Pueblo Science’s Rural Initiative for Science Education (RISE) in Jamaica will enrich science education in low-resource communities by showing local teachers how to incorporate new experiments. The project aims to stimulate young minds and demonstrate how practical science can be for everyday life. Teachers attending the training will be primarily from outside of Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, with collaboration with the Jamaican Ministry of Education and the University of the West Indies (UWI).
The fundraising target is $15,000 to train 100 teachers from rural regions across Jamaica on how to use inexpensive locally available materials to create science kits which coincide with the material in the local curriculum and can teach students to critically think about the environments around them. Teachers will learn to implement eight multifaceted experiments that touch upon different areas of science, which is a more sustainable model of science outreach, as these teachers and students can spread this knowledge amongst their colleagues.
Obstacles to overcome in science education: restructuring required
While not a universal trend, the majority of high school students in Jamaica show a general decline in performance in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) science subjects (biology, chemistry, physics). This has been attributed to the CSEC examination shifting from more recall-based questions to an application of knowledge and critical thinking, and a stagnant curriculum that drastically needs to be modernized.
Often, we find wealth and educational opportunities concentrated in the capital, so Pueblo Science looks to the rural communities in order to maximize benefit for the whole country. Many rural teachers are overburdened to carry out their duties effectively, especially when considering a lack of resources. Teachers themselves may not have enough exposure to world-class educational systems to best facilitate learning activities that help students understand concepts that interconnect scientific education to communities, environment, and health. In many cases, teachers may not be specialists in any field of science, though they are expected to teach physics, chemistry, and biology to students from 1st to 6th form, and more recently expected to teach as many as three sets of students in a single classroom. Coupled with insufficient governmental support, is it any surprise that they rely on learning from textbooks, focusing on recall, rather than experiential learning?
From news articles to professional and public opinions, we know Jamaicans teachers try their best despite these obstacles to encourage students to take an invested interest in science and its applications. Pueblo Science supplements the endeavour of these teachers to help develop a new generation of problem-solvers and innovators, which Jamaica needs. The teachers will travel to Kingston from remote communities across the different parishes of Jamaica, using their own money and giving up vacation time to attend our training because they believe it will help them inspire their students.
The 100 teachers that will be trained in Kingston, Jamaica will engage thousands of students per annum. Pueblo Science brought this program in 2017, which was enthusiastically received by over 110 teachers from all over Jamaica. Based on this and previous programs implemented in the Philippines, we expect the following outcomes:
- Students learn that science can be experiential, fun, and applicable to everyday life.
- Students share and teach their experiments to their friends and classmates
- Students will use what they learned in their science class into a project helping the community
- Teachers will start holding their own camps outside of their classrooms
- Teachers create their own science kits using local resources