Room for learning

06.01.2014
All 15-year-olds in Stavanger will now be spending two days of their school year studying energy-related science in a new facility opened at the city’s Norwegian Petroleum Museum (NPM).
  • Bente Bergøy and Emile Ashley (photos)

Testing the principle of a wind turbine

Broad range.
Testing the principle of a wind turbine. Fifteen-year-olds are introduced over two days to electricity generation from renewable and non-renewable energy sources as well as the formation of fossil fuels.

 

“It’s taken us about a year to plan, build, outfit and equip this Newton Room – but we’ve also ended up with a good solution,” says exhibitions head Geir Mosseige Johannesen at the NPM.

He is very pleased with the learning space, where whitecoated pupils from class 9b at Tastaveden secondary school are deeply involved in practical experiments on the day I visit.

“It’s not always as peaceful as this,” admits Jan Kåre Rafoss, who regularly takes the class for science studies and who is now present as an observer and source of support.

“The equipment here’s tiptop,” he adds, looking around this addition to Norway’s network of special facilities for science teaching. “I’d really like to have the same in our own school.”

In addition to cupboards holding most of the requirements for practical physics experiments, the NPM’s Newton Room features such advanced technical aids as an interactive whiteboard system.

 

Elin Rosnes in action 
Active.
Elin Rosnes in action. She is one of three museum educators who run the Newton energy room courses.

 

Collaboration

This facility is a collaboration between the NPM, the City of Stavanger and Statoil, with the museum’s own three educators responsible for the teaching.

Statoil has financed the room as part of a larger sponsorship package at the NPM, while the city is paying the salary of one of the education staff.

Norway now has more than 30 of the special Newton Rooms, a concept originally dreamt up by the First Scandinavia charitable foundation.

It aims to boost interest among children and young people in technology, design and science through programmes driven by the youngsters themselves.

In addition to the foundation, the Newton scheme has been developed over a number of years by teachers and personnel from the industrial community.

Pupils using these facilities take a “Newton module”, a multidisciplinary educational programme with the emphasis on science and technology.

“We’re right at the start here, and are now testing a two-day module the museum has developed in cooperation with First Scandinavia,” explains Johannesen.

“However, what the pupils learn falls within the curriculum for Norway’s knowledge promotion programme in secondary schools – in other words, what they’d learn anyway in Year 9.”

They are taught, for example, about renewable energy and the formation and use of fossil fuels. The module consists of preparations at school, practical activities and teaching at the NPM, and concluding work back in the classroom.

 

Pupils in experiment mode. First theory, then practice. 
Concentrated.
Pupils in experiment mode. First theory, then practice.

  

Equipment

“This is very different from school,” says Emma Lysanne Bruin from 9b, and fellow pupil Ivar Dahl agrees: “There’s masses of equipment here and lots to do.”

In their view, they learn better when allowed to test theoretical learning through practical assignments.

“It’s also fun to work in groups,” adds Dahl, who is not sure whether he will be continuing to study science. Bruin wants to become a researcher or an architect.

The content of the module being tried out in Stavanger is linked to a special exhibition currently being shown at the NPM under the title Energy - problem or solution?

“That includes asking the pupils to come up with proposals for overcoming energy problems, and then to present these to the whole class,” explains Johannesen.

After a year-long pilot phase, the module will be evaluated before possible adjustments and final approval by the Norwegian Centre for Science Education at the University of Oslo.

 

Emma Lysanne Bruin and Ivar Dahl 
Educational.
Emma Lysanne Bruin and Ivar Dahl have learnt about energy in the Newton Room at the Norwegian Petroleum Museum in Stavanger.