THIRTY-NINE days until we start teaching in Mauritius.
What seemed like far-off summer plans have become tantalizingly close. It makes me realize that I really need to kick-start into gear, and make sure everything is ready to go.
It amazes me to think back on what brought me to this point. A year ago I never would have guessed that I would be planning on spending eight weeks the most beautiful African island, teaching under-privileged kids hands-on science. I am so excited I can’t concentrate on anything else (you can check my browser history if you doubt me).
My project started as a mash-up of sports and science – I wanted to combine my two passions into a fun project for the kids. As the planning progressed, however, I decided that, especially since Austin is already teaching basketball, that the kids would get the most out of a more intense science curriculum. While researching, I realized that the school system in Mauritius is based mostly off of classroom and chalkboard teaching, concentrating on rote memorization for the standardized test. In governmental research studies, only 30% of the children continue to study science after grade eight, and only a small fraction of that are girls.
No wonder the Mauritian youth don’t like science – they learn it out of a textbook. They struggle so much with the English they barely get to appreciate the scientific concepts underneath. I know that my love for science wasn’t born out of some book. I grew to love science because I was able to get my hands dirty, to physically experience and explore how the world works. I was a chronic science camp nerd, spending at least two weeks of every summer since sixth grade at some university, dissecting cats and fetal pigs, constructing bridges of popsicle sticks, building mousetrap cars, building laser keyboards, you name it.
It physically pains me to think that these kids will never get these experiences. So, I thought I would take matters into my own hands. My summer curricula is composed completely of experiments, in order to learn by doing. To name just a few, we plan on building rockets, volcano contests, flame tests (with a portable bunsen burner, my personal favorite), an egg drop competition, coffee-filter chromatography, and potato circuits. I can’t wait to don a lab coat and goggles and go all-crazy mad scientist Ms. Adams on them.
Last but not least, the gorgeous island of Mauritius has never had a science fair. So, after the extensive teaching I will provide on the scientific method, keeping a lab notebook, and fostering an investigative attitude towards the world around them, I plan on having the kids compete in their first ever science fair. I still haven’t decided on the prize, but it’s going to be great.
A final thought – I really need to start learning French. Somehow I don’t think Italian is really going to communicate how acids and bases react to Creole-speaking kids.