Service Learning

Second year Organic Chemistry practicals are often seen as a recipe to be followed, and then to get out of the lab as soon as possible. However, when the second years have to make dyes and teach others about the practical, it takes on a whole new meaning for them.

Service-learning can take many forms, and in the case of second year Organic Chemistry, the service-learning takes place over practical afternoons. In the first afternoon the pairs of students all make different coloured dyes and see how these relate to the ultra-violet spectra of the different chemical structures. Then for the second practical, grade 10 and 11 learners from local schools are invited to join the second years. “Because the students know they have to teach the learners, they engage with this practical so much more. They ask many questions and try to understand every step, and thus they learn so much more” said Dr Rosa Klein, the practical coordinator.

In turn, the learners, some of whom are from disadvantaged schools, and have never even measured with a measuring cylinder, get the opportunity to do practical chemistry. They wear lab coats and safety goggles to protect themselves, and each learner is assigned to a pair of students. In the recent exercise, grade 10 and 11 learners from Ntsika Senior Secondary school made orange, red and violet dyes and tie-dyed t-shirts for themselves. The learners and students were required to reflect on the experience.

Responses from the learners included the following:

“What I mostly enjoyed about this afternoon was that of working in a laboratory with other people who are very interested in chemistry as I am. We don’t get to work with chemicals all the time or practical work, so this was an experience that was very exciting”

“What I liked the most was the two students Sivu and Lulu because they helped me a lot. I also experienced a lot through them. I also liked what we were doing, I think I will do chemistry when I am in university. It was a great pressure to come here I experienced a lot thing. I am looking forward to come here again.”

“What I liked about this afternoon was that I got to interact with students and sort of realise or get a perspective of how being a science or chemistry student rather feels like. And I learnt that being a science learner you have to give yourself to your work and try with all you can in you in order to achieve. And you have to be patient too.”

Last Modified: Fri, 07 Jun 2013 15:27:29 SAST