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‘Tis the season to share

We are really excited that 6 more schools in Nsawam and Berekuso will start up exploratory clubs in 2016. You can help make sure we have enough materials for science kits for the girls who will be participating in our clubs. From microscopes to magnifying lens to projectors to reference books, these items will help girls and teachers experience STEM as they never have before! THANKS for checking it out this wish list!

We are also taking advantage of the fact that one of our board members will be traveling to Ghana early 2016, so if possible please ensure gifts arrive by December 31st. Happy holidays!

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Sponsor a girl on a field trip!

Our teachers and girls in Pokuase are eager to go on a field trip to the Akosombo Dam before the end of the year. Can you help?

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What you can do

This full-day education excursion will cost $20 per person. This will be an all-day trip for the 140 girls and 20 teachers, who are planning the trip. It will take about ~2 hours each way to travel to the Eastern region and back. They need water, food, admission and most importantly, to rent two buses. Fuel cost in Ghana is high right now because of inflation, and it is too far and too many people to take public transportation.

For the cost of a movie, popcorn and a drink, you can sponsor a girl to go see one of the largest reservoirs in their own country and learn about clean water and energy.

 

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Female students in Ghana

Why this trip?

EDUCATION In this past year or so, Ghana has been suffering from electrical outages that typically lasts from 6-24 hours, seriously impacting livelihoods and daily life. The girls in the club last year have been learning about electricity and energy. This trip will connect what they have learned to the real world and real people.

EXPLORATION The girls have not travelled outside the town of Pokuase much, and have certainly not travelled east to the Volta River, even though they have learnt about that their country has one of the largest reservoirs in the world that was created by the Akosombo Dam.

INSPIRATION We are definitely requesting that they meet female role models on this trip! Those of you who have travelled know how eye-opening a trip to a new locale gives you new perspective about yourself and what you can achieve in the world. Help us give this gift to these amazing young women!

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THANK YOU!!

Group photo

A “review” of the Chemistry SeedKit (Lab-in-a-Box)

The teachers were like giddy teenagers who just laid hands on the newest gadget. They were smiling from ear to ear, posing, taking photos of each other. What caused such excitement?

The marvel that was in their hands: a colorful balloon inflated by a reaction between eggshells and vinegar. Remember the joy and wonder when YOU first did it?

***

We were excited to test several activities created by SeedKit. SeedKit stands for “Science Education Equity Development Kit“, and is a collaborative of like-minded folks based at Wellesley College. The group was started by the amazing Kayla Bercu, a soon-to-be senior who, since high school, had been working with the SEGA School of Secondary Education for bright but impoverished girls in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Based on her observations in the classroom and discussion with teachers there, Kayla has been working with her fellow students at Wellesley to develop a set of experiments that can be packaged and used for hands-on instruction in low-resource countries.

The SeedKit is a actual lab-in-a-box, designed for senior secondary school, with proper pre-labs, worksheet and a post-lab evaluation.

Chemistry experiments in the seed kit
Chemistry Kit. Credit: SeedKit

For this training, we tested the brand new chemistry experiments, adapting the activities and concepts for our after school clubs, and for teachers who work in p2 to p7 (JHS2), a wide range of expertise and knowledge.

Below, we “rate” the few activities that we shared with the teachers, based on the ability to delight and engage (wow factor), how adaptable the activity is for explaining related concepts for younger students (adaptability), how conducive the activity is to further investigation and invites questions, especially if presented before the “theory” (inquiry) and if the materials in the kit might be obtained locally or substituted with locally available materials (materials).

1) Eggshell and Vinegar Reaction
A simple variation on the baking soda and vinegar experiment to demonstrate chemical change.

Wow factor: 5
As mentioned the teachers were charmed by the inflated balloons.

Adaptability: 4
Even without understanding the detailed chemistry and stoichiometry, teachers and students can appreciate the phenomenon of combining two reagents – one solid, one liquid – to produce a different substance – gas.

Inquiry: 5
In addition to the suggested follow-up to measure the volume of gas produced, teachers decided that students can (visually) compare the difference in volume of gas produced
a) by varying the amount of vinegar added, or
b) as a function of the surface area/size of the broken pieces, if each group started with the equivalent of one egg shell.

  • A few who didn’t read the instructions sheet wondered what the gas was – some wondered if it was flammable. Since I knew it was CO2, they tested the gas by releasing it over a flame! This gave us a chance to discuss safety procedures.
  • We wondered but didn’t have time to try if the addition of a pH indicator, will allow a visual progress of the reaction to be followed as the amount of vinegar decreases.

Materials: 4

  • The glass jars can be substituted with other similar containers.
  • Vinegar is cheap and readily available.
  • Large amounts of eggshell can be obtained from street vendors who sells hard boiled eggs (yum).
  • Balloons might be substituted by polyethylene bags (though we do care about the environmental impact of both). In either case, both can be re-used.

Street Food-HardboiledEggs

2) Wet cell / chemical battery to power an LED light
This is a wonderful way to demystify what’s in a “dry cell”.

Wow factor: 4
Truthfully, anything that can light up an LED is a win! =-)

Battery - vinegar / cardboard

Inquiry: 4

  • The teachers wondered whether citrus fruit juices might be used.
  • They discussed using water, and water with salt as comparison.

Adaptability: 3
Upper primary and JHS students should be able to grasp concepts related to circuits, electricity and electrolyte solutions. Light emitting spectrum may be more difficult to understand. The investigative activities listed above are certainly doable for .

Materials availability: 5

  • Vinegar and cardboard are readily available
  • We wondered if any of the Ghanaian coins can be substituted for the US pennies provided. Need to do some research/testing!

3) Electrolysis
A simple and affordable way (OK, maybe except the batteries) to visualize this reaction, which typically involves expensive equipment.

Teachers with electrolysis activity

Wow factor: 5
The teachers loved the easily discernible bubbles that emerged.

The SeedKit suggested a pH indicator. Teachers were delighted to know that they can use hibiscus to make a pH indicator (red drops below) and that it changed colors at one of the electrodes!

Electrolysis with hibiscus indicator

Adaptability for younger grades: 3

  • Students can visually estimate the differential production of bubbles at each electrode.
  • The chemical reaction can be taught to the JHS students – one JHS teacher definitely wrote out the equation “spontaneously”.

Inquiry: 5
Teachers were very curious about the gas produced – volumetrically and the chemical nature. (Again, we didn’t do a pre-lab). As the SeedKit and post suggested, we were able to determine which electrode produced hydrogen based on the color change of the indicator. Teachers were also able to confirm this by thinking about the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen in a water molecule and their composition as gases.

Materials availability: 4
The pencils are great but might consider using the electrodes from a dry cell (to be removed carefully by a teacher or supervised student). For older students this may be

The use of rechargeable batteries and affordable DIY solar panels are laudable and should be pursued. The rechargeable batteries would be an investment but be economical in the long run and better for the environment.

***

In all, we give the Chemistry SeedKit a solid 4, which is high marks since it wasn’t originally developed for the age group that our teachers would be addressing. Science is awesome because the same reaction / activity has multiple ways to engage and for learning to happen, from observing cool phenomenon, to simple investigations, to big ideas and concepts, to specific details.

We are so grateful to have partnered with SeedKit this summer and hope for many more opportunities to come!!

Board member reflection: Sheri Moore on 2015 Durbar

Board member Sheri Moore visited our programs in Ghana and shared the following impressions.

Board member Sheri Moore & Chairperson Prof. Esi Awuah

Sheri (left) with Chairperson Professor Esi Awuah

The African Women’s Advocacy Project hosted a wonderful day of celebration in August 2015 in Pokuase, Ghana.

The day celebrated the hard work and success of both the teachers and girls involved in the Girls Science Club initiative. Many impressive and important dignitaries attended this event as well. The girls’ program included examples of their science club activities, testimonials, science experiments, related skits and songs etc. I most admired the initiative shown by the girls, who led the day-long events; they were most impressive!

Significant credit goes to Petrine Addae, country director for AWAP, who organized and planned the day’s events and had the good sense to let the girl’s take charge! You may wish to contact Petrine for additional information and details at info@africanwomenadvocacyproject.org.

It was a resounding success and a special pleasure to be part of this exciting Girl’s Science Club event.
Read and see more here.

Michelle Obama on Girls Education. And Reasons to Go Slow.

We love this address by First Lady Michelle Obama. Not only is she an advocate for giving girls around the world the quality education they deserve. She absolutely understand that such efforts must go hand-in-hand with creating safe environments in the classroom, school and community.

The First Lady of the US also talked about the shift in thinking that international partners need to adopt – to see families and communities less as barriers but instead as a source of solution. She points out the hypocrisy, or at least the disconnect, between a discourse on community mobilization and empowering local leadership, and what actually happens a lot of times. She acknowledges that involving community is often not the central part of organization’s programmatic work. And it’s risky, as we may not see eye-to-eye with local leaders, donor expectations (and cycles) as well as our instinct to preserve a good reputation, makes it hard to do really difficult work, which is also oftentimes inefficient.

And at the end, hard work is, well, hard, and also resource intensive. And it requires empathic staff who are willing to lead from the side and take cues from local folks. It also takes much patience to work through misunderstandings or simple miscommunications.

We know that having the community’s support behind the girls in every aspect of their lives, not just in science and education, is of utmost importance if these young women are to succeed.

We’ve been patient in building these relationships, in nurturing them, in repairing them as necessary, and we are grateful to begin to see the result of our labor. As the saying goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

For our girls’ sake. We will go slow. So they can go far.

Summer 2015 Teacher Training – Recap


Increasing the quality of teaching is one of the main objectives of the Girls Science Exploratory Initiative. We tried to model the type of interactive and engaged learning that we hope teachers will adopt. By seeing how our trainer structured hands-on activities, encouraged movement for learning, facilitated small group discussions and reflections with ~45 adults, teachers see that it is possible for them to do the same thing, certainly with the smaller 15-student science exploratory clubs, but even in their classrooms of 50-80.

The training had three main goals.

  1. Transforming teachers into designers of learning experiences
    Introduction to the learning cycle and questioning techniques to generate meaningful discussion
  2. Creating inclusive classrooms, with special attention to gender responsive pedagogy
    Teachers examined practices in the school, classroom and community the limited girls’ participation in society and learning. They were also introduced to Carol Dweck’s theory of mindset. We also provided examples of female scientists from sub-Saharan Africa to break the gender myth and to inspire.
  3. Empowering teachers to facilitate and create practical activities in science (and other subjects)
    By introducing a sequence of simple tools and hands-on activities in a variety of topics, and sharing and brainstorming what can be effectively used as substitutes for more traditional equipment, teachers develop mental and manual facility with practical learning, and begin to see their surroundings as sources of materials.

Our focus for this project was implementation and dissemination of existing resources. We heavily relied on the amazing handbooks created by Shika na Mikono that addresses science teaching in resource-poor contexts, the NPASS professional development materials for after school science facilitators, the materials developed by SeedKit at Wellesley College, the FAWE handbook on gender responsive pedagogy.

Check back as we develop additional posts with more details on how we addressed each of the goals of the training. Here’s one for the SeedKit.

45 teachers from 11 schools in 4 towns.

Partnering with CPASGhana, and College for Ama, we trained 22 new teachers from Nsawam and Berekuso, in addition to our teachers in Pokuase and Accra.

3 days, 756 hours of discussion and experiential learning.

Discussion: Using evidence (provided by the photos)

15 hands-on STEM activities.

Teachers had time to explore, investigate and experience activities in topics ranging from electricity, magnetism, chemistry and close looking.

Vinegar and eggshells = ...

180 personal and school goals created

Each teacher created 4 goals for the school year. This included specific and general pledges to incorporate practical lessons, identify local resources, request teaching blocks for science, establish after school girls science clubs, and becoming advocates for girls’ education in their schools and classrooms.

See more photos of the training here.

Photo Gallery: Year-End Celebration of Girls in Science

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Excitement, curiosity, confidence from the girls, and encouragement from the adults to stay in school and do great things filled the air with promise at the Durbar, a ceremony and celebration to shine a light on girls’ participation in Science and Technology. The event was reported in Ghana NewsModern Ghana, myjoyonline, and on UTV. Wow!

The African Women Advocacy Project feels extremely fortunate to be welcomed by a community in which girls are encouraged to participate fully and excel in learning, especially in science , technology and engineering; where they are motivated to pursue their dreams, to go far.

This community includes parents, teachers, district directors, the municipal assembly, and the Queen Mother of Pokuase, whose granddaughter is in the science exploratory clubs. It also includes women in science, from our Chairwoman Professor Mrs. Esi Awuah, an accomplished environmental engineer and Vice Chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources, and Reverend Joana Koateng,a biochemist and the science coordinator for the Ghana Education Service,  as well as college women like Ms. Keziah George from the Creativity Group at the University of Ghana.

Enjoy these photos and click on the links above to learn more about the day’s events. Many thanks again to Country Manager Petrine Addae who orchestrated this exciting day!

Nurturing Teachers (the semi-irreverent version)

A brief musing from board member and lead trainer Dr. Connie Chow.

It was Monday morning at 9 am in early August. School had only ended the Thursday before. The next day (Friday), we dragged invited our teachers from the 6 schools in Pokuase to bring their 130+ students to the St. Sylvanus Roman Catholic School for a 3-hour dress rehearsal – from demonstrations to dances to drama to a debate to guest introductions.

Durbar rehearsal

The Durbar, celebrating girls in science, would last till 4 pm that Monday, because, well, speeches by important people from the high table. (No, not ALL of them spoke).

Durbar high table guests

But before all that, before the teachers felt re-energized by the affirmations and excitement of the Durbar, they “wished to speak with me privately”.

They pulled me aside, and asked about the 3-day training we had planned.

“It starts tomorrow? How many days again? Does it really start at 9 am? What time does it end?”

“9 am to 5 pm”, I said. “We’ll feed you breakfast, lunch and snacks. And it will be fun”.

“Teachers from two other cities will join us,” hoping to inspire good behavior. But no.

“But some of us live very far. We haven’t had a break since school ended. The traffic will be very bad. We have to go home and cook dinner for our families. One of the new teachers is a friend of mine. She has to travel from Tema, almost two hours each way.”

Yes. Of course I had been self-centered, trying to pack as much in as possible since I have a limited time in Ghana.  I had so much to share. But I forgot that these hardworking teachers had to take care of themselves. That I need to model empathy and build a caring community and an empowering learning environment.

So I listened and adapted. We did start at 9 (with a group arriving at 8:30 each day), shortened lunch, took out 1-2 small modules. The first two days ended at 4pm, and the last day at 3pm.

2015 July Teacher Training - Registration

With board member Sheri Moore’s infectious joyfulness, the teachers started and ended each day with song.

We still covered a lot of ground. Everyone was engaged. There were lots of smiles.

So what did they say at the end?

“We should have accommodations next time so we can have more time for training”.

“This training should be longer”.

“The training should be held every term (3 months)”.

Noted. And I call that a win-win.

2015 July training-final day