Method and materials for simple and effective experiments, the kind that makes people fall in love with such seemingly “hostile” science subjects. This is what SeedScience offers in less advantaged countries to science teachers.
They work in local schools where there is often no electricity, in the absence of an Internet network, and with materials and habits very different from those we are used to every day. It would be utopian to think of carrying out “professional” laboratory experiments there, but the laws of physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology do not play favorites.
It is enough to locate recycled or readily available materials to show science experiments to new generations, without having to invest too many resources but arousing a lot of enthusiasm.
What SeedScience plants
This idea could only come from a person who knows what science popularization means. Michele Raggio, in fact, who was the one to have the initial idea for SeedScience, has great experience in this field. As soon as he saw the plight of villages in Ghana during a volunteer stint with Patriots Ghana, he realized that action was needed.
He started helping teachers “translate” experiments using simple, easy-to-find materials. Then he thought about making this experience a more organized, replicable and modular project. Together with other people who shared his intent, he started SeedScience, accepting an ambitious challenge: to engage students aged 10-18 through hands-on science experiments helping their teachers to make them effective and fun. The philosophy behind this mission is that by providing high-quality education, the next generation will be able to more effectively help their communities. Also important is the transmission of critical thinking and the scientific method, the basis of the practical, constructive approach these countries need to grow.
Early stages of the SeedScience project
In its first 15 months of life, thanks to about 50,000 euros raised from private funders (from the National Geographic Society, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the University of Rome Tor Vergata) SeedScience began operating in four countries: Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It chose those that were English-speaking, with stable socio-political situations and where there were suitable partners for the project, local nonprofits already active in education.
The first phase of training lasted 2-3 months in each country and was followed by others of similar duration that have, so far, reached more than 120 teachers, both in-person and online.
Funds and logistics permitting, in-person training takes place annually and involves between 10 and 15 teachers from 8-12 primary and secondary schools. At the end of this period, teachers gain a different perspective on science teaching and learn many tricks for performing experiments in their own schools, thanks in part to the inexpensive or free materials provided by SeedScience.
Training after training is creating a real network of selected local educators who, in turn, can train other colleagues on the spot and exchange tips and information.
Why SeedScience seeds STEM
One may ask why focus on teaching science in countries that may often show more urgent needs.
It is a way to look forward to their future and invest in the many young people who were born there and are growing up there. Nurturing their interest and curiosity means opening to them the doors to a world that can make them the future protagonists of a turning point for their country. It means showing them the way to grow into professionals who can change things. Building infrastructure and bridges, cultivating soil more efficiently, preserving the environment, preventing and treating diseases. It all starts in local primary school, it all depends on what can be done in the classroom so as not to extinguish the lively curious light in the eyes of those children who are eager to learn.
Article by Marta Abbà.