#BlogCamp14

Monday, 24 November 2014

Making Science Education More Practical in Ghana, The PEN-GAST Experience

Brainstorming session ongoing at a recent science workshop in Accra
Science is commonly viewed as a process of obtaining knowledge through experimentation and observation. This means that scientific knowledge is generated through extensive interaction of learners with the physical and natural world. It appears that the role of the teacher, therefore, is to provide students with the requisite tools to embark on this journey of discovery, filled with adventure, curiosity and wonder. Once interest is stimulated and maintained, the rest is history.
Yet in Ghana, especially at the basic school level, lack of basic laboratory materials and equipment interfere with the ideal of teaching science using a hands-on approach. Without proper practicals or demos, students find it more challenging to understand topics taught in class. This may partly be responsible for the general poor performance of basic school pupils in their end-of-studies examinations.

Thankfully, the above situation may soon be in the past as the educational paradigm shifts towards more engaging instructional approaches. One such proposition is low-cost science practicals, designed and run using very cheap readily available resources. A recent workshop jointly organised by the Greater Accra branch of the Ghana Association of Science Teachers (GAST) and Practical Education Network (PEN) introduced district science coordinators and some selected basic school science teachers to some of these activities.

Indicator being extracted from some flowers

The workshop was facilitated by Heather Beem of PEN and MIT D-Lab, while Saddik Mohammed and colleagues from GAST coordinated the logistics. Thomas Tagoe, Habib Sumaila, and myself played various supporting roles over the three days. The workshop covered basic science activities for selected topics in the Junior High School (JHS) curriculum. Apart from performing pre-set experiments, Heather introduced a framework useful for designing new science activities, and solving problems in general. This was well-received and tested by the educators. Feedback from the participants, the facilitator, and the organisers was positive. The science coordinators promised to transfer their experiences to the teachers in their districts through follow-up workshops. The workshop blog and GH Scientific covered details of what transpired.

Heather explaining the design cycle

All in all, being part of the PEN-GAST workshop was a useful experience as I learnt some cool science tricks I would be likely to try out some time. More importantly, I connected with many people influencing science education at the basic level in Ghana, namely science coordinators and teachers. We discussed how some of their own projects fit into initiatives such as Global Lab Ghana, Ghana Educators Network and GH Scientific. There are many opportunities for further collaborations! Finally, I shared some online tools, communities and resources that could be useful for their future learning and work.

Learning science should not only involve memorisation and reasoning, but also performing activities and developing skills. The PEN-GAST workshop demonstrated that cost cannot always inhibit science in action. Teachers can take advantage common low-cost materials to give school science a new twist. This will go a long way to contribute to raising competent innovators and problem solvers of the future.

What are your personal experiences learning science? In what ways can teachers make studying science more fun and engaging? Views welcome!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Celebrating the Heroes of Youth Entrepreneurship at BarCamp Kumasi 2014 #bcksi

If you're around Kumasi this weekend, please join GhanaThink and its partners for the fifth BarCamp Kumasi at KNUST. Find more details and info on how to register on the poster below.

BarCamp Kumasi 2014 is the 38th barcamp to be held in Ghana #bcksi
Want to know more? Read this blog post by MIghTy African

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

BarCamp Ho and the Quest for Scientific and Entrepreneurial Thinking in Ghana #bcho

Mentoring session ongoing at BarCamp Ho 2014
Last Saturday, 25th October, I joined other change makers at the University of Health and Allied Sciences for the fourth BarCamp Ho. This was my first barcamp in over a year, so I was really excited to have been part of the event. Here are Storify highlights of what transpired. 


After an initial hesitation, I accepted to 'mentor' some attendees (many of them university or senior high school students) on "education and research", drawing on experiences in science education and postgraduate studies. Upon reflection, since many of the attendees asked the same questions, perhaps, a breakout session on the topic would have been more appropriate. Also, it would have been nice to pick everyone's brain on what can be done to improve the quality of research in Ghana, and to increase its role in policy making. This is very important since science provides tools to fix our day-to-day challenges. A more robust research regime in West African would see regional challenges such as ebola, small arms, and energy shortage, handled with greater efficiency than is currently done.

The above submission ties in well with the overall theme of this year's BarCamp Ho: "re-educating ourselves for the new entrepreneurial world", although not immediately apparent. Most of the day's discussions centred on creating business ventures and new instructional/coaching models to raise entrepreneurial champions. While these propositions are rightly in place, it is equally important to extend our conception of entrepreneurial thought to disrupting education and advancing scientific research. Innovation on these frontiers do not only require increased scientific knowledge but also technical aptitude to analyse society's problems and to design and implement solutions to tackle them. Clearly, there is an urgent need to liaise with government, businesses, and the larger society to adopt research as a critical tool for development. The achievement of this feat requires entrepreneurial acumen on a scale similar to what pertains in the business context. Our long-term challenge, therefore, is to create educational opportunities that would enhance the inculcation of critical skills among learners at various educational levels. In the short-term, government must invest more in science education and research. The current situation where less than 0.5% of GDP is allocated to science and technology in Ghana is not only shocking but shameful.
Re-educating ourselves for the new entrepreneurial world requires raising leaders in politics, business and communication, to create revenue-generating projects and to position our country in a favourable light in the global milieu. Just as important is the task to increase the quality of science education and the level of scientific thinking in the general population. We need to build the right environment for scientific research that would lead to inventions and innovations. Also, we need to encourage a maker culture through collaborations between our universities, research institutes and informal makers. I am sure someone said this at the barcamp: "what are we going to market when we do not produce much?"

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Discussing Entrepreneurial Education and Remembering Eli Aidam at BarCamp Ho 2014

I've not written any posts on this blog or elsewhere online in a while because I was busy with the dissertation phase of my masters degree. I learnt a lot over the past year, especially from working on my final project. I am thankful for successfully completing the course.    

BarCamp Ho 2014 is upon us; this is Volta region's fourth barcamp since the first event in 2011. Find details about this year's event in the flyer below. 


We're dedicating this year's barcamp to the memory of Eli Aidam, our colleague from GhanaThink who tragically passed on earlier this year. 

Eli Aidam: Youth leader- GhanaThink, CCY, etc [Credit: Elvis Bomassah]
Eli, Eric Nii Tackie Tawiah, Bless Nkegbe and myself held the initial meeting at the Ghana Tourist Board Office [Eric's workplace] in October 2011, to plan the first BarCamp Ho. Back then, I quietly admired Eli's pragmatism, resourcefulness, and extensive networking skills. Eli then moved on to become the 'engine' of the Ho barcamps in later years. He was  a true connector, and this came to bear in his work with Centre for Creative Youth, a youth-led initiative focused on nurturing the creative talent of the youth for social change. When Ghana Decides was looking for partners for youth engagement, and later social media training, towards the 2012 elections, Eli was instrumental in bringing CCY on board. We remember Eli for his dreams, hard work, and selflessness, But, perhaps more importantly, we would remember him for being our friend.

So join us at the University of Health and Allied Sciences this Saturday 25th October to map out creative ways of personal development to aid youth to function in an increasingly entrepreneurial world, while we remember a dear colleague who exemplified that philosophy. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Exploring Youthful Innovations to Transform Agriculture in Africa via #AfricaDayAgric Chat

The African Union (AU) observes its founding date, 25th May, as "Africa Day" every year. This is a national holiday in many African countries set aside to reflect on how far we have come in pursuit of continental unity and various aspects of life. Earlier, the AU declared 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, and the diaspora team of GhanaThink Foundation saw this as the perfect opportunity to engage youth on their role in transforming the agricultural sector.

Yesterday a Google + hangout discussion hosted by the team explored the challenges, innovations and opportunities in the African agricultural sector. The event, hosted by Jemila Abdulai and Kirstie Kwarteng featured youth panellists drawn from research, business, ICT and other contexts within the agricultural space. Joining the discussion were David Aduama, Alloysius Attah, Acheampong Atta Boateng, Edison Gbenga, Dr Joy Odimegwu, Sidney Rockson and Worlali Senyo. Their rich insights were shared with viewers in various parts of the world through the Diaspora Camp YouTube channel. You can follow what was discussed through the video below:


Inputs were made into conversation by the wider online community via the #AfricaDayAgric hashtag on Twitter and other social media platforms. The moderators masterfully increased interactivity by highlighting core points made and questions asked by the Twitter audience. A summary of the Twitter conversation is also available through the GhanaThink Storify account, thanks to Ato Ulzen-Appiah.

I left the discussion thinking of: (i) the role of education in giving youth skills and making agriculture attractive and (ii) strategies needed to withstand the negative effects of climate change on agriculture. If you have any thoughts on these, kindly drop a comment and let's discuss.

The #AfricaDayAgric chat is part of the new DiasporaCamp Online series, and hopefully we would have conversations on other topics of importance to African youth, home and abroad. What topics do you think need to be explored?