Students show off their science projects at the Steven Tito Academy, Tanzania

By Lauren George, Steven Tito Academy.

Our Standard 4 and 5 students have been working on an exciting project with scientist Dr Lena Lorenz, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Our students were asked to brainstorm answers to the following questions:

  • What makes you happy and healthy?
  • What makes you sick?

For the next few weeks students explored the answer to these questions through photography, video and posters. At the end of the project the students presented their work to their parents at our first ever Science Exhibition.

In Tanzania there are many health issues such as dirty drinking water, malaria, and poor nutrition that affect the lives of our students and families. It was interesting to see which issues the students felt most affected their health, in a positive or negative way.

The standard 4 and 5 students were joined by our standard 1/2 class to listen to some scientists from the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Bagamoyo. The scientists spoke to our students about sanitation, water filters (made by a Tanzanian organisation MSABI), malaria and how science is used in many different jobs. The students had a lot of great questions in all areas of science including how planes work, which gases are in the air and why dissecting animals is important in biology.

Each student took a camera home and took photographs to answer the two research questions. The students then explained how the photo answered the question. (Some of the students’ photos can be seen in the gallery below).

The students were very proud to show their friends and family their science projects. Our visitors had a lot of questions and were very grateful to their children for sharing their hard work with them. We also had some scientists from IHI visiting on the day of the exhibition who enjoyed viewing the student work.

We hope some of our junior students will take part in a similar science project in the future. We are also thinking of different topics in science and other subjects that the students can explore in a similar way using cameras, art and story telling. The teachers at STA have also taken on board the feedback from the project and are already thinking about what areas of science students need more support in and ways that they can engage students more in science.

Dr Lorenz, who collaborated on the project with the school, said:

“Working with the students and teachers was a great and eye-opening experience for me. It felt like a journey; from the introduction of the project and my uncertainty of the uptake of it, to the children’s engagement both with the subject (health and sickness) and the different modes of delivery (paintings, stories, photos and videos), culminating in the scientist visits and exhibition at the school.

“The curiosity on the children’s faces when they listened to scientists talk about their daily jobs, the clever questions that arose during all sessions, and the enthusiasm with which they described their own ideas to their parents, peers and teachers showed that this project had genuinely enriched their experience. It was fascinating to see the children’s communities through their eyes, and to understand what they picked out to be safe and dangerous environments.

“What I really enjoyed was the two-way dialogue and benefits that this project created. By listening to the students’ ideas, thoughts and dreams, we can learn a lot to improve public health communication and education. By opening doors to ‘real’ science, students’ confidence in themselves and their realistic future as potential scientists increases. From speaking to the teachers and some parents, I think that this project has potential to be repeated with further classes but could even be expanded within the same year group with more specific subject themes and tasks that allow a more in-depth investigation of important public health matters, as identified by the children.”

Lesson Ideas for teachers from the Steven Tito Academy

Teachers can create their own science project exploring public health issues.

  • Get students to brainstorm the following questions (using a mindmap or other graphic organiser: What makes you happy and healthy? and What makes you sick?
  • Encourage students to explore the answers to these questions using cameras. Have each students select one or two photographs to enlarge for an exhibition. Have students explain which question the photo answers and how.
  • Encourage students to explore the answers to the questions in whatever way they would like to. Students can be as creative as possible (posters, stories, paintings, models, a play).
  • Students present their work to family and friends at a science exhibition.
  • The teacher can look at the work of the students and assess what they think is important to health and illness and what they don’t think is important (by what they have and have not taken photos of, written about etc…). For example, our students as a whole thought that dirty environments, dirty water, poor nutrition and malaria were the biggest health problems they faced. Few to no students mentioned HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, vehicle accidents or cancer as health risks they face.
  • Share what you discover with us! We’d love to hear from you! Email if you’d like help setting up your science project or if you want to let us know how it went.

This project was funded by a public engagement small grant from the Departments of Disease Control & Clinical Research, and supported by the Wellcome Trust.

Read more about the small grants scheme.

The blog and photographs have been shared with the permission of the Steven Tito Academy, and are credited to Lauren George.