Latest Stories

Teaching science out of the box


SALUMBIDES lectures on “Homomich” and demonstrates how to use the contents of the Laboratory in A Box (LAB).

The room echoes with “oohs” and “aahs” as the balik (returning) scientist unravels “highfalutin” concepts through simple experiments using materials from a portable plastic box.

Like zealous students in a classroom, sometimes talking in chorus, the public school teachers start sharing their observations and theories as to why drops of water form a spherical shape on a 25-centavo coin during one experiment. They conclude that it must result from molecular attraction and surface tension.

Each time Department of Science and Technology (DOST) balik scientist awardee Cora Salumbides recounts her former students’ observations whenever they would do experiments, the teachers cannot help but smile and laugh. Some can already picture the excitement on their own students’ faces when they finally introduce the same experiments in their classrooms.

With matching hand gestures and facial expression, Analee Malazzab of Manila High School predicts the students’ response will be “Yes! Aha! iBilib” (a combination of the titles of local science television shows). “The students will definitely enjoy this kind of activity. Sabik sila (They are eager),” says the third-year chemistry teacher.

Salumbides, a Science education consultant at Jefferson Union High School in San Francisco, California, says: “More learning occurs when students enjoy what they are doing.”

Instead of bombarding students with complex terms like “surface tension,” why not make them discover the concepts by allowing them to experience, she asks the participants at the “Laboratory in A Box: Hands-on Minds-on Microscale Chemistry (Homomich)” workshop at the Philippine Science Centrum (PSC) in Marikina City.

Learning is fun

Homomich is a student-centered teaching method that combines fun and learning, says the professor, who is simply Ms S to her students.

What makes the approach more convenient for chemistry teachers in public schools is the time-saving, money-saving box called Laboratory in A Box (LAB).

Inside the box are packets of chemicals and improvised mini versions of various apparatus.  They include 50 pipettes, 25 acetate films, 25  plastic cups, 30 straws, an improvised graduated cylinder, cookie for electrolysis of water and household chemicals, like salt, baking soda, baking powder and starch.

Using the LAB, teachers can come up with 17 experiments that will unleash the students’ creativity and help them go beyond memorizing terms to fill in the blanks on a test paper, Salumbides says. “That is when learning occurs.”

The box offers a substitute to expensive chemicals, breakable test tubes, beakers and other laboratory equipment. It is handy and ideal, especially in the Philippines, where, as Salumbides points out, saving is not just an option but a must.

Teachers agree that “scarcity of materials” is a major problem at public schools.

Marilou Amoyen, a third-year chemistry teacher at  Gregorio Perfecto High School (GPHS) in Manila, says students are “willing” to learn but lack of resources hinders them from conducting experiments.

Christina Meneses, also a GPHS teacher, says she uses her own money sometimes to buy chemicals for laboratory activities.

Meneses, who has been teaching science for 21 years, adds that students love doing experiments.

“Pa-experience” is one of the students’ favorite expressions, the teachers say in a group interview. The children often race to volunteer in class experiments.

Experiments excite

Amoyen says students get excited when they observe chemical reactions but what they really want is to hold the instruments and do the experiments.

With the LAB and the teacher’s manual, Amoyen and Meneses hope they can give their students the learning experience they deserve.

Joanne Sugala, who has been practicing microscale chemistry or the use of minute quantities of chemicals in her classes since 2010, notes students’ change in attitude toward learning and the improvements in their grades. They are also able to save money.

“We used to spend a lot on chemicals because the experiments in our workbooks required the use of more than

5 milliliters of a substance,” says Sugala, a third-year chemistry teacher at Highway Hills Integrated School in Mandaluyong City. “This method is more economical because it only requires drops.”

Since only small amounts of chemicals are needed, every student in class is able to do the experiments, she adds, unlike in traditional laboratory settings, where only one or two are able to try.

Students become more attentive and participative when there is a class activity, she says.

Salumbides, who taught chemistry and physics for 30 years in California, believes LAB is the answer to making “science more exciting.”

She is pushing for microscale chemistry to be part of the curriculum and has already talked to some government officials. So far, however, nothing has been done.

So, in the meantime, with the help of the DOST and PSC, the US resident comes to the Philippines once or twice a year to conduct Homomich workshops because “this is what we need.”

The retired professor started introducing the teaching method to science teachers in the country in 2009, with the help of PSC.

This year’s workshop is sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The 50 teachers who are here for the one-day training have been chosen by the Department of Education from different public high schools in Metro Manila.

PSC’s programs and communications head Luis Lesigues says they have conducted 50 workshops and trained around 1,600 teachers from different parts of the country since 2009.

E-mail the author at rgranali@inquirer.com.ph.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: cora salumbides , homomich , Learning , science , teaching

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  2. Cagayan mayor shot dead after flag-raising ceremony
  3. Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service
  4. Santiago sees Palace hand in Gigi’s return
  5. ‘Malang’ next crocodile attraction after ‘Lolong’
  6. Gigi Reyes’ only option: tell all
  7. Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst
  8. Ancient enigmatic carvings in danger of disappearing
  9. New plant to boost supply of clean energy
  10. More bodies from ship; transcript reveals wavering
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • 22 houses destroyed, 3 hurt as violent wind storm hits village
  • 242 out of 438 pass board tests for chemical engineers
  • Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  • 5 OFWs from Negros quarantined for MERS-CoV tests
  • Release of village chief’s truck caught carrying illegal logs slammed
  • Sports

  • Alaska takes quarterfinals opener over San Mig Coffee
  • Jackson finds second wind to push Meralco past Rain or Shine
  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Oil prices to go up on supply concerns, optimism on US rebound
  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • QC woman who flew in from Middle East tests negative for MERS-CoV
  • DFA, DOH urge OFWs not to panic over MERS-Cov
  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes
  • Marketplace