Care for the environment and gender equality but, first and foremost, love for science. The third phase of the project revolves around these three pillars.
Let the third act begin
Which project? The one supported, financially and otherwise, by the National Geographic Society and dedicated to the future of Tanzania.
SeedScience has begun to draw it by tracing a clear path in the present. There are three stages and the ultimate goal is to show teachers how to ignite a passion for STEM subjects in young people. It takes a method and the right material. Better still is a method that does not require too much ‘suitable material’, but is based on simple and engaging practical activities that are repeatable and affordable.
The one just described is exactly the SeedScience method. More and more teachers in Tanzania are learning it and many more will learn it after this new third and final phase in the area.
Teaching teachers to teach: the cascade effect
Launched in 2019, this program has so far trained 22 science teachers from 17 primary and secondary schools and 4 ScienceSeeders (local teachers who have completed their journey to become trainers and acquired new skills to lead and support the whole project locally). In this new phase, it is “teachers teaching teachers”, reaching out to all the other schools in the area and promoting gender equity and environmental sustainability.
Building on what was shown in the first two phases, the third phase aims to train 12 new teachers and 3 new ScienceSeeders. The activities will last three months, will involve all the public schools in the area, spreading curiosity and passion for science and awareness of local scientific issues. These numbers, and the power of the method, will enable them to reach around 1,200 students and also the adult community through two specially organized science events. Special attention is achieved to female students, who are encouraged to imagine and concretely cultivate a career in science. The environment and the protection of the local natural heritage will also play their part, through awareness-raising and training works in the field. STEEM clubs are in fact called STEEM and not STEM because the E in environment has been added. An asset, a victim, a player, an important lever for a country like Tanzania. It is crucial that its young people learn to know and respect it, just as it remains important that they can imagine studying STEM subjects that will make them the architects of their own future.
Present and future challenges
From the outcome of the first two phases, it seems that SeedScience is on the right track and the National Geographic Society has staked its funds well. According to Joseph Laurent, project leader, the challenge will be bureaucracy. “This is a time-limited project, which could be delayed by bureaucratic red tape,” he explains. “Activities in schools could also be delayed, so it is important that those involved have most of the necessary information in advance”.
Alongside fears for the future, there are also certainties from the past. The report at the end of the second one showed that all the teachers involved learned the new approach to make students fall in love with science subjects. The training sessions were well attended and everyone learnt the experiments and became able to repeat them in the classroom. The students involved showed a growing interest in STEM subjects, discovering them to be fun and useful, and not as complex as is often feared. The adults who attended the science event also felt their passion, with the hope of seeing them future protagonists of a technologically and infrastructurally emancipated Tanzania. All that remains is to give our best in this final sprint then. We, the teachers, the students, the communities. All together. And then come back and tell me how this new adventure went… STEEM.
Article by Marta Abbà in collaboration with Joseph Laurent.