Moving right along.

20 07 2019

The walls are going up on the structure at Our Dad Elementary School! The most challenging and expensive part, due to the quantity of cement needed, the foundation, is complete and the work looks to be quality. The building is hopefully going to be ready for the kids to move in the classroom portion by next week and the hall portion not long after that. The weather has been great so progress is quick.

Our Jinja students have been hard at work still trying to get software and learning resources installed into the Raspberry Pi computers. It’s not something any of us have done before but building a digital library for this school is an important goal we are determined to meet. It’s proving to be a significant challenge to get the old robotics software for older kits (Lego Mindstorms RCX) installed into these systems. We’ve had awesome support from staff at National Instruments and hope that we have found the solution to making full use of these kits at the tech center in Bugembe. Three furnishings for this classrooms that we spec’d out and had a local carpenter in Bugembe build are finished and being varnished as we speak! Looks like we will be able to get this facility up and running by Monday as planned! We will be then hosting a few “teacher tech training” sessions right after setup so that they know what is now available to them to support and improve their classroom teaching as well as adminstrative practices.We have had some great input and help in finding useful and appropriate resources to load the computers thanks to a director at an elementary school in Jinja, New Victory Primary School. And the diagrams, videos, articles, books and apps we have been collecting and compiling are very focused on the Ugandan curriculum content. Which is VERY rigorous in the middle and upper elementary classes.Director Ernest is very forward thinking in terms of the need for Hands-On learning for students. the example that he used was explaining how they teach about magnetism and such an abstract concept without the students ever actually seeing the magnet touching a magnet or witnessing it in action! They write about concepts, draw diagrams and even make conclusions on what happens and why in experiments & demonstrations they never actually do or see.Ernest told about how they draw circuits and learn symbols but never actually have the chance to build or create a circuit of their own and see it work. Both of these are tasks they must be able to do on the practical exam in grade 7 so that they can exit Elementary School and move on to secondary. First of all, we couldn’t believe the advanced level of content that grade 7 students learn here in Uganda especially in their science and math classes. Secondly Director Ernest absolutely agreed with him that you can’t pass a practical if you’ve never practice or touched one piece of equipment before. he gave us the chance to sit with him review curriculum and student notebooks for different grades of science and math. We had great discussions with our outreach team that came along about all the different ways that the workshop sessions that they bring to schools is so relevant and really supports student learning in a hugely valuable and needed way! They were making connections all over the place in terms of the LittleBits workshops and the VEX IQ Robotics workshops we’ve developed and been delivering all year. Littlebits are based on magnets and can so easily teach concepts of power batteries, input/output, stmulti/response and environmental responses. Plus they require you to create an actual circuit as do the VEX IQ kits. Concepts like distance, measurement, making predictions, simple machines, force, load, distance, work and energy all were great fits with the hands on VEX workshops.It was exciting to see our outreach students make all these connections and the director so in tune with the value of getting kids hands on learning experiences. As Ugandan students themselves, the outreach team already knew very well how valuable their workshops were and why they are already welcomed even with short notice and always in demand. The elementary schools here really do have nothing in the way of equipment and we can’t imagine learning or teaching full time in this situation.We left the meeting at New Victory Primary after having setup their upcoming workshops and the theme. Then back to Hackerspace to update and add to the Pi library further with our new knowledge & notes.


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