January 23, 2014
“Our main objective is to have fun. If we accomplish fun while learning some scientific principles then we’re doing our job as educators” says Gaspard Twagirayezu, currently heading ASYV’s Science Center. The Center was founded in 2010, thanks to a generous donation by an individual donor, and is an integral part of the informal education program in the Village. There are four subject areas in the Center - biology, computers, mechanics, and electronics - that complete a mandatory two-year rotation for students in their first and second year at the Village. Older students are encouraged to continue their scientific interests through independent projects.
The objective in each subject is to work on a project that is applicable to the student’s life on a larger scale. For example in biology, students learn about the organisms that live in contaminated water and the processes involved with water purification. Students are able to look at contaminated water under a microscope and observe the bacteria. When asked how they felt about what they saw the reaction was a unanimous “ewww.” Many of ASYV’s students live in rural communities far from Rwanda’s Energy Water and Sanitation Agency’s (EWSA) supplied area of distribution. Learning about water purification methods provides students with the ability and know-how to clean their own water supply once they return to their home communities.
In the electronics lab, students use recycled cardboard boxes to design the basic layout of a house equipped with windows, doors, and room arrangements. Upon completion of their model homes, students wire them for electricity using LED lights powered by batteries. “There is a student in Senior 5 (11th grade) whose family home is lit using this technique, skills he perfected in this classroom.” says outgoing Science Center Coordinator (2012 and 2013 Village Fellow) Miki Vizner.
The Science Center provides students with a hands-on learning experience that extends far beyond the gates of the ASYV. I asked a student working on a model home how many rooms he intended to build. “Enough to always say ‘you are welcome in my home,’” he told me.
Submitted by Sasha Friedman, 2014 Village Fellow