Helping Half: Designing Science Modules for Science High School Students
Our first official project under Helping Half was to design the learning resource materials for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (also known as STEM) used by Science High School students. This project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in cooperation with the Philippine Business for Education organization.
The entire book is a 100+ page volume consisting of four learning modules with the themes Sports, Disaster Management, Medicine, and Engineering. Each adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to the “acquisition, appreciation, and enhancement of knowledge” of the fundamental concepts of STEM disciplines. The end goal: To facilitate a seamless learning experience for Science High School students and to encourage them to pursue further education in the different fields of STEM.
Science Modules before:
Each of the modules have different authors. The modules are made up off the following parts: A discussion portion (complete with matching graphs and illustrations) succeeded by various activities that can be conducted in class or completed by individuals. But precisely because of the varying origins of these modules, we found that the illustrations, categories, layouts, and hierarchy of information were inconsistent and unfit for mass dissemination and reproduction.
One of the first problems we encountered were the images of the modules. Some modules used photographs, while some modules used illustrations. Another problem we encountered was the fact that these modules were going to be reproduced via black and white photocopying, which meant that activities that involved looking at colors (such as the color vision test below) would be rendered useless.
The categories used by the modules followed no standard format. Some modules would have Introductions and Objectives, while others simply jumped into the discussion of the topics. Some modules would also have factoids on the sidebar with category names like “Helpers,” “Tidbits,” and even “Bits and Pieces.”
The layout also varied from module to module. Some modules would be one column, while others were laid out in two. Font sizes were arbitrary and the line height too tight, making it difficult to read.
With no standard hierarchy, it was hard to discern when a module ended and when another one began. Contrary to the definition of a module, these modules were inflexible and nonstandard—basically, not modular.
What we needed was an appropriate structure for the content. The first step was to develop a content sequence that was appropriate and logical, which meant that it had to be self-explanatory for both lecturer and student. There was a need for functional devices such as a Table of Contents, chapter titles, headings, and outlines. Following the multimedia and contiguity principle, all of our images had to be intentional and maximized, with appropriate text accompanying and aligned to each one.
For us, the goal was clear: To design a science module that is engaging and relatable. We needed to create a system that helped students navigate through the entire workbook and to structure a module in a way that is most efficient for mass production and dissemination.
The redesigned Science Modules:
The first of our design solutions was to implement a kind of consistency to the content. All of the images and photographs were redrawn, following a line-art illustration style that made use of similar strokes and patterns for easy reproduction. We also made sure that there was equal representation of both men, women, and different body types. Buildings and landmarks were all drawn from places in the Philippines, such as the University of Santo Tomas’ main building and Mayon Volcano. Tables and graphs were also redrawn for clarity.
Categories were renamed and standardized across all of the modules. And to make the most of the space, we allocated the sidebar to accommodate quick facts and other factoids. If the module didn’t have any, we converted the extra space to a section for notes.
By establishing a hierarchy, the workbook could be taken apart by module and it would still make logical sense to both student and teacher. This was also done in order to help the compartmentalization of information, and overall manage the learning experiences of Science High School students.
By using lightweight paper, black ink, and legible Open Source fonts, we wanted to make sure that modules could be produced and reproduced without a hitch and at minimal cost to anyone who used them.
And A Half, through Helping Half, partners with NGOs, non-profits, and other cause-oriented organizations to provide them access to design services.