Igniting the Joy of Science in Pokuase, Ghana

Pokuase is a dusty town that lies about an hour’s drive north of the capital city of Ghana, just off the Accra-Kumasi highway in the Amansaman District of Greater Accra. One of the main roads, filled with potholes sculpted by rain, tro-tros and taxis during the wet season, runs parallel to the yet-to-be-finished highway and forms a T-junction with the road that runs further west for about a mile through town. From there, even narrower dirt roads lead into the hills.

Each week during the two terms that Science Clubs were conducted in 2010, ninety girls in 4th grade from the St. Sylvanus Pokuase Roman Catholic School, Nii Otto Kwame III School and the Methodist School participate in one of five science clubs guided by thirteen teachers from these schools. At the end of the year, girls gathered at the Methodist School for a Celebration of Learning. Groups of SCFG girls visited different classrooms to share what they had learned with the students at the schools, generating much excitement and good cheer.

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All this is built on the foundation that a Science Club for Girls alumnae established.

Junior Mentor starts a club in Ghana

In 2006, Rachel O’Sullivan petitioned the Science Club for Girls board to bring with her a 2nd-grade Body Map curriculum and start a club in Ghana when she spent a semester abroad there during her junior year in high school. As someone who participated in Science Club for Girls since she was in kindergarten, and who advocated for the creation of the Junior Mentor program as a way for older girls to “give back”, Rachel argued convincingly of the benefit of the program and her ability to carry it out.

Alas, Rachel was assigned to work with an orphanage in Tema during her time abroad. Persuasive as she was, she could not convince the director that she can teach science and train other caretakers in addition to tending to the young children.Not to be dissuaded, Rachel connected with Women’s Trust, a microfinance organization with an education arm that operates in Pokuase. She returned late spring and worked with a teacher there to adapt the curriculum, identify sources for materials and deliver hands-on science activities to a group of 17 girls. In the subsequent session, 30 girls joined the program and more would have done had the resources been available.

Expanding the Program

In 2009, executive director Connie Chow re-connected with Women’s Trust staff members Samuel Gyabah, Abigail Mettle and Gertrude Ankrah, who had helped with the program previously. That summer, she embarked on a journey to Pokuase, and with these local colleagues’ help, invited and trained thirteen teachers from the schools named above. One workshop focused on inquiry-based pedagogy ranging from the Learning Cycle to specific questioning/facilitation techniques. The other workshop focused on the specific Sound and Light curriculum that the teachers were to deliver during the school year.

Two of the junior secondary (middle) school teachers who had more experience teaching science were selected to be the lead teachers. They facilitated monthly meetings of the teachers that allowed them to exchange best practices, share challenges and practice upcoming activities. These two teachers were also charged with finding and purchasing local sources for the materials in Accra, the capital city approximately one hour away.

The teachers found these extremely helpful, especially since they do not receive additional professional development once they begin to teach. The goal is to continue to adapt curriculum to meet teacher and students’ needs, and to serve students in grades 4-6 at these schools through the school year. The teachers are excited about the opportunity, as are the young girls!

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