Emirate-wide initiative to promote science among school children

ABU DHABI // Hundreds of school pupils have been getting hands-on with science thanks to an Emirate-wide initiative. The “Lema?” (Why? In Arabic) programme was launched in April by Abu Dhabi’s Technology Development Committee and is reaching out to 15,000 students in 100 public and private schools this year alone.

Hiba Salaheldin and Ahmed Abu Ali teach the Lema Bodybuilders programme to pupils at Al Ittihad School in Khalifa City A. Antonie Robertson/The National
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ABU DHABI // Thousands of schoolchildren are getting hands-on with an initiative to promote science.

The Lema? (Why? in Arabic) programme was launched in April and is captivating 15,000 pupils in 100 public and private schools in Abu Dhabi this year alone.

“This is a programme that is complementary to the education system,” said Lema project manager Mohammad Bin Braik.

“What we want to do is promote science and simplify it and hopefully inspire kids in this direction.

“With our activities we go into the school, let the kids have fun and while we are doing that we raise their curiosity and that will create positive memories. They will hopefully take careers in science and technology in the future.”

The project uses locally recruited and trained teachers to deliver interactive workshops to schoolchildren.

Last week, for example, 200 children aged 7 to 9 at Al Ittihad Private School took part in an interactive Body Builders Show’ which taught them about the main organs of the body, described their main functions and examined the role of healthy eating.

“The students absolutely loved it, I now have 25 students who think they are little scientists,” said Bianca Munian, a grade 3 teacher at the school.

“They were so engaged and it stimulates their creativity and teaches them that science can be fun. It was definitely a positive experience for them.

“With science they tend to usually switch off, but with something like this they are engaged all the time. It is really important to do things like this because it gives them a platform to think critically and creatively instead of just sitting with their heads in books, it is active participation.

“We definitely want to implement some of this into our lesson plans for the future.”

The children also took part in a Lego Workshop, a challenging hands-on interactive session that allowed them to programme their own robots.

Pupils worked in small groups to programme their robot and use their new-found programming knowledge and problem-solving skills to make it complete a number of challenges.

“I have only seen robots on TV and this is the first time I have seen one for real,” said Abdulla, 9. “It is not the same as normal lessons, it is much better.”

“We used the laptop to programme the robot and then made it move and turn,” said Zayed, 10. “It was a little bit hard in the beginning but we managed it. The best bit was when we made the robots dance with the music.”

“These students have never had an experience like this before,” said Mrs Hiba Kharouf, the school principal.

“It is hands on, students at this age love that, and it motivates the students to be interested in science and technology. The students really enjoyed their time today.

“Science is not an easy thing for students to understand but because it was hands on and student involvement, it was a very rich experience for them. Of course we would like our students to be involved in something like this again.”

The programme is touring schools in Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain and Al Gharbia. Organisers hope to expand it to the rest of the country.