Puppet shows are among the first applications of transforms and dioramas. Remember, the scene of “The Lonely Goatherd” in Robert Wise’s “Sound of Music”?

9. The biggest transform, if I call it as such, is the giant bird of Nazca. It is so huge you can only decipher the figure from an aerial view.

10. The boundary of transforms and specimens in many cases is a thin line. Sometimes they are but one. A stuffed bird with simulated environment is a perfect example.

Children don’t learn much from toys anymore.

Today’s toys come handy with a rich variety to choose from. There is no more effort to play a toy, more so to understand how it works. Inside the toy is unknown, a mystery that a child would like to find out and explore. It is the dismantling and subsequent destruction that satisfies his curiosity – if ever at all. Even knock down models do not offer the fresh feeling of success. So with toy models with the computer or on TV.

Seldom does a child today grow wiser and more mature with toys. During my time as a child when one made a toy that works, it was victory. Making toys is learning and a part of growing up. It is earning for oneself a trophy.
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Before, one made his own toy and he knew how it works. Today one unwittingly destroys a toy to find out how it works. Before, the element of function is the test of ones skill, such as in making a top or kite. Today, function is the realm of the manufacturer. Ready-made toys simply cater to the child’s curiosity, and incidentally to his learning. Modern toys create demand through style and sophistication that are not basic to functional design and value.
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Transforms are Evolving with the Times

It is the impact and value of a transform that one must look for. It is the relevance to present day situation that makes these tools valuable. As science and technology progress by leaps and bounds, many educational models have become outdated. For example, in genetics, limiting the model to the structure of the gene, and only to this level, would not sufficiently explain the new science of genetic engineering. One must know the Crick and Watson model and its latest version showing the DNA splitting and re-organizing in order to understand how Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are made.

If we consider transform in its highest form think of simulation. The laws of physics are best illustrated here. Gallileo climbed the leaning Tower of Piza to demonstrate the relationship of mass and gravity. Darwin used transforms and actual specimens to illustrate his theory of evolution. Aerodynamics is studied in wind tunnels and weightlessness in gyroscopes.

Hands-on with Computer is a Different Experience

Computers are known for rapid processing, wide coverage, versatility and virtual reality. It has wired the world and shrunk it within the reach of every user of the tool. In fact the box and the user are one, so to speak. But it is this very dependence on the computer that leaves very little room for the user to seek basic knowledge and learn basic skills.

Computers cannot totally replace transforms, audio-visual aids, and other educational tools. In the natural world the senses are very important. They must be honed. They are man’s connection to nature. Development of a skill is an actual activity, and it takes time to perfect it. Values are gained with good company. Innovation emanates where there is necessity. It is like saying necessity is the mother of invention. Feelings are conveyed and shared in a very personal way. Which reminds me of a person who asked the computer what is the meaning of love. The reply was prompt and came in a hundred definitions. Not satisfied, he asked the computer to illustrate the feeling of one in love. To which the machine labored for the correct answer. Finally it gave up and replied, “Sorry, I cannot feel.”

Not with transforms. One must use fully his senses, a sixth included - a sense of appreciation that comes from the heart. “It is only through the heart that one speaks clearly,” said the fox to the Little Prince. It is true. True learning comes not only from the mind, but also together with the heart.

Transforms – Eveready Teaching Aid

A geometry teacher appeared at a loss. There was no blackboard; she was holding class under an acacia tree. “All right class, our lesson is about geometric figures,” she said simultaneously taking out a handkerchief. Every student took his handkerchief out, and the simple piece of cloth became a versatile educational tool.

When the author was a farmhand he used to count chicken as they queue out in the morning from the shed. Because there were many, he would position myself at a vantage point to insure he counted them all with a simple devise. By breaking the stick every count of ten, then add the number of breaks when all the fowls are out, it was not a difficult task. Then he would compare his count with the stick he used the day before.

Transforms serve as aids in measuring things where conventional or modern instruments are available. What other transforms of this kind do we know? Have you heard of the Pace Factor? Compute for your pace constant and you know how far you have walked or ran. Use it in determining the length of a corridor or dimensions of a hall or size of a rice field.

The author remembers Fr. Jerry Orbos in one of his homilies. To drive at his message he held a new pair of chopsticks. “You cannot use the chopsticks while the pair is still joined,” he said, and then broke it apart. “Now you can use it.”

Indeed transforms work best in bringing us back to our senses.~

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