It keeps on top of the latest teaching techniques and disseminates what it learns to other schools – a perfect partner for Lightyear. However it is also a school situated in a deprived area to the East of Accra, which brings its own set of challenges.
Adam re-counts his team’s visit:
The very charismatic head teacher, Mr Kofi, runs the school. Partway through introducing us to the students and teachers during assembly, he switched to speaking the local language…
How strange we thought. Was this for our benefit? … Why would he keep secret what was being said? Unfortunately for Mr Kofi the language of a teacher telling students that they had better behave was universal. (I have been on the receiving end many times during my own time at school.)
You could also tell from the students’ reaction that they held him in very high regard. They giggled at his exaggerated posturing but obviously took his message on board. Assembly finished and we headed to our first class followed by marching students and a wonderful drumming band.
We were to spend two days at Immaculate Heart, which gave us time to show our full repertoire of activities to the Junior High school students (aged 11-14 years old).
As part of the school’s ethos of sharing expertise with other schools, Mr Kofi had invited a selection of specialist science teachers and local officials to observe our classes – no pressure!
It was a great opportunity to affect a wider impact with our work and the feedback we received from our invited guests was very positive. There was a sense of excitement during the classes and you could tell from the discussions afterwards that they were very engaged in the concept. The amount of cameras that came out during our bridge building class was mind-blowing.
At the end of day one we met with Immaculate Heart’s primary school teachers to discuss what issues they were having and if we could be of help. They set us the task of finding demonstrations to help teach the topic of measurement – a part of the syllabus they found particularly difficult to teach.
Always up for a challenge, we set about scouring a recently acquired copy of the Ghanaian syllabus to see how we could provide support…
The topic of measurement covered density, which meant we could improvise using a demonstration called the Cartesian Diver. This is where you float an object – your diver – in a sealed plastic bottle. If the “diver” contains some trapped air, and is of the correct weight, then the diver will sink when you squeeze the bottle and float again when you relax the bottle. It is tricky to get the ratios just right but it is a fun demo to do and has loads of interesting science behind it.
The next morning we went on a trip around the local area to see what materials we could find for our “diver” demonstration. The school was seen as a crucial element to improving the local area and the esteem with which the residents held it was made immediately clear to us. The residents were welcoming in typical Ghanaian fashion but as soon as they heard we were involved with the school, they were overjoyed.
“If you have any problems around here, you tell them you’re with Patricia and they’ll have me to deal with!” exclaimed one elder lady.”
Our shopping trip even turned into a science busking outing once we explained to a few people what we were doing and showed them our newly formed physics trick.
We eventually found some sweets with the right weight-to-trapped-air ratio to work as our “diver” and we returned to the school to show the teachers. The primary teachers were happy with our invention, but the real test will be whether they use it in future lessons (visit our Facebook page for teachers posting photos of their school science demonstrations).
It is often said that humans aren’t great at dealing with change, but that is certainly not true of the Ghanaian teachers we met. They loved the local materials approach and we look forward to working with more of them in the future.
Immaculate Heart was a delightful school to work with: the students were engaging; the staff were excellent; it sits at the centre of a network of schools which maximises our impact; and, it has passionate leadership in the form of Mr Kofi and Mr Kena. Big thanks also to Emilia for hosting us!”
This school was visited by the intrepid A-Team: Laura, the leader of the gang; Lieven, a neuroscientist marathon machine; and, Adam, a quantum physicist and ever so proud geek.