Remember high school physics class? Trawling through text books, grappling with complex theories and little, if any, hands-on experimentation. Many students across Europe could be forgiven for describing physics as a boring subject. But that is now set to change thanks to an EU-funded project that is bringing 'inquiry-based learning' (IBL) to the physics classroom.
Developed by a team of photonics researchers, teachers and experts in pedagogy from 11 EU countries, a new educational kit, filled with equipment for fun and interesting classroom experiments is being distributed free to schools across Europe. By 2015, its developers hope, the Photonics Explorer kit will be used by 2.5 million European high school students to conduct practical experiments in photonics - a key area of modern physics and technology - and raise their interest in physics and science in general. That, in turn, should encourage more young people to focus on careers in the sciences, helping Europe overcome a shortage of skilled workers in high-tech industries.
'Photonics deals with the science of light and light technologies. It is an integral part of almost every technology in this digital age - from communication to healthcare - and it plays a key role in everyday technologies familiar to students such as the internet, mobile phones etc.,' explains Hugo Thienpont of Vrije Universiteit Brussel, who has over 20 years' experience in the field. 'Moreover it is very visually appealing, and experiments with light can effectively engage students, excite them and raise their interest and curiosity.'
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