Sure, it might not make the most exciting title for a Harry Potter spin-off, but it was still a monumental event in the short history of Peace Corps Tanzania’s Shika na Mikono hands-on science group. Since its origin in 2009, the Shika group has had opportunities to work with the Ministry at various workshops, but it has typically been for the purpose of creating new teaching manuals and resources. Last month, however, marked the first time Shika has been invited to actually conduct sessions at a Ministry training. And it was a huge success! Below is a write-up we made as a Peace Corps Success Story, which will soon be published in the PC Tanzania weekly newsletter given to all PCVs and PC staff. The Ministry contacts who invited us to this training have already invited us to additional regional math and science trainings in Mbeya and Dodoma at the end of this month. Enjoy!
The week of the 21st through the 25th of October, Peace Corps’ Shika na Mikono hands-on science team was invited by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT) of Tanzania to help facilitate an INSET workshop for national and regional trainers in Morogoro. The workshop provided various Math, Science, and Language trainers with the necessary information and resources to train other Tanzanian teachers upon return to their respective regions. Sessions focused on educational improvement, including Big Results Now (BRN), classroom and presentation skills, and hands-on science, which is where Shika na Mikono was called in to assist.
The Shika Team were allotted one day (five hours) with the Math and Science trainers to share their experiences of using locally available materials to teach hands-on science in Tanzanian schools. The five members of the Shika Team included Belle Archaphorn (Mbeya), Willie Blackmon (Mbeya), Steve Bonomo (Ruvuma), Ryan Early (Dodoma), and Ben Savonen (Iringa). Workshop Coordinator Dorothy Mwaluko and Salum Kilipamwambu from the Ministry assisted the Shika members in their preparations, while also providing the supplies and resources required to conduct their sessions.
Approximately 70 trainers represented the four subject panels (Math, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics). After a brief introduction to the aims and goals of the Shika na Mikono group, the trainers were split up by subject for the first session: The Box of Fun. The Box of Fun is an activity that challenges teachers to come up with teaching aids for various assigned topics on the spot, using only a limited number of locally available science materials (LASMs) to be shared among all groups. The trainers were forced to use their creativity to construct interactive teaching materials to be used in the classroom as well as the laboratory in the absence of traditional teaching resources. After each group had a few minutes to brainstorm and construct, they were given a chance to present their ideas to the whole group. It was great to see the creativity and innovative ideas of each group, which proved that science and math do not require expensive materials to teach in an exciting way!
Following the Box of Fun was a session entitled Shika Express, which involved a gallery walk and science fair set-up of various, short demonstrations that can be done in the classroom, also using LASMs. Tables were aligned so that all participants could walk around and observe demonstrations for all subjects, which were led by the respective Shika members. Demonstrations included construction of a simple DC motor, alternatives to litmus or pH paper using hibiscus leaves, a cardboard model hand to show joints and movement, as well as multiple interactive mathematics teaching games.
After the chai break, the Shika Team began its second session with a presentation on performing science competitions for students in order to stimulate their creativity and interest in the math and science subjects. Following a short introductory video and explanation, the trainers were divided into teams of 4-5 and asked to perform the competitions themselves. Teams competed in one of two different events: Egg Drop and Bridge Challenge. The Egg Drop competition required teams to design and build a device using a limited set of materials to safely carry an egg from a drop height of roughly 3 metres. Teams taking the Bridge Challenge were asked to build a bridge that could withstand the greatest load before failure. However, they were given only 15 Science Shillings with which they needed to purchase all (locally available) construction materials from Mama Belle’s Science Duka. Following construction, all of the devices and bridges were observed and tested for all groups to see. What a fun way to learn about science!
The final session led by the Shika Team was one on conducting math and science NECTA practicals by substituting local materials for expensive lab equipment. Participants were able to see and think about alternative methods for doing practicals at schools which lack traditional laboratory apparatus. Beakers were replaced by water bottles, glass test tubes by plastic syringes, expensive chemicals by their local sources - these and many other examples helped to prove that science can be taught anywhere and on a small budget. In this way, students can see that science exists all around them in their daily lives and not just in the laboratory.
Upon completion of the Shika na Mikono sessions, Salum and the Shika members expressed their gratitude for the invitation to participate in the Ministry of Education INSET workshop by presenting the coordinator with several copies of the Shika na Mikono hands-on science and math manuals to be given to the head regional trainers for further distribution at future trainings. The Shika Team looks forward to future opportunities to share interactive math and science teaching ideas, as well as a continued partnership with the Ministry of Education in Tanzania.
The Shika Team poses with Ministry representatives.
(Top row) pictured left to right: Ben Savonen, Ryan Early, Willie Blackmon, Salum Kilipamwambu, Steve Bonomo
(Bottom row) pictured left to right: Belle Archaphorn, Dorothy Mwaluko