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Science on Wheel (SOW) Project

Introduction

For 25 years war reigned through Uganda and the most devastating has been the armed conflict between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda. As a result, during the last two decades, there was a complete breakdown in public and social services, such as education, health, agriculture, security, transport, and communication. Two million lives were lots, and over 10,000 children are now missing. In addition, more than 60% of schools were lost, and those that remained became extremely overpopulated.

Because of the war, most rural secondary schools in Uganda have grossly inadequate facilities, and more specifically, science laboratories. The students often learn science without performing or even observing a single experiment.  As Uganda continues to rebuild its nation, the promotion of science and technology is paramount in the country’s efforts to compete on an international scale so that more students will attend higher education institutions and succeed. As a result, NEBSTAR based in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Nebbi, Uganda, has embarked on an ambitious task of taking science laboratory to the door step of rural students through a Mobile Science laboratory and experiential learning program. This will extend the promotion of science and technology education, but it will also help the students studying in both government and private schools and in the rural areas to get exposed to the subjects.

Through the Science on Wheel (SOW) project, NEBSTAR shall give the students in rural secondary schools a chance to learn science by performing experiments through hands-on education. In effect, the students will experience not only “learning by doing” but more comprehensive understanding of the importance of science and technology for the development of their nation.

Goal

The main goal is to provide the students with hands –on experience.  It is through such an attempt that we hope to “SOW” a seed of scientific knowledge and nurture a scientific attitude among the school students. We believe in the power of sowing a seed.  The power of the seed is that “you can count the seeds in an orange but you can not count the oranges in a seed”. We believe that sowing the seed of science and technology in these children shall create unlimited possibilities.

Since NEBSTAR’s main goal is to bridge connections between nations and cultures through parallel programs, the Science on Wheels Project will also be established in Kalamazoo through similar measures. Rather than targeting secondary schools, the project will target younger children, ages 6-10 at day care and after school programs and with home schooled children, with the help of local neighborhood associations. For a fee of around five dollars, students will engage in experiential learning of science and technology, while also generating funds for the continuation of the project with NEBSTAR. In addition, NEBSTAR will conduct scientific demonstrations for young children at various family oriented events in Kalamazoo like at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and the Kalamazoo Public Library. As Kalamazoo strives to excel in education in Michigan’s struggling economy, the SOW Project will generate stronger scientific leaders, and inspire science exploration at a young, exploratory age.

NEBSTAR staff and volunteers shall work together with the local science teachers and science education experts and interact with about 30-50 students on a given day. The students shall watch and perform 2-3 hrs of Labs sessions for each of the science subjects (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and Mathematics per day. Supplemental information shall be provided through audio-visual aids, virtual models, simulations lecture/demonstrations, power point and classroom discussions. Because of safety restrictions, NEBSTAR will establish a location for the schools to visit.

Both government and private secondary schools shall be selected based on their need, size, and location. The SOW project, in consultation with the school authorities, will schedule one or two trips per semester for the selected schools to visit the location in Nebbi, Uganda and Kalamazoo, MI. The experiments shall be based on the national science curriculum in collaboration with the participating teachers who shall determine which experiment suits the needs of their students.  The grade level shall include Secondary one through six   (9th -12th grade). Three teacher workshops shall be held on a yearly basis during the semester holidays to generate ideas and education plans.

Mobile Lab Program

30-50 children per session
1 to 2 hours per session
For Uganda: 1 to 2 schools per day depending on the distances between them, 3-5 days/week

For Kalamazoo: 1 to 2 events/schools per month
10-20  or more experiments per session, depending on the needs of each schools
3 Teacher Training workshops and Peer Instructors seminars per year

Mobile laboratory Design

The mobile science laboratory is a specially designed track or bus or container mounted on a vehicle equipped with several devices and tools to conduct various experiments in Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology subjects. The mobile laboratory shall be designed to withstand the rough rural roads in Uganda. The majority of the apparatus and tools shall be locally designed by the teachers with low-cost and no-cost locally available materials.

During the visit to each school or event, science educators and resources persons, shall accompany the vehicle, and would conduct experiments and explain the key concepts and principles in each subject to the students into groups according to classes.

Benefits of the program

  • Hands-on and interactive experiential learning
  • Children and teachers exposed to new ideas, technologies and methodologies
  • Linked to school syllabus so enriches curriculum
  • Provides multiple interactions with volunteers and other community members
  • Cost effective, scalable and replicable
  • Provides opportunities for science fairs and community-wide events

Expected Outcome

  • Improved quality in the teaching and leaning of science subjects by inquiry
  • Improved performance in science subjects at  the national examination in Uganda (a requirement for acceptance to higher education)
  • Positive change in attitude of students towards learning science subjects
  • Increased enrollment in science based courses at higher institution of learning

Conclusion

Through NEBSTAR’s mobile science lab in rural Uganda and Kalamazoo, MI, the organization believes that children will be inspired and motivated to learn science and technology in a more comprehensive and interactive way. Because of Uganda’s need for internal development and Kalamazoo’s need to enhance science education, we believe the Science on Wheel project will generate a pool of locally grown scientists  such as  doctors, engineers, and teachers that will  bring about economic development and critical thinking, while also eradicating poverty and  diseases in the countries and beyond.


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