Practical Education Network (PEN) works with teachers to design hands-on science activities based on the national curriculum. This month, we are kicking off a new phase of work starting in Accra, Ghana.
You can read a bit about the background of PEN here and here. We are a group of MIT students and alums who joined together in 2011 with a vision of sharing the MIT style “learning by doing” with others so that they could learn to design and build solutions to real problems in their lives. We are especially interested in working with those communities who seemingly have the least resources to enable such endeavors.
Over the last few years, we have written dozens of lessons, designed material kits to accompany them, and shared them with hundreds of students and dozens of teachers in Boston, San Francisco, Peru, Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania. Those solar-powered lamps, small-scale wind turbines, and saltwater batteries certainly piqued curiosity and inspiration in those students. And with a few years under our belt, we are starting to see the fruit of that in some of our students, who have chosen to go on to university and study engineering. However, two major questions arose for us: 1- how long could we continue to produce curriculum and fund shipment of materials abroad? 2- would people even use things shipped over? In the field, we began to observe many interesting science curricula collecting dust in the corner of classrooms.
I’ve just arrived in Accra to kick off our new phase of work. PEN has re-envisioned our role in this field and designed an approach of working with teachers to facilitate indigenous creation of practical science activities. We will start by working within existing educational structures: teachers have a national curriculum to follow, so we’d like to help them (and their students) experience the wonder of scientific exploration in the classrooms where they’re already meeting and through the topics that they’re already covering.
The sun, dust, and music have shown me a warm welcome to this place I last visited 3 years ago. I can’t wait to meet and work with the budding Practical Educators here.