Empowering Chemistry Teachers for Effective Teaching and Learning of Chemical Bonding and Molecular Structures

28 May 2024

Electronic configuration of Carbon ( C )

A team of researchers from the University of Rwanda’s College of Education, led by Principal Investigator Associate Professor Francois Niyongabo Niyonzima, has launched an innovative project aimed at enhancing the teaching and learning of chemical bonding and molecular structures in secondary schools. The project focuses on addressing the challenges posed by the high cost and limited availability of atomic model kits.

Project Objectives
The project has three core objectives :
 Identifying schools in the Gasabo district that lack science kits.
 Designing low-cost atomic model kits to effectively teach chemical bonding and electronic configuration.
 Training secondary chemistry teachers on how to create and use these low-cost atomic model kits in their classrooms.

Problem Addressed
The primary issue tackled by the project is the high cost and scarcity of atomic modeling kits, which hampers the effective teaching and learning of key chemistry concepts in schools.

Solution and Implementation

To solve this problem, the researchers designed low-cost atomic model kits from locally sourced Milicia excelsa (Muvura) wood. "We aimed to create affordable, effective tools for teaching chemistry," said Prof. Niyongabo Niyonzima. The design process involved using hand saws, chisels, drill machines, power planers, craftsperson’s pencils, and rulers. These kits feature a central hole to represent the nucleus, where wooden protons and neutrons are placed. Surrounding this central hole, smaller holes are arranged in a circle to represent electron subshells, with wooden electrons designed as ballpoints.

Designed atomic model

Training and Experimentation
The project involved training secondary school chemistry teachers from 20 schools in the Gasabo District. "By equipping teachers with the knowledge to design and use these kits, we ensure that students receive a hands-on, engaging learning experience," explained Prof. Niyongabo Niyonzima.

Secondary school teachers in Gasabo District have been trained in the design and use of low-cost atomic model kits

Impact of the Project
This initiative has the potential to transform the teaching of chemical bonding and molecular structures by providing accessible, hands-on learning tools. These tools enhance student engagement, improve understanding, and foster skill development. Prof. Niyongabo Niyonzima emphasized, "Our goal is to make chemistry education more interactive and comprehensible for students, ultimately sparking a deeper interest in the subject."

Collaboration and Funding
The success of this project is attributed to the funding and support from a partnership between the University of Rwanda, College of Education, and the Mastercard Foundation through Leaders in Teaching ( LIT) program.

Project Sustainability
By empowering chemistry teachers with the skills to design and utilize these low-cost atomic models, the project ensures long-term sustainability. "We are not just providing a temporary solution ; we are building capacity among teachers to continue this practice and pass on their knowledge," said Prof. Niyongabo Niyonzima. Teachers are now equipped to train their colleagues, perpetuating the high-quality instruction of chemical bonding and molecular structures in their schools.

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