Dear SeedKit Friends,
I am currently sitting in the Balme Library at the University of Ghana. Students are on vacation, yet the campus is still vibrant! On my way here in the trotro (the small buses that take me everywhere) I sat next to a guy who looked like a student. He was very nice and told me how to get to the library once I arrived at my stop. I soon found out that he was a biochemistry student and was on his way to his research lab. Having studied biology, I got super excited and started asking him a million questions about his research at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. He is currently working on a paper on the effects of serotonin on the malaria parasite life cycle—never thought I could learn so much about malaria during one trotro ride! I was so interested that, naturally, that I asked if I could follow him to the research center (he definitely thought I was crazy). He showed me around the center and even introduced me to some of his colleagues. During the little tour, we shared complaints about running PCRs and writing long research papers in college.
Why am I telling you all this? First, I am constantly amazed by the welcoming nature of the Ghanaian people. Everywhere I go there are people willing to go out of their way to help you or teach you something about their culture. Second, after spending 6 weeks here and constantly struggling to overcome the language barriers, it was amazing to have a conversation about hardcore science where language was no longer a problem. At first the student mentioned biochemical terms and techniques with caution making sure I understood. Once I started asking him questions he realized that I was following his explanations and we dove deeper into discussing the next steps of his research. We were both speaking English, but better than that we were both “speaking science”! Our conversation was an exciting reminder of why I loved studying biology at Wellesley. I guess the hard problem sets were worth struggling over—analytical and creative thinking is the kind that leads to answering all the important questions being asked around the world!
Some other exciting updates:
All the SeedKit protocols have been performed in the two classes that I have been working with! Each class carried out the biology, physics, and chemistry protocols. I cannot even begin to explain how much I learned facilitating each of them. Some days were as exhausting as they were exciting. I thought I admired the jobs that teachers/professors do, but I have truly gained a completely new appreciation for the amazing work they do everyday. Teachers in government schools here have to learn to handle 60+ students in one Junior High School class. Do you know how hard it is to keep 60 teenagers quiet? Well, it’s almost impossible (I’ve been hoarse for a couple weeks and I only had to handle about 30 at a time). Huge shout out to those patient souls out there who have dedicated their lives to teaching!! I could not have finished facilitating all the protocols without the help of the teachers, Vivian, one of The Exploratory team members, and, of course, the amazing students who have taught me so much. Here are some pictures of the classes doing the protocols:
Students performing the SeedKit protocols.
I have also been attending some of The Exploratory Clubs during the past few weeks. I have enjoyed working with the big classes, but working with a smaller group of girls has definitely been my favorite. I have helped in activities using the Science Sets and demonstrated the concepts of acids and bases using carrot juice as an indicator. I particularly loved leading an activity that introduced the girls to the main functions of the heart. We talked about what it does and then identified the different spots on our bodies where we can feel our pulse more accurately. It was priceless to see the surprise on their faces once they found their own pulses! After practicing how to measure their pulse a couple times, we performed a short experiment on ourselves. We measured our pulses at rest, after 1 minute of walking, and after 1 minute of doing silly jumps around the classroom (there was a ton of laughter involved). After recording some of our heart rates on the board they saw that our pulses were generally increasing with activity level. As a class, we discussed why our hearts needed to pump faster when we were more active and why some of the girls’ heart rates were so different from each other. I repeated the experiment with a few classes and each time it was so much fun! I hope the girls enjoyed the activity just as much as I did.
The students and I after the heart activity with our data on the board!
I only have a couple weeks left here in Ghana and it seems like there isn’t enough time to do everything! For the next two weeks I will be working on administering focus groups with The Exploratory Clubs and preparing for the annual Exploratory teacher training taking place in the first week of August. More updates soon!
Some more pictures:
Hello again, SeedKit friends!
Ghana and its people continue to impress me. The colorful clothing patterns and styles, the lively music and dancing, and the flavorful spice-rich food constantly amaze me! I’ve have already started wearing Ghanaian clothes, started a list of songs to download (even though I have no idea what they are saying) and I am working my way through all the typical dishes with gusto!
These past couple of weeks I have conducted surveys in three different Junior High Schools (JHS) in the area (JHS is the equivalent of Middle School). The students and teachers were very welcoming and collaborative! The joyful energy in the classes brought back memories of Middle School, when my classmates and I would linger and laugh in the hallways until the last second before the bell rang. With the surveys, we are assessing students’ attitudes towards science to determine how helpful the hands-on SeedKit lab protocols are in understanding challenging science concepts. The teachers and I will be facilitating the lab activities in the following weeks and I am excited to see what the students do with the material!
I’ve continued adding to my list of “Amazing People I Meet in Ghana”. A little over a week ago, The Exploratory team met with Ernestina “Tina” Appiah, founder and CEO of Ghana Code Club. Tina started her career as a secretary for an Information and Technology company in Accra. She quickly discovered that she loved technology and was inspired by the only lead female consultant in the company. Sheer curiosity and determination drove Tina to learn more about web design. She sought every opportunity to teach herself and learn from the professionals around her as she didn’t have the means to pay tuition fees (her income was for the care of her siblings). Tina honed her skillset and gained the confidence to advertise her assistant/consulting services online in search of clients. To her surprise, she found four clients immediately, including an American telecom company. That was the beginning of her first company. She soon quit her job as a secretary and recruited others to work with her. Years later, Tina started Ghana Code Club with the hope of equipping elementary school children in Ghana, especially girls, with the skills to thrive in a world dominated by technology. Another of her Organizational goals is to train teachers and encourage them to create and lead clubs in their schools. Later this summer, Tina and her team will participate in the yearly training session of The Exploratory teachers. I have no doubt that the Ghana Code Club team will inspire The Exploratory teachers to incorporate coding into their club activities!
My favorite event of the past two weeks was attending The Exploratory Club at one of the JHS schools in Pokuase. Although there were other festivities going on at the school, I was able to learn from a small group of incredibly curious girls. The Exploratory has recently acquired Basic Electronics Science Sets for the clubs in each school, so on Friday afternoon the girls and I sat down to play. I asked them to teach me everything they had learned regarding the subject. They took turns sharing what they knew and I eagerly wrote down what they said on my notebook. After playing around with the set a bit, we decided to do a short experiment. I encouraged them to generate a hypothesis about the role of a resistor in a circuit and we proceeded to test it. We struggled to get all the parts of the circuit to work, and eventually the girls were able to see that the resistors were making the LEDs dimmer. Seeing these young girls work together reminded me of my classes at Wellesley where I was lucky to work on problems alongside incredibly smart and hardworking women.
A BIG SHOUT OUT to the young Ghanaian man, Charles Ofori, for creating the Science Sets. Charles is an incredibly inventive guy and uses his skills to address prominent problems in his community. He is currently working on more sets that will complement the Basic Electronics Set. Here is an article about him highlighting some of his accomplishments so far. He has engineered some amazing tools while keeping in mind the values and traditions of the Ghanaian people! I hope to meet Charles at some point this summer.
The Exploratory team went on retreat in Busua this past week for a planning meeting with the lead teachers from every school.. It a beach town a few hours west of Accra, a beautiful place to learn of their inspiring plans for the year. The teachers and staff have awesome ideas on how to further develop the clubs. They aim to teach their students not only about science but also about their rights as amazing young girls! I hope that I can play a role in achieving some of their goals :)
Ampe is the latest most popular recess game around here nowadays. Try it out :)
As you may know, one of our team members, Isabella Narvaez is currently in Ghana working on developing SeedKits through our ongoing partnership with The Exploratory in Nsawam. We're very excited to follow along her internship over the next two months! Here's her blog post from her first week there:
Hello SeedKit friends!
I arrived to Ghana a week ago and, after a long day of traveling, was greeted by Connie’s welcoming smile (Connie is the founder of The Exploratory)! We drove home to Nsawam and I quickly realized how much the landscape resembles that of my hometown Cali, Colombia—the palm trees, the mountains, and the warm weather made me feel at home.
So much has happened since I got here!! I’ve meet really cool people who have amazing stories to tell and important questions to ask. These are a few of the events…
This week I joined The Exploratory staff in teacher trainings at three different schools in Accra. Teachers were introduced to RACHEL offline, a web platform that essentially provides a virtual library for schools in remote areas where Internet access is not feasible. RACHEL can be used to supplement learning of both teachers and students by providing resources such as Khan Academy, online textbooks from Ck-12, TED (talks), Radiolab, and Wikipedia, among others. Thanks to a grant form the Australian High Commission (Ghana), The Exploratory will be able to provide RACHEL to 17 schools in the Greater Accra Region. Musapha, a 3rd year student at the University of Education, Winneba, has been working with The Exploratory as a representative for RACHEL offline. He has helped the teachers familiarize with the tool and learn how to use it to supplement their lessons. We hope to get some feedback from the teachers and students at the end of the summer on how to use and improve RACHEL!
On Thursday, Connie and I went to visit the Orthopedic Training Centre (OTC), down the road in Nsawam, with the goal of establishing a relationship between the two organizations. There we met Gloria. There is no other way to describe her but as a powerful force of nature. She is incredibly passionate about her work and would do whatever it takes to help the people around her. We walked around the beautiful grounds with her and she taught us about the work they do at OTC. The centre houses people with disabilities of all ages, short and long term depending on their rehab plan. During our visit, we discovered that bringing girls from The Exploratory and OTC together might be an incredible learning experience for both. What better way of learning than from another amazing group of young women?!
Yesterday, Connie and I ventured into Accra to attend Africa Dialogues 2017, a platform where leaders from around the continent encourage a conversation about pressing issues in education, human rights, and gender inequality, among other. The conference titled “The Dreams we dare not; the Africa we want”, hoped to initiate discussion about the African Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. One of my favorite speakers was Cecil Senna Nutakor, the CEO of Equinox Intercom Ltd. and founder of eCampus. Cecil’s early years in school were marked by failure. He grew up in a family of successful parents who expected him to excel. Parents and teachers alike pushed him to learn in ways that he found hostile, and punished him for every mistake. After lots of struggle, Cecil discovered the power of self-paced learning. He found the learning tools and space necessary to develop the creativity that had been suppressed throughout Junior and Senior High School. Today, he is an inspiring figure in Africa and an avid advocate for self-paced learning. His words were a reminder that education is an individual process. Students understand the world differently and at their own pace. Those differences should be identified and encouraged by teachers through environments conducive of creativity
This week I will be visiting other schools near Nsawam. Can’t wait to meet some more cool people!
Welcome to our brand new website! We're back with a cleaner, simpler look, and a few brand new features that should make learning about and getting involved with SeedKit easier than ever before!
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Our old website will stay up at seedkit.wordpress.com, however, this one will be continually updated.
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