‘STEAM’ing Ahead Through Project-Based Learning in Uganda

By Usha Rajdev

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Dr. Rajdev is a counselor for Marymount University’s, Alpha Beta Delta Chapter, of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society, and leads the STEM initiative in KDP’s International Committee. She’s a faculty advisor for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Student Chapter and also for Marymount University’s Global STEM Certificate.

With this need to prepare our youth for future challenges in mind, in November 2018, in Indianapolis, I presented a ‘STEAMing Scientists’ workshop (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) about my upcoming STEM teaching approach. The following year, I would model this approach for the KDP Esooka chapter in Uganda. After my Indianapolis presentation, several audience members asked to meet with me. They expressed their interest in this upcoming STEM hands-on teaching approach. In 2019, I embarked on a journey to provide STEM education to teachers and institutions of the Esooka KDP Chapter. This STEM education was part of the KDP STEM Initiative. Over the course of two weeks I met with faculty members from one university and administrators and teachers from four local high schools to develop STEM programs. Under my guidance, The Mosquito! Module (https://ssec.si.edu/mosquito) was implemented at the five institutions. Teachers from each institution engaged in training using local resources to later implement this project with their students.

The Mosquito! Module framework focused on sustainable actions that students defined and implemented to reduce mosquito infestations in and around schools. The content of the module included cleaning wells, removal of stagnant water, learning the life cycle of mosquitoes and the spread of diseases, and the importance and urgency of engineering and designing mosquito traps. The Ugandian students continued to work and strengthen their projects and traps throughout 2019. They were actively engaged in informing their surrounding community about the mosquito problems and offering realistic and sustainable solutions. The students also communicated with the school nurse to document the decline in cases of malaria in their schools. They were looking forward to sharing their data and projects at the next International KDP/STEM Convo in 2020. However, due to COVID-19 canceling the 2020 Convocation, this KDP presentation will take place at a later date.

Uganda’s KDP/STEM story does not end here with the Mosquito! Module. The Ugandan teachers will continue to work on this module over the coming years and will present their projects at some point when routine life begins. They plan to mentor and expand this Mosquito! Module with other schools and will begin their work on the Smithsonian Science Education Center’s COVID19! Module with me. The effects of the contagion will be compared with that of the mosquito diseases within their local communities.

Teachers and students met monthly online with me to update their progress and receive support on how to best continue and overcome any challenges. In October 2019, members of the Esooka Chapter met with the Smithsonian Science Education Center to discuss progress of the Module. Some schools had an abundance of stagnant water, while others dealt with marsh areas. The teachers and I also discussed ideas for the future of the program including an International KDP/STEM Conference that is planned for Kampala, in Uganda, when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. A Ugandan teacher who worked with our STEM program entered his student in a STEM competition. Of the 1,200 students involved in the project, the student’s presentation, demonstrating his passion for sustainability, was one of the winning projects. (https://bit.ly/2BSa2Qm). All five institutions are working on the criteria for a ‘STEM School Certificate’ through Marymount University’s Global STEM Chapter.

As described by the Esooka Chapter Counselor, Joyce, Nansubuga, this experience through KDP’s STEM Initiative helped in… “making teaching and learning more practical through the PBL approach, being an innovative teacher and a lifelong learner, and embracing STEAM in preparations of our lessons and in teaching.”

The journey continues. (https://bit.ly/2NHoJs7).

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