For the past few weeks, I have been teaching science at a local school in the village Bulega. The UBC has a connection with the school through providing stationary for the students and a borehole which was donated to the community that surrounds the schools so that they have access to fresh clean drinking water.
I am not a teacher, but I love to inspire young people to get involved in science and engineering and I have presented many times to students, parents and teachers in my home country of Australia about Engineering and what it makes possible. For someone who has grown up in Australia and had access to a modern education system and all the entitlements that went along with it; it’s quite a humbling to be in the presence of these students who have only the barest of essentials and yet they are so eager to learn.
The Head Teacher asked me to teach them about “Light” which is right up my alley. After introducing myself and telling them why I came to their school, I then asked them if they had any questions but there were just blank looks everywhere and I realized that I had failed to engage them. So I laid down some Ground Rules which I write up on the board as they generate it for me as we start each class. These Ground Rules are:
The message I want to leave them with is that if they “learn” science then they will remember the concepts, but if they treat it as a discovery, then it comes alive and it becomes fun.
I struggled at times to fully engage them and I think part of it is my style and also the culture here where the teacher just delivers the content and they write it down. But what I am constantly confronted with is the lack of overall science awareness by the students. To get them more engaged in the application of light, I introduced some concepts that were not in the text book such as: Speed of Light, Light Year and Space Travel. When I showed them some images of the Voyager Spacecraft which was launched in in 1977 with real time updates on its distance from earth, they were completely blown away and unaware that mankind had launched these probes to discover the cosmos.
To spark their interest in the application of science, I decided to run a movie for the students at the UBC and I could not think of any better movie that demonstrates, science, engineering and human endeavor than Apollo 13. We ran it on Sun May 28th and opened it up for P6/7 Science students at St Paul’s as well as Ven Adicca’s Dhamma students. While I only had a few students from my class that attended, Ven Adicca’s Dhamma students filled the gap in the hall. The 2hrs and 20min was a bit too long for some and them, but those that stuck it out at the end were clapping and cheering along with Misson Control when they heard the voices from the command module before it touched down in the ocean.
In my final class I brought home all the theory on light and optics they had been learning over the past few weeks and applying it to the operation of the modern camera. It was the first time that any of them had held a camera and they were fascinated with the operation of the zoom and image on the display of my DSLR. At the end of class, I spoke with their regular science teacher to tell him exactly what was covered so that he can close out any gaps and test them. I could hear the appreciation in him when he said that he can teach them all about lenses and cameras, but he can only explain it to the students as concepts because he doesn’t have one himself to show them and they can never truly appreciate what is being taught. This is a general problem at the schools with a lack of apparatus to engage the students for science-based subjects in particular.
As my time at the UBC comes towards an end, there is a great sense of achievement and satisfaction that the work has been appreciated and has made an impact on the students; I also acknowledge that there is still so much more to do. For those of you who are reading this and even have the smallest desire to volunteer at the UBC and contribute to the community… just ‘bite the bullet’ and do it. I promise you that you won’t recognize yourself at the end of it.
UBC Volunteer Apr-Jun 2017