Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Provincial Science Fair

It's been a while since my last post--since then I've spent a week in Nampula at a community library training conference, four days in Pemba visiting my friends Rayna and Kristina, a few days teaching in Zobue, and two weekends planning and realizing the Tete Province Science Fair in Tete City.

As provincial coordinator for science fair in Tete, I was responsible for making the Provincial Science Fair happen.  I worked with a few people from the Ministry of Science and Technology in order to make T-shirts, order food, reserve the space, and make sure the students from the outlying districts knew about the fair.  My counterparts were a huge help--I couldn't have done it without them.  Regardless, there was certain amount of stress in anticipation of my first provincial science fair.  Would we have enough food? Would the T-shirts be ready in time? Would I have enough money to reimburse people for travel to the fair? Would I get all the required forms filled out? Would the HIV testing organization show up?

I am happy to say that the fair went as well as I could have hoped for.  It was a Mozambican event so it started 2 hours late, but we had enough food and T-shirts for everyone and most importantly, enough certificates for all the participants.  Eighteen students from four districts participated in the fair by presenting their science projects to a panel of judges.  More students from other districts would have shown up, but many teachers are already busy helping campaign for the October election and thus unable to accompany their students to the fair.

It was fun to see the different projects each student presented.  Some of the projects included an electric kettle made from an old water jug, a solar oven, and a model of a city water system.  The students each presented their project for ten minutes, then received feedback from the panel of judges and the audience.

The most frustrating part of the fair was hearing the judges and teachers give such negative feedback to the students.  Mozambique doesn't seem to have a culture of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.  Feedback is extremely harsh and negative.  As an American who has been raised to always mix positive feedback with areas for improvement, it is hard for me to listen to teachers and other adults harshly criticize and insult students for their less-than-perfect projects.

For example, one student made an amazing plane out of wire, paper, and other recycled items.  He had even wired a battery into the plane so that it would move along the floor.  Instead of complimenting the student on his creative project, the judges and other teachers told him that the plane should be flying instead of moving on the floor.  They said he shouldn't have even presented the project since the plane didn't fly.  The student looked completely dejected and probably won't want to participate next year.

Next year, if I help to coordinate the fair I want to focus of fostering a culture of positive reinforcement in order to encourage students instead of only criticizing them.

This girl one first place in the 8-10th grade division by extracting DNA from a banana.

This boy won first place in the 11-12th grade division by making a gel out of soap, wax, and oil that heals wounds and prevents HIV transmission.

The two winners of the fair get to compete in the National Science Fair in Maputo.  I will travel there with the two students on September 17th.  It is an amazing opportunity for these students who have probably never left the province.  I'm happy to be a part of this program and look forward to seeing the projects of the students from other provinces at the national fair.

Setting up for the fair

Opening remarks

There were about 60 people present at the fair

Solar oven