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Update on Discovering the Science of the Environment in Kenya

-Collaborative blog by Jenna Gatzke & Amber Rollings

For the past year, CEES’ educational outreach team has been working with a total of six schools in both Indianapolis and Eldoret, Kenya (funding appreciably provided by Dow AgroSciences).

Read more on this programming and the six specific schools and their partnering here

One of the overarching goals in partnering with Kenya was how to connect science clubs here in Indianapolis to science clubs in Kenya.  The international connection would facilitate answers to questions like how to get a cultural perspective exchange as well as a scientific language exchange.  Students speak one time a week via Skype sessions which last 10 – 15 minutes and are student-led as much as possible. 

Though the US schools are on their summer break, we still have seen some really great interactions and had some meaningful conversations.

Students and teachers at Paramount and Borderfarm have had several great connections – especially with the new iPad speakers at Paramount.  Students from Paramount helped share the structure of the STEAM program and how they maintain the school farm during the summer.  Borderfarm students were shown the new chickens, some of the crops that are being grown and even the goat shed for making cheese!  The students also shared differences in weather between Kenya and the US as well as traditions – like drinking tea with milk.

Students at Central Primary also helped to share pictures they have been taking on their school grounds with the Joyce Kilmer students.  We have been working on solving the sound issues on their iPads as well.  There were several good conversations on water quality, pond ecology, and the impacts of dissolved oxygen.  One conversation that stood out was the Joyce Kilmer students showing the Central Primary students their pond and some of the ways they maintain it to keep good water quality.

With our Indianapolis school SENSE being on break, Dr. Plankis has been meeting with the science teacher from Kandie, Anthony Njuguna, and his students through Skype.  Dr. Plankis has been leading the students through discussions on invasive species, forest ecology, and looking at an example of a plant (poison ivy) that causes a physiological reaction in humans.  He showed students the rash on his arm.  Students from Kandie also shared that there are plants in Kenya that can make your skin feel like it is on fire and cause a rash. 

This coming Fall, the third stage of the international project will take-off, which is Project Based Learning.  Now that the students have researched their schoolyard - how can the students improve their schoolyard?  These projects can encompass ways to improve the environment which would also help to benefit students, families, and their communities.  For example, the schools could implement farming experiments where part of their school garden is grown with and without fertilizer or plant trees and other ground cover plants to better understand erosion control. 

The students will prepare a proposal for these projects.  Over the term, the students will report back on their projects and their results to one another.  The main goal for these projects is to improve the sustainability of the school and the surrounding community and to better equip the students for their future.

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