Friday, August 31, 2007
The Cosmos Education kenya did an awesome thing to involve the new volunteers and teachers to participate at the HSLC it was a positive contribution to the organisation in a way that this people were able to bring new ideas and skills to the organisation more especially during the trainings were i observed a huge flow of ideas and creativity from both the volunteers and the teachers and such great minds are essential for the organizations knowledge base and quality programming. Though the volunteers and teachers expressed that the three days was not enough for the training.
Secondly, i feel that the MCEDO Beijing was a good school to work with and that the pupils were very coorporative looking at the social background from what we knew it was totally different when it came to real life experience in the classrooms.
The pupils really participated well in all the activities though a number of girls had difficulties in opening up in most of the instances, maybe its something to do with culture backgrounds were you see boys are more superior in all aspects of life.
There was also a wide base of knowledge from some of the kids and i observed that when i was presenting a module on the Green house gases. it came a stage were we looked at a number of solutions and from that, some pupils questioned the issue of carbon pricing that its not a good thing to go with in terms of reducing the carbon emissions for it can lead people losing there jobs and hising the prices of commodities.
Having this camp in Zambia it will be a great achievement for the Cosmos team and that we will work with the Zambia open community schools which has been one of our long understanding partner in Zambia. we really worked together the time we had the Lusaka school Campaign project. we shall try to do our best and come up with an effective science camp, from the exeperience we got from the Kenayn side was an eye opener for us to improve on some failures. we can do it in Zambia as well with the support of all the Cosmos branches.
Our suggestion is to have it by mid December and its possible to be done.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
About the Volunteers, I like the energy they portrayed as if they have already participated in similar activities. They were just out for the project and that encouraged me to move at the same pace with them and just the association and interaction they had exhibited was beyond tribe, religion, custom, education and race background. I think they just showcased the image of COSMOS EDUCATION.
I think with such projects being implemented, I see the future and achievements that Cosmos Education Kenya and Cosmos Education as a whole is getting at. I want to give my credit to the team behind the organizing of the project; I can’t go by name for they all did one or two things to make this activity a success. THUMB UP!
About the students, I never expected the spirit they had towards learning. Despite different grades from almost different schools, I found all the students to eager to learn more about science and the role that science plays in their daily lives. Each grade had a very bright student and very challenging for they asked questions I was expecting coming from a primary student and of such a poor supported community with a disadvantaged learning aid. If only the government looked into the pride of this future generation, a lot will be achieved out this small community.
I wish next time something of similar activity will be organized, we should consider introducing small awards to the most outstanding students in all the grades in the coming future to motivate them and also to encourage the others to work extra hard with spirit to be award next time.
I strongly believe something similar can happen in Zambia. I am of the idea that the same project be extended to the Zambian Branch hopefully in the late weeks of December this year for that will he a Holiday period for the students. I am confident we will have it and with the experience that I have gained during this Holiday Science Learning Camp (HSLC), we will definitely organize it to the expectations.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The opening session which normally consists of songs, stories and prayers marked the start of the days’ activities. This was lead by Peter Kanja (the President CE Kenya)who joined the group for the first day due to some official commitments. He was formally introduced to the group by Bridgit. He led the students to sing several songs before narrating an interesting story about a king, chameleon and a hare. The moral of the story was that students should use all their efforts in critical thinking in their studies especially now that they are in the middle and upper primary school. He also lead the students to demonstrate how one should “Think Big & Wide”.
After this session, the students went into their classrooms and the first session begun, the theme of the day was ‘The Environment’. The students were introduced to the three ‘R’ acronym. This simply means:
1.Reduce; People should try as much as possible to reduce the waste materials in our households.
2.Re-use; Most of the materials used for domestic purposes are re-usable. It is not only wise to reuse things like plastic containers as mush as possible but also very economical.
3.Recycle; Materials like polythene bags, plastics, rubber, paper etc, can be recycled and made in to new usable products.
The planting of trees was not left behind since the desertification and the global warming has been experienced worldwide. This is an activity that was done in practically after the tea break and the second learning session. All the students, teachers and members of the school sarboninate staff gathered at the school farming demonstration plot where the plantig of trees was to take place. Kanja had arranged the purchase of tree seedlings of Gravillea Robusta (Silky Oak) from a nearby trees nursery. The holes were already prepared by the schools’ gardener. Each class from standard 4 to 8 had to choose representatives who had to plant a tree. The planting activity was lead by Kanja who started off by demonstrating to the students how to remove the seedling from the paper without tearing it or even making the foster soil to disintegrate. This method leads to “re-using” the same paper in planting another seedling in it.
The planting session kicked of with the students from all the represented levels, before the Zambian team planted theirs lead by Billy. The schools that took part in the camp also planted theirs with the teachers and the staff of MCEDO-Beijing leading the lot. The volunteers followed suit with the CE Kenya closing the chapter.
Soon after this, the students converged at the assembly point where they were issued with certificates of participation. This activity was lead by Bridgit assisted by Lizbeth and Kanja.
The headteacher of MCEDO later addressed the gathering where he thanked Cosmos for organizing the camp and requested for another camp in November. He noted that the students were highly interested to have another camp that they requested to be longer in time.
After the closing remarks, the CE team boarded the truck, which was waiting nearby and headed to the evergreen serene environment of the Nairobi Arboretum for a picnic lunch. The place was full of people from all walks of life who had come to experience the nice leafy environment. Lovers, youth groups, families, academics, nature lovers and researchers not forgetting several institutions all thronged the more than 100ha of untouched natural forest with over 4000 trees and plant species. The team finally spotted a good spot with a green soft grass with an inviting texture. This is the place where we had our mouth watering Nyama Choma (barbecued meat) and tens of delicacies accompanied by a soda of ones choice. After the lunch, an open discussion moment run the air as the team shared the experiences of the tiring week and the way forward. Kanja chaired the session, which lead to the issuing of the evaluation forms where the volunteers had to read and answer some questions in writing. Kanja emphasized to the members the importance of filling in the forms which he said will help in making a better planning of any future event of the whatever kind.
Then came the time to cut the huge dark brown iced cake with a CE HLSC script on the upper side. Isaac lead the group in cutting it not forgetting little Shiru who was representing the students. Carol & Justa lead the cheering squad in song and dance as the knife was driven all the way down the width of the tasty cake. ”Kila mtu alete sahani yake” (everyone bring a plate) Bridgit shouted as the team members put their plates ready for a share with heaps of the sweet anticipation showing very well on their faces! No more noises were made during the cake swallowing time…..jokes aside please!
The final part consisted the presentation of the certificate of Participation to the volunteers. This activity was lead by Bridgit assisted by Kanja. Evelyn and Angela were the days camera ladies. They captured all the moments with lots of ethuthiasism and ease…to the joy of the team.
The presentation marked the end of the days activities and the camp at large. Lucy lead the team with the closing prayers before thee group collected the refuse and disposed it safely in the designated collection bins and walked towards town, where everyone rushed to catch the his/her transport home. The CE Kenya executive went straight to the office where they held a meeting before leaving at 9pm.
Surely this is a camp to remember!!!
Memorable quotes of the day:
You people have changed my thinking style…..why didn’t you start coming to teach us while we were in standard 4? Kevin Odhiambo of MCEDO standard 7.
2.I now know just how easy it is to solve any given sum! Nancy student Old Mathare primary school
3.Ha! Next time you come, I will have made my own rocket with tins, Isaac standard 4 pupil MCEDO primary school.
Today was the fifth day of the HSLC. The day being a Friday, everyone was upbeat – I guess from the fact that it is an official day out for most Nairobians. However, the general feeling was that of reluctance – participants not wanting to accept the fact that the camp was coming to an end! No one was ready to let go!
Figure 1: "Science for me." an excited pupil during the opening session, courtesy of Carol and Dickson.
We left the office at exactly 9 am and by 20 past 9 we were all at the school where we found the pupils expectantly waiting for us. The pupils were once again ready for our inexhaustible hands on experiments on diverse science subjects.
Figure 2: Liz and Alice explaining the intricacies of Decryption and Encryption to class six pupils.
We were served with porridge – Kenyan Hospitality, and thereafter Beatrice presented the day to the Almighty before Carol and Dickson opened the day’s session with a variety of chants – to get the already psyched up pupils even more pumped up.
Figure 3:"This is how your scores will be
The pupils thereafter, broke into their respective groups and our volunteers got down into serious business, of course not forgetting our third most serious rule – HAVE FUN! The sessions were punctuated with topics like Pythagoras theorem, finding pi, calculating volume of cylinders, measuring the height of a tree, et cetera – a confirmation that it was a MATHEMATICS DAY. This however did not deter the pupils from having fun – COSMOS EDUCATION is known for making science a fun experience and that is exactly what happened.
Figure 4: "When I grow up I wanna be an Engineer." A class four pupil shares his dream!
After lunch, the Roots group from Mathare came to give a talk to the lower primary pupils. They spoke on different issues, but the bottom line was – “Stay in School, Avoid Drugs and Bad Company, Dream Big and Respect your Parents and your teachers.”
Figure 5: A Roots group member from Mathare takes class four pupils through the "I Pepeta" song
Meanwhile, our teachers were doing what they do best with the upper classes as the volunteers did a recap of the morning sessions and brainstormed on the best closing style for the final day of the camp – Saturday.
At the end of the forty five minutes, the Roots Group had done their thing – so did our teachers. Caitlin and Ben did the closing. It was such a fulfilling day and at the end of the day our tag line had been effected: Inspire, Engage, Empower. I could tell from the look on the pupils’ faces that they really had been inspired, engaged and empowered.
Figure 7: "Cosmos Education is......" Isaac explaining a few things about CE to the African Youth Congress Delegates who had paid MCEDO a visit.
SCIENCE FOR MCEDO… SCIENCE FOR ME…… SCIENCE FOR MATHARE…… That was the chant as we hoped into our waiting van and reluctantly left behind the MCEDONIANS!!!!!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Rocket launches, engineering challenges, and simple optics- today was physics theme day at the Holiday Science Learning Camp at MCEDO school. Under the burning sun (fickle weather this week), students learned about properties of matter, light, and heat, and tested their knowledge through fun experiments.
Working with certified teachers, students studied light, matter, work, heat, electricity, and sound.
Students use engineering concepts to retrieve an egg
In the sessions with young volunteers, students conducted a variety of experiments.
They guessed which objects would float or sink in water, learning about density and how to make hypotheses. Students investigated the phases of matter using various solids, liquids, and gases. Students then experimented with how light moves. We observed how light moves in a straight line. Using objects such as balloons, rulers, and salt, volunteers taught students about static electricity.
In the engineering challenges, students had to think hard about problem solving as they figured out how to retrieve an egg suspended from the ceiling using only a few obscure materials- without breaking the egg of course. Teams of six also had to work together to carry a cup of water suspended from a rubber band and six strings, and then to pour the water into a basin on the ground, touching only the ends of the strings. Students were creative in their plans, and were interested in the field of engineering.
We closed the day by singing what are now camp favorites: the banana song, MCEDO disco song, and Old Kireboto (not sure how you spell this Kenyan version of OldMcDonald) Had a Farm.
Comments from the student evaluations completed on Tuesday included: “I love science”, and “I want to learn more science.”
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Teachers taught about Kenyan and African geography, the tectonic plates and fault lines, people and population, and the solar system. Corresponding experiments carried out by our young volunteers included dropping a stone in water to simulate tremors in an earthquake, using balloons to show components of air, and making a compass.
The day was filled with songs, dances, and games to break up the class sessions. The kids had lots of energy from eating omena, small fish that are especially popular with people from Nyanza province in Kenya.
For those who may not know, Mathare is a slum in Nairobi estimated to be home to about half a million people. The sanitation conditions in Mathare are poor. Residents cannot afford metered water, so they get water illegally through tapping pipes. The water company shut off the water supply to Mathare today, which means the few toilets that serve thousands of people will not be working. Mater is available at about a fifteen-minute walk from the slum (students will be making this trip to collect water for use during the remainder of the camp).
Although Mathare is a tough place, the children who call it home are as smart and enthusiastic as any CEK has worked with. The people living in Mathare, especially the volunteer teachers who work in MCEDO, are dignified and gracious people. Our volunteers have shown immense compassion and inspiration working in the slum, which can be an emotionally and physically taxing experience. One volunteer told me today, “I am grateful for this experience, to know how my fellow Kenyans are living, and to just get to be with these kids here.”
Here are some notes from the meeting that I would like to share:
What is PFM?
PFM, also called Collaborative, Co-management, Joint management of forest resources refer to a situation where some, or all the stakeholders interested in a forest resource are involved in a substantive way in its management. This includes:
Management Arrangement; This is normally negotiated by the stakeholders and based on a set of rights that are recognized by the Government and widely (unanimously) accepted by the resource users.
Power; Equal powers among the stakeholders in sharing the resources sustainably in line with non-interference with the ecosystem.
Is PFM Important?
The PFM is important in many ways, which include;
I. Strengthening the civil society to demand and have powers in an effective forest management and benefits sharing.
II. It also enables the communities to ensure that natural forests, woodlands, wetlands, catchment areas etc, are utilized sustainably, and conserved with increased benefits lifting the living standards of the communities that depend on the forests products.
III. It provides a wide range of awareness and understanding, information dissemination, networking and collective responsibility in wise decisions making.
IV. It also promotes a Pro-poor approach that is more equitable in addressing the interests, while more advanced networks are established that will institutionalize this approach.
V. It’s an easy tool to have the capacity building using the bottom-up approach.
VI. For the ceremonial purposes, it provides a safe and sound venue for traditional cultural practices like boys circumcision, child naming ceremonies and traditional medicine men training.
There are several very Essential outputs (themes) that are addressed in PFM. They include:
1. Information: The communities need to be provided with the much needed information to make PFM properly performed and reap benefits.
2. Advocacy: The communities need to be enlightened on the land policy, forest policy, Forest Acts etc.
3. Organizational strengthening: This normally determines the proper governance and negotiation capacity.
4. Direct Technical Assistance: This helps in the hands-on activities carried on the ground during designated all-inclusive avenues like meetings.
5. Evaluation: This helps the community to do an evaluation and realize what have been achieved, and to also learn from the experiences. It also serves as a good avenue to have a stronger base and a healthy forum to chat the way forward.
PFM Case Study:
The Mukogondo Forest:
This is a dry land forest situated in the northern part of the Rift Valley in Kenya. It is a forest reserve with a total area of well over 30,000ha. It provides vital grazing pastures for the adjacent community that consists of pastoralists, mainly the Maasai community. The community members in this area have a traditional governance system that has ensured a sustainable use and a proper conservation system in place. The forest have been traditionally subdivided in four main parts which are further divided into smaller portions which enable the community to graze their livestock in paddocks resembling the ones used in ranches. Grazing is one of the most treasured benefit, others include, non-timber products, firewood, herbal medicine, bee keeping, community meeting venues, and other traditional purposes.
There are tens of water catchment areas there with some streams emanating from there, gradually becoming rivers and eventually flowing towards the adjacent lakes that include lakes Bongoria and Baringo. Indigenous trees like the Nandi Frame, Meru Oak and the Cordia Africana are the most common tree species there. The forest is also home to hundreds of herbivores with buffalo population being the largest. The Laser Kudu population is gradually increasing after years of illegal poaching in some resent years. Leopards and several other animals of the cat family are also found but normally tend to live/hide in the innermost part of the forest that is very dense.
The traditional system have worked very well over the years but there is need to introduce hybrid modern ways of forest sustainability where fast growing exotic trees need to be planted along the forest edges, this include Gravellier Robusta, Sydney Blue Gum, and Cypress just to mention a few. These trees will help in checking the fire wood imbalance since the pollarding method of harvesting is advisable. It will also increase the grazing area, hence preventing the livestock from entering deep in the forest, which will leave the inner ecosystem intact.
Birds & Environment:
The Sokoke Arabuko Forest;
This is a natural forest situated in the coastal province of Kenya. It is a haven of thousands of insect species not forgetting the hundreds of herbivores and the animals of the cat family. The community around this forest have reaped millions of Kenya Shillings trough the thriving tourism, butterfly farming, beekeeping not forgetting the building materials. There are more than 400 bird species recorded in this reserve with Sokoke Scops Owl having the largest population. The people living around the forest have over the years used the birds to foretell important natural occurrences through the way they feed, breed and behave. Some bird species can be used to determine an imminent dry spell or rainy season by virtue of their presence, absence or unusual behavior like breeding or building of ground nests. One of the most notable cases is during the 2005 Tsunami natural catastrophe that caused thousands of deaths in the Eastern countries, with the East Coastal African countries recording well over 100 deaths. Prior to the dooms day, the herders in Sokoke had watched the birds migrate in colonies from Arabuko to the Tsavo East National Park that is well over 200kms to the west, quite a distance away from the coastline! The community around the forest have over many years restrained themselves from encroaching the forest so as not to threaten the birds and the animals habitat and cause un-reversible trend.
Biodiversity & Ecosystem Sustainability:
The forests need to be sustained in order to cater for the needs of the communities adjacent to them and the public at large. Conditions should be put in place to ensure a smooth workable plan as far as the sustenance is concerned. Planting of more trees is a major boost. The cutting of trees should be drastically reduced, or else banned depending on the case at hand. Grazing should also be banned or controlled as it normally depletes the ground cover hence encouraging the rill and Garry erosion during rainy seasons. Non- timber products should be harvested under trident care and sustainable measures in accordance to avoid depletion. The rotting matter also should be left to increase the humus and add the quality of the soil, making it hold water for long periods.
Seasonal wetlands cover a larger area than permanent fresh water during the rainy season.
They play a vital role in the collection, storage, purification, and discharge of fresh water.
They serve as breeding and feeding grounds for fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and birds, including migratory waterfowl.
Seasonal wetlands provide people with water, food, building and weaving materials and ceremonial grounds.
They are especially important in arid and semi-arid areas, where there is little permanent fresh water.
Seasonal wetlands include:
Seasonal marshes, lakes and springs
Temporary pools in grassland, woodland and bush
Ephemeral rock pools, flooded rock slabs and seeps
Wetlands are highly productive ecosystems. In seasonal wetlands, plants and animals grow rapidly and in great abundance for a very short period. Microscopic plants and animals fill the water. They include phytoplankton such as algae and diatoms, and zooplankton, urchins, crustaceans, worms, insects and molluscs. These serve as food for mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
Several measures should be taken to conserve and protect the wetlands. This include:
1. Identification and Inventory.
2. During land demarcation, seasonal wetlands should be set aside. They serve the whole community for water collection, storage, purification and discharge; for dry season grazing; for collection of materials for ceremonial purposes.
3. Roads should be built around, not across, seasonal wetlands.
4. All seasonal wetlands should be protected since they are the reservoirs of biodiversity.
5. Trees and friendly vegetation should be planted around the wetlands.
Lots of thanks to Carol and Damian (CE Uk) for partly funding me to attend the conference. I am very grateful. Other regards go to the Executive board of CE Kenya, Dr. Bridgit Syombua, Dr. Evelyn Mwihia, Mr. Isaac Musyoka and Caitlin Sanford, for the support you accorded me.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
On this day, the experiments were Chemistry based. Students were very excited to see a balloon blown by a mixture of vinegar and baking powder. Others thought it was magic to see water rise in a glass jar after lighting a candle in a dish with water and covered with the jar. The teachers on the other hand, had an interesting time interacting with the students. After the first two sessions of experimenting and having fun, we had a photo session. The students were very eager to have their images frozen for the rest of eternity. The Cosmos group too did not shy off.
Unfortunately, lunch was late. We decided to have a third session as we waited for lunch but this did not deter the students. Their energy was unequalled and their thirst for knowledge insatiable. Amongst the fears of having lunch of omena and ugali, we waited patiently. Long before we knew it, it was time for lunch – githeri (much to others relief/peril).
This was then followed by another session of science experiments and classes interrupted occasionally with songs to keep the students attentive and interested. The students were asked to fill out an evaluation form listing what new thing they learnt that day; their favorite session of the day and what they would have liked to learn more about. Before we knew it, the day was done. The students were directed outside where we did our end-of-day ritual – the Science chant. The students were then dismissed.
Back at the staff room, the group sat down and discussed the day. We went through the evaluation forms and discussed the effect we had on the students. It was unanimous that the day went well and that we had a positive impact on the students. We left the school feeling very proud of ourselves and discussing possibilities of having the same HSLC program in another disadvantaged school. It was truly a sunny day, in every sense of the word.
Monday, August 20, 2007
At the school we were greated by about 100 or so young, bright and enthusiastic faces who were eager to hear what the guests had in store for them.
This was then followed by an introduction of our three simple Cosmos Education rules:-
- If we speak too quickly for you to follow, tell us to slow down (with a special hand signal).
- The key to all of science: You must ask questions!
- The key to learning: You must have fun!
After the introduction session the students were broken down into 10 groups, and each group chose an animal name. The theme of the day was biology. Modules included animals and feeding livestock, the cell and cell membrane activity, adaptation of animals and plants, the DNA activity, and Drugs and their effects all taught by student and recent graduate volunteers. Certified teaches taught human body, health, plants, animals and food and nutritition as the topics of the day. Beatrice Mumbi teaching the human body to class 4Each group had a total of four sessions: two with young volunteers doing modules, and the other two with the primary school teachers.
We finished with a review of the day and the students were asked which sessions they liked the most and what new thing they had learned. These are some of their responses:
- I enjoyed health education.
- I especially liked the session on farm animals as I learned new breeds of animals and animal adaptations.
- I was happy with the sessions today as I got to know the meeting of DNA.
- I liked the sessions on drugs and its effects.