Making Hands-On Science Available to Kids

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According to education observers, there is widespread disinterest in science from Filipino students of all school levels due to poorly developed curriculums, and lack of funds and facilities. Many school science courses are taught by instructors without a science background who often dictate theoretical content directly from textbooks. And while hands-on activities are critical for helping students understand science, most teachers are unable to transfer textbook experiments, which are often designed for fully equipped labs, to their local setting.

But thanks to the work of Dr. Mayrose Salvador, co-founder of the non-profit Pueblo Science, hand-on science activities could become a regular feature of the Philippine school curriculum. Created in 2011, Pueblo Science is based at the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre. It develops science experiment kits and provides teacher training in underprivileged communities in the Philippines so students can learn about science using locally available materials.

How did you get involved in providing science education in developing countries?
Following my science education from the University of the Philippines and the University of Toronto, I realized that many of the normal practices of my childhood rural community in the northern Philippines were detrimental to our health and the environment. For instance, if we were thirsty while in the river we would just make a small hole beside the riverbank, wait for the water to become clear and then drink from it. Stomach aches and fevers were common ailments but most instances were blamed on bad spirits that may have been encountered along the way. These practices are still very prevalent in many Philippine communities and I believe that I can help bring change, starting with better science education.

What’s been the reaction in the local communities to Pueblo Science?
Teachers are very enthusiastic about the activities that we present in the two- or three-day camps. They appreciate that the materials used to deliver hands-on activities in their classrooms are all locally available and are affordable or even free. Based on teacher reports, their students show increased interest in science every time they use our activities. Students are more engaged and are actually asking more questions, which is a great step towards a positive scientific attitude.

What initially inspired Pueblo Science?
Prof. Cynthia Goh and I started Pueblo Science because of our desire to give back and initiate positive change in remote villages of developing countries. Our other members and volunteers joined the team because of their own desire to give back, their love for science and the promise of a great travel experience. Our focus on a fun and gratifying experience for our volunteers has allowed Pueblo Science to greatly expand its members over the years. In addition to Canadian volunteers, we now have many local volunteer scientists and educators in the Philippines and other countries. These volunteers provide support in our international locations but also bring science camps to their own students

How does it feel to bring this program back home to the Philippines?
I am very thankful that I was lucky enough to get a good education. To be able to share that knowledge with the younger generation gives me hope that one day the Philippines will become a country of problem solvers who are able to understand that science, technology, innovation, and sustainability are all linked together.
What is the one message you hope participants take away from your program?
We want teachers and students to think of science as something fun and relevant to their daily lives that can be used to think outside the box to solve problems in their communities. We believe that having a better understanding of the world that surrounds us, is the single most powerful and long lasting way to make positive change in a society.

This article was published at the Impact Center newsletter