The I National Competition of Crystallization in the School (http://www.lec.csic.es/concurso/) is a contest on crystallography and crystallization for young pupils that has been carried out among 20 secondary schools across 7 provinces (Granada, Cadiz and Malaga, Gerona, Oviedo, Murcia and Zaragoza) of 5 different regions (Andalusia, Catalonia, Asturias, Murcia and Aragon) throughout Spain.
The I National Competition of Crystallization in the School was originally created by the Research Professor Juan Manuel García Ruiz and has been organized from the Laboratory of Crystallographic Studies of the Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences (CSIC-University of Granada) and the Crystallization Factory. It also brings together the special collaboration of several Centres nationwide, including the Science Museum of Granada, the University Menéndez Pelayo, and other 7 collaborating Centres distributed geographically near the participating schools: Museum of Technology of l'Empordà, University of Asturias, House of Science of Seville, Science Museum of Granada, Principia Consortium Science Centre of Málaga, Teacher Training Centre of Murcia, and Institute of Material Science of Aragón.
This competition is based on the success of two previous editions have been made in Andalusia/Puerto Rico (2009) and Asturias (2010). The sustainability of the competition has been ensured and is now being exported to Russia, Mexico and regional editions across the Spanish geography such as the 2011/2012 edition in Catalonia.
While training in crystallography and crystallization promotes abilities such as spatial and aesthetic perception and the practical solution of complex problems, the main objectives of the competition are:
- To stimulate scientific vocations among school pupils and to attract a general interest in science.
- To explain basic concepts of crystallography and crystallization taking advantage of the natural attraction of crystal growth.
- To communicate how researchers work and compete in a scientific environment.
- To bridge the gap between science and society by explaining the importance of crystallography in an industrial context, which is exemplified in processes and products that are consumed in everyday life.
- To convey science as an enjoyable, fun and enriching activity.
The structure of competition is designed in an innovative and original format composed of three successive and distinct stages:
Stage 1) Recruitment and training of secondary school teachers.
During a course entitled "Crystallography in the School", 24 school teachers receive special training in crystallography and crystallization offered by internationally recognised researchers at the facilities of the University Menendez Pelayo in Santander during 3 days in summer. The aim of this training was to provide teachers with practical tools to transfer scientific knowledge to the classroom through amenable activities, including the following: basic lectures on concepts of crystallization and crystallography, examples of spectacular applications of crystallography, videos and films (documentary "The Mystery of the Giant Crystals") followed by round table discussions, practical demonstrations on how to grow crystals and the use of teaching tools - programs and games - in the classroom.
Stage 2) Laboratory work and experimental follow-up (researchers - teachers - students).
An innovative and original crystallization kit of ADP (ammonium phosphate) is the central element of the competition. This contains a bilingual tutorial (English and Spanish) and a selection of numerous photographs and videos of crystal growth that due to its striking beauty motivates students to discover the fascinating world of crystallization.
The students are divided into teams and conduct crystallization experiments in the laboratory under the supervision and guidance of their teachers who have previously taken part in the course of crystallization in Santander. During 5-6 months, students grow spectacular large crystals of ADP through an enjoyable and stimulating activity while developing a solid understanding of the concepts involved: solubility, supersaturation, nucleation and crystal growth. A researcher is also appointed to maintain fluid communication between students/teachers and ensure the optimization of logistics and scientific advice at all times. As an educational tool, the students receive scientific questionnaires before and after the development of competition crystallization in order to assess the degree of scientific knowledge acquired.
Stage 3) Final of the Crystallization Competition.
The Final of the competition, which took place on June 4, 2011 at the facilities of the Science Museum of Granada, is the culmination of a year of hard work. The format of the Final was constructed in similar way to a "Scientific Congress", that is, each team of students had to do a presentation of a crystal model and a scientific poster (objectives, materials, methods, results and conclusions of the work). The Final counted not only with the participants in the competition, but also with several other fellow students, parents and public attending the activities of the Science Museum.
To motivate students, awards (computers, microscopes and collections of minerals) were presented in four different categories:
- Best single crystal, which assesses the size, colour, transparency, crystal morphology, mass, volume and quality of presentation.
- Best crystalline composition, which assesses the size, colour, transparency, crystal morphology, mass, volume and quality of the presentation.
- Best work plan, which evaluates the degree of application of scientific methodologies, innovative modifications applied to the standard procedure, the laboratory notebook, consistency and clear structure of the work plan, correct description of the crystals obtained, effective use of figures, tables, and graphs.
- Best poster presentation, evaluating the knowledge and methodology employed, using the poster as an aid, the use of appropriate scientific language, technical security in the expression of scientific concepts and the attitude within the context of scientific debate.
In order to bolster importance to the competition, renowned scientists such as the President of the European Crystallographic Association or the president of the Spanish Society of Mineralogy were invited as judges, and for the prize ceremony there was the exceptional presence of Doña Lourdes Arana, Director of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT).
Success and impact of the competition.
The success and impact of the competition is measured through the following main indicators: a) number of schools, pupils and teachers involved; b) geographic scope; c) degree of scientific knowledge gained by the students; d) level of participant satisfaction. The success of the Competition is also visibly patent in the interest generated within each of the participating schools. In fact, the Competition has triggered several side competitions between students and the teachers have incorporated the crystallization practical work as part of their yearly curricula.
- Participants statistics
- Total number of students involved: 400
- Number of students in final: 109
- Number of posters presented: 38
- Number of teachers: 24
- Number of judges : 11
- General public attendance the day of the Final: ≈450
- Number of students of the participating Schools: ≈8,000
- Participants in the course 'Crystallization in the School': 24
- Geographical scope
- Number of Schools: 20
- Number of Regions: 4
- Number of Provinces: 7
The dissemination plan includes the following actions:
- Creation of a specific website (http://www.lec.csic.es/concurso/), which includes educational and scientific contents and where participants can upload photos and experiences.
- The publication of news about the competition in the media (see the attached press dossier).
- A press conference on the day of the final.
- General public attendance the day of the final, which takes place on a Saturday.
- Outreach activities organised by the participants, such as posted news in blogs (http://concursodecristalestemple.blogspot.com/).