Cosmos Education ran a 3-week project in Lusaka, Zambia, with a group of volunteers from the USA, UK and Zambia. Our aim, as ever, was to supplement the education school students already receive with fun, hands-on experiments and activities to help make Science more real and comprehensible.
Students investigate a model of the eye with Matt.
The hope is that students will be encouraged to see the relevance of Science and Mathematics in everyday life, recognise their importance in the development of their own communities, and be inspired to learn and understand more in future. We place emphasis on the logical approach and critical thinking that underlie the scientific method, in the hope that the students will learn these as life skills useful for the future, whether they choose to follow a technical career or not.
The team members for this project were:
Theo Banda - Cosmos Education Zambia Coordinator
Carol Lo - Electronics Engineer, Cosmos Education UK Coordinator
Damian Smith - Physicist/Engineer
Emily Kendall - Medical Doctor
Matt Landreman - Physicist
Ruth Pearson - Physicist
O'Brien Daka - Environmental Health Worker and President of Cosmos Education Zambia - joined the team briefly to give a talk about his profession to some of the students.
Damian, Carol and Ruth help students with homework.
We worked with two schools during the project: Munali Boys High School and Munali Girls High School.
There were two main ways in which we worked with the students: the first was through hands-on activities and discussions on Science topics within our team members' areas of expertise. This helped to reinforce concepts found in the Zambian school syllabus as well as broadening scientific knowledge beyond the classroom. The second way we worked was to offer personal help to students with their schoolwork in Mathematics and Science subjects, addressing topics and questions which they found challenging.
The activities we ran included some of those which you will find on our Resources page, but also covered vision, the immune system, cell biology, understanding scale, and electric motors, to name but a few. We also ran challenges and competitions for students, such as battery design, bridge-building, the tallest structure out of a single sheet of paper, and mental arithmetic challenges.
The students take part in a disection of a cow eye with Emily, bringing diagrams in text books to life.
Our time in the school was scheduled such that we did not take students out of their scheduled lessons: we worked with those students who attend afternoon school in the morning, and vice versa. So the students who took part in our activities were doing so voluntarily in their own time. It was very heartening to see how keen the students were to improve their education.
Theo and O'Brien watch as a student demonstrates the model of an eye he has made using a light-bulb filled with water as a lens.
Our experience from this project has inspired us to explore ideas for future Cosmos Education programmes. We realised that students who have fallen behind in their Mathematics learning struggle with finding the help and remedial tuition that would allow them to catch up. We also met with students at the University of Zambia (UNZA) who are keen to volunteer with Cosmos Education in future to improve this situation. As the project drew to a close, we began to explore possibilities of running a year-round Maths help programme, starting with the Munali high schools.
We certainly hope to work with schools in Zambia again, and we hope that our passion for Science, Mathematics, and how these important subjects impact daily lives and development, has had a positive effect on those we met.
The Zambia 2011 project was primarily organised by Carol Lo (Cosmos Education UK) and Theo Banda (Cosmos Education Zambia). Cosmos Education would like to thank all those who donated money and time to make this project possible.
We are very grateful to the staff and students at Munali Boys' High School and Munali Girls' High School for their interest and support.
Working with Ruth, students use a hand-held lens to project images onto a variety of surfaces.