A couple of months ago we were approached by the Ministry of Education to support them to do a Science Fair in five rural schools near the city where our research centre is based. Considering that we have a project funded by the MRS-Foundation to do exactly that we were delighted to participate.
Working with rural schools was challenging since it was hard to know what to expect, how simple or complex should be your experiments? Which topics should you cover? Would I be able to take robots and the microscopes with me?
The first day was probably the worst as we were totally outclassed. During the first day of the Science Fair we realised that the experiments that the 6-11 years old students prepared were considerably more complex in elaboration and explanation than ours. Needless to say my students and I were totally shocked…in a good way. That day as soon as we came back I had to ask my students to prepare new experiments. As always my students stood up to the challenge and came up with a refreshed set of experiments that finally got the always expected “wow-effect”. The following days were full of excitement as we were able to witness the hard work that all those kids and teachers put to prepare their experiments.
At the end of the week we were of course totally exhausted and although I was supposed to be happy I couldn´t stop thinking that one week full of activities was not enough. If we want to make a long-lasting impact we should work with them on a constant basis, through out several generations of students. We are coming back, I know we are and hopefully we will stay with them for good.