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Science could be considered as one of the subjects that is least likely to generate excitement in girls. This wasn’t the case for Suma Koshy, Head of Science at Our Own English High School Sharjah (OOS). Suma has been teaching Chemistry for the past 26 years. Her love for the subject has fuelled a similar passion in the young women that she teaches at OOS.

Originally from Kerala, India, Suma credits her mother, who was a Physics teacher, as the inspiration for her becoming an educator.

We met a few of her students at the GEMS Maker Day, which was held in February 2016. Her students had created a science project to tackle cleaning oil spills from the ocean using biodegradable materials.

The project entailed designing a prototype, Oily Spoily Recovery Apparatus, to deal with oil spills effectively and productively. The device not only cleans oil spills but also provides a method to successfully extract oil from the mixture. One of the most striking features of the device is that they have used environment- friendly materials and methods that can be adopted at a larger scale. These include: motor boat, special oil pump, fan, nanowire mesh, green moss, sawdust, funnel (bottle), regulators, soil, battery pack and containers. The materials that she and her students selected are removable, replaceable and re-usable.

Suma and her students hope that if commercialised, this could potentially reduce the amount of money spent on sophisticated cleaning and recovery methods.

Below, Suma shares some of the lessons that she took away from the project as an educator/facilitator and what she hopes her students will take away from the experiment.

What did you learn about your students throughout the process of them creating the project on oil spill and making the oceans clean?

I discovered students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems. They delved deeper into the subject, beyond the curriculum requirements to do this project. I experienced immense pleasure when I saw them being intensely involved. The students sensed the danger to the environment caused by general apathy and realised that the issue needed to be addressed urgently. All the while ensuring that the project maintained its cost effectiveness.

What life lessons do you hope that this project has taught your students?

Through Project Based Learning, they can learn content at those deeper levels we equate with understanding. It is my hope that the students have learnt to view different perspectives, constructive deliberation, questioning, and critical analysis because that can result in better solutions and performance.

What is the best advice that you have received and how has it helped you?

The best advice that I have received is that a teacher should hold a lot of humility and be ready to learn more. Additionally, a teacher must be passionate about teaching. This has helped me to be a skilled leader with effective disciplinary skills and a positive outlook.

Suma’s students are a true reflection of her passion for teaching. They are articulate, well rounded young ladies, who displayed a lot of enthusiasm and drive in making the project a reality under her guidance. Our Own English High School Sharjah will definitely continue to thrive with dedicated teachers, like Suma, who make teaching and learning fun, practical and worthwhile.

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