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Chemical Sciences in Development

Past Activities: Global Microscience Project

Former IOCD Work On Micro-scale Science In Teaching Chemistry
For many years IOCD undertook a project in micro-scale science, led by Alexandre Pokrovsky, who had a distinguished career at UNESCO where he was formerly Director of the Division of Basic and Engineering Science. Dr. Pokrovsky played a leading role in UNESCO's development of its Global Microscience Project. IOCD supported this programme and is extremely grateful to Dr. Pokrovsky for his long-standing and tireless efforts to promote the practical development and use of micro-scale approaches around the world.
Subsequent to the winding up of its Global Microscience Project in 2015, IOCD embarked on a new phase of work to catalyse the uptake of micro-scale science approaches in particular countries. This work was led by James Cosentino and John Bradly.
The panels below explains the aims and objectives of micro-science approaches and highlight some of IOCD's contributions.
How Do You Teach Science If Your Students Have No Laboratory?
Practical laboratory work is often extremely limited in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) science courses due to the poor availability of equipment, chemicals and lab facilities. To overcome these difficulties, John Bradley, then a chemistry professor at the University of Witwatersrand, S Africa, developed portable micro-scale kits involving miniature pieces of apparatus that teachers could use in the classroom enabling with very small quantities of chemicals, enabling chemical reactions to be conducted and experiments observed at first hand even in very poorly resourced schools.
Bradley's effort was such a success that he was honoured for his inventiveness and courage and he succeeded in attracting various international organizations to help him develop and disseminate his concept to underprivileged areas around the world. The RADMASTE Centre at the University of Witwatersrand continues to promote micro-scale science and hosts one of a global network of UNESCO-Associated Centres for Microscience Experiments that form the Global Microscience Project, involving partnerships with IOCD, UNESCO, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Foundation for Science Education (IFSE).
The kits and materials are designed to be easily adaptable to different national curricula. At the present time, English versions of the available microscience materials provide coverage of all educational levels: from primary to all of the secondary level (and university/tertiary level in some cases). These materials include chemistry, physics (micro-electricity resources) and biology teaching. There are also many language versions available of specific microscience materials, indicating world community interest to develop the project further. UNESCO provides global access to the guide for teachers and the student manual on its website and provides the kits free of charge to schools in areas where it has field offices.

Cameroonian students using RADMASTE™ Microchemistry Kits

The reduction of copper(II) oxide using the RADMASTE™ Basic Microchemistry Kit

Educators learning to use the RADMASTE™ Microelectricity Kits.

Using the RADMASTE™ Molecular Stencil to enhance understanding of the Particle Model.

(All photos courtesy of Beverly Bell)
Under the auspices of UNESCO, IUPAC, IFSE and IOCD, more than 80 countries have benefited from introductory microchemistry workshops and training courses, all of which have had positive review by local experts and teachers alike. In some countries, UNESCO- Associated Centres have been established to further develop the microscience project. Production of kits has started in Kazan, Tatarstan in Russia, due to the efforts of Alexandre Pokrovsky, a former UNESCO scientist who is now an IFSE officer and a consultant to IOCD for the Global Microscience Project.
To find out more about the Global Microscience Project, visit the following websites:
The Value of Micro-Scale Approaches to Science
Conducting chemistry experiments using very small scale equipment and tiny amounts of chemicals - especially in chemistry education - is valuable for several reasons:
  • In situations of very limited resources, or where access to equipment or chemicals is very restricted, it makes sense to use a micro-scale approach that minimises both the costs of equipment and chemicals and the quantities of these that need to be delivered. For examples see here.
  • Safety issues, both in the handling and disposal of hazardous substances, are minimised by using a micro-scale approach and are attractive where infrastructures of laboratories and waste disposal are weak.
  • The micro-scale approach accords with the principles of green chemistry and sustainable development, consuming less materials and minimising the generation of potentially toxic products and wastes that require disposal in an environmentally friendly manner.
For many years IOCD collaborated with partners in promoting the use of micro-scale equipment for teaching chemistry.
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