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May 24, 2018

Farmers, teachers, army-worms, and more!

Balancing chemical equations...hands-on!
Balancing chemical equations...hands-on!

Getting Ready for Term 2!

Term 1 ended in Ugandan schools in mid-April. Teachers and students are now on holiday but Yiya has been in high gear, getting all content and materials ready for Term 2!

Empowering Yiya Partner Teachers

At the end of Term 1, our team offered a week-long train-the-trainer workshop for partner teachers who were interested in further professional development opportunities from Yiya. This training was designed to build teachers' capacity to train and support other teachers in their own school and nearby schools, in project-based, active teaching in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects (STEM).

We had a full house!

Our partner teachers took turns leading parts of the workshop in order to refine their training skills, practiced giving and receiving professional feedback to colleagues after observing their methodology in action, and took part in many engineering activities over the course of the week. Some of these engineering activities were multi-lesson projects that could be implemented over an entire school term...and others were short one-off activities that teachers can fit into their syllabus when time allows.

During the training, teachers built bicycle-powered phone chargers, experimented with heat transfer by building a heat resistant enclosure for African penguins in the Entebbe Zoo, and balanced chemical equations hands-on by creating baking soda bath bombs, just to name a few highlights!

Teachers enjoyed the opportunity to build their training skills, to further develop their STEM teaching methodology, and to network with colleagues and strengthen their support community for one another. One teacher explained that Yiya is creating a network of professional teachers in Lira, in which all colleagues are dedicated to transforming science and math teaching to be hands-on and relevant to real life. Good news for our team!

Interviewing Local Farmers

The Yiya team has also been working hard behind the scenes to do the research necessary to create a high-quality, relevant, and useful curriculum unit on agricultural engineering for our teachers and students, which will be implemented in Term 2!

Our team began this research by reaching out to our partner teachers (many of whom are farmers themselves!) to discover what common challenges are facing farmers in the community, as well as to get connections to local farmers who would be willing to answer some questions from our team. We interviewed our partner teachers in addition to a number of full-time farmers in the community.

The fall army-worm, bacteria wilt, thieving monkeys, and the exorbitant cost of commercial pesticides emerged as the most common issues.

Then our team met with scientists at the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) in order to discuss our findings and explore potential technological solutions. So many technologies were debated! Low-cost greenhouses, post-harvest storage that protects crops from rotting in the heat, low-cost organic pesticides, integrated pest management strategies that leverage predator-prey relationships to control pest presence, inter-cropping...the list is almost endless!

After reviewing all these solutions and their possible curricular connections to the high school syllabus, we went BACK to farmers and our partner teachers to ask them which solution would be the most helpful for the community.

The winner is...low-cost organic pesticide!

Our team is now hard at work experimenting with different ingredients to create the most effective, lowest cost organic pesticide with the smallest environmental impact. We will keep you posted on progress!

Term 1 Impact

We have crunched the numbers from our Term 1 teacher and students surveys (given to participants at the beginning and end of each school term) and we have discovered exciting results of the program this year! 57% of our students are girls. On the baseline survey, 61% of students correctly answered the math/science question on calculating velocity ratio in the simple gear system...while on the endline, all 100% of students correctly answered this question! On the baseline, 0% of students correctly answered the math/science question on calculating velocity ratio in the complex gear system...while on the endline, 83% of students answered correctly. These are really exciting academic gains for our participating students!

Next time...

More updates on our organic pesticide prototypes and further development of the lessons in our agricultural engineering unit coming soon!

Farmer shows eggplant damaged by bacteria wilt
Farmer shows eggplant damaged by bacteria wilt
Showing how cassava mosaic disease affects roots
Showing how cassava mosaic disease affects roots
Farmer Annette gave the Yiya team a chicken!
Farmer Annette gave the Yiya team a chicken!
Eggplant with bacteria wilt
Eggplant with bacteria wilt
Small subsistence crop at a farmer's home
Small subsistence crop at a farmer's home
Teacher checking his heat resistant enclosure
Teacher checking his heat resistant enclosure
Yiya lessons must be R-E-A-L!
Yiya lessons must be R-E-A-L!
Teachers testing their circuits
Teachers testing their circuits
Feb 27, 2018

Kicking off the Ugandan school year 2018!

Building Gravity Lights!
Building Gravity Lights!

It's February and that means the end of the dry season here in Uganda...and the beginning of the school year! The Ugandan academic year begins in February, with the first of three terms. That means Yiya is officially back in schools!

We prepped for the school year with two big stakeholder workshops, both held at Days Inn, Lira:

Head Teacher Kick-Off Meeting
The first workshop was our beginning-of-the-year kick-off meeting with school leaders from our six partner schools. All schools sent their Head Teachers and Directors of Study to this meeting to give feedback on the 2017 Yiya program and to collaboratively plan with the Yiya team for 2018. These school leaders had a great workshop! We spent time envisioning what the ideal outcomes of education are, as well as how Yiya helps schools to achieve that vision for their students.

Head Teachers also shared powerful stories of impact in their schools. The Head Teacher from Rapha Girls School said the Yiya program has helped her students to imagine a wider view of possible career choices for themselves, countering the stiff societal pressures that push girls in this community to marry at very young ages and not finish even their high school education. She said the girls are all talking now about becoming scientists and engineers first, and wives later! In addition, the Head Teacher from St Katherine's Secondary School shared that one of her students had won a national engineering competition with the bike-powered phone charger that she built in her Yiya lessons! This student then traveled to Kenya with her homemade phone charger to compete at an international level! The Head Teacher brought photos of the Yiya bike that traveled with the student on the plane, and even passed around the "Checked Baggage" tags that the bike wore while airborne. This star engineering student and the Yiya bike are now Lira celebrities!

All School Leaders agreed that the Yiya program has provided big benefits in their schools to both students and teachers; they explained that the Yiya program has created an energy and excitement around high school education in Lira. Although these schools are very low-income, Head Teachers offered to contribute to the Yiya program financially to show their commitment and appreciation for having it in their schools. On their own, they pledged as a group to contribute 100,000 Ugandan shillings per school (approx $28) in Term 3 as a "school subscription" to the Yiya Inter-school Engineering Competition & Showcase that Yiya holds at the end of the school year. This is a big financial commitment from these schools, and it meant so much to our Yiya team that they volunteered this contribution.

Teacher Engineering Workshop
Two weeks after the Head Teacher meeting, we were back in Lira for our Term 1 teacher engineering workshop. We refreshed teachers on the engineering design process and came up with collaborative goals for their professional development in Term 1. We explained to teachers that Yiya's focus for 2018 is teacher professional development and empowering teachers to be the lead engineering educators in their classrooms. In 2017 Yiya staff were the lead engineering educators, with co-teaching support from school teachers...now we are hoping to turn that around and be the co-teaching supports while the teachers take the lead! Teachers were very excited about this news! They set group goals for themselves, including 100% teacher attendance at all Yiya lessons, and they committed that every teacher would be the lead engineering educator for at least 1 Yiya class in Term 1.

However, the biggest highlight of the 2-day workshop, by far, was the Gravity Lights! Generous Gravity: Engineering Gravity Lights is the mechanical engineering unit that Yiya will run in schools this term. The gravity lights use a system of gears and pulleys to leverage the kinetic energy of a slowly falling weight to rapidly spin a dynamo that generates enough power to light a lightbulb for night-time reading! The teachers experimented with different gear and pulley systems, and worked to leverage beneficial gear ratios to generate the fastest speeds from the slowly falling weights. The excitement throughout the workshop was palpable and at the end when we asked for feedback, they had only two points of critical feedback:

  1. Teachers said their Yiya workshops need to be longer so they have more time for experimenting and engineering (and networking with other likeminded teachers)!
  2. Teachers said they need us to expand the Yiya program so that all students in the 6 partner schools can participate.
    Currently, we work with 40 students per school. We assured teachers that as soon as we have the funding, we will definitely work with all students and even expand to more schools!

Term 1 Teaching
This past week the Yiya lessons officially kicked off in schools, with Yiya staff and teachers running a talkshow-style speaking panel in all Yiya classrooms, where students discussed the effects of climate change on their local community. They debated possible solutions to mitigate the effects of human activity on the environment and took questions from peers in their TV talkshow. This lesson sets the stage for the importance of the gravity lights technology. Next week students will dive into the science of gear ratios and pulley systems!

Next Steps
As the Yiya field team supports teachers in schools throughout Term 1, we are also reaching out to local farmers in Northern Uganda as we research and develop the technology for our next unit for Term 2, which will focus on Agricultural Engineering. Northern Uganda is a heavily agriculturally-based economy and both students and teachers have requested a unit in this field to support their community. More updates on our Agricultural Engineering unit coming soon!

Experimenting with gear ratios
Experimenting with gear ratios
Improving their gear system
Improving their gear system
Head Teacher discussing their vision for education
Head Teacher discussing their vision for education
Head Teachers planning for 2018 Term 1
Head Teachers planning for 2018 Term 1
The bike that traveled to Kenya!
The bike that traveled to Kenya!

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