For the past two summers, Wellesley College students who are members of the StemKit team, a science education project under the mentorship of Wendy W. Robeson, Ed.D., WCW senior research scientist, have received grants from the College’s Career Education Center to teach science protocols and perform research abroad. Isabella Narvaez (Class of 2017) traveled to Ghana in the summer of 2017 to work with junior high schools in the Greater Accra Region, in partnership with The Exploratory, a non-governmental organization that empowers educators and inspires Ghanaian students to be curious, courageous, and community-minded, by making their experience of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics relevant, collaborative, and equitable.
Narvaez’s work shed more insight into previous work that is helping identify ways to further develop StemKit. She surveyed three classrooms on attitudes towards science and assessed the effectiveness of the StemKit protocols in teaching biology, chemistry, and physics concepts. Additionally, Narvaez worked with The Exploratory Science Clubs performing dynamic activities with small groups of girls. She also received crucial feedback from teachers who reported struggling to teach large classrooms with few resources and limited time.
Other significant feedback Narvaez received came from her direct interactions with students. She quickly realized that the key to improving StemKit protocols and teaching strategies was to listen and observe. Students couldn’t always express what they needed or lacked in their science education, a factor magnified by language barriers.
As example, during one observation, a group of girls unsuccessfully tried to assemble a circuit using an electronics science set.
Narvaez sat with the students and asked them to teach her everything they knew about the subject. As she documented everything they relayed to her, she identified the gaps in their understanding based on the way they described the concepts. Narvaez was then able to encourage them to perform a short experiment that clarified and illuminated the concepts. As this project expands, the StemKit team will continue to incorporate feedback from all stakeholders to make science more sustainable, equitable, and enjoyable.
Robeson, Narvaez, and other members of the team—Mehba Gebre (Class of 2018) and Maheck Sarang (Class of 2018)—presented "Science SeedKit: Bringing Science Education to Ghana," a WCW lunchtime seminar, in October 2017 (NOTE: StemKit was previously known as SeedKit). The program is available for viewing on the WCW website: wcwonline.org/video.