Making Snow and Poo in Uganda
Elspeth Dugdale | March 30, 2019
Just to clarify, Uganda does have its own, real snow, but at nearly 200 miles away, high up in the Rwenzori Mountains, it is much too far for a school trip. ‘But what exactly is a snowflake like?’ asked an inquisitive S1 student, during a library session.
This prompted my mouth to reply before the non-scientific brain kicked in and silenced it. My teachery self went to find a book about it (good old Dorling Kindersley) and said, ‘Let’s try and make one to have a closer look at it.’ And why not go mad and make snow and ice as well?
A few weeks later, our visitors brought out the key ingredients: a small bottle of glycerine, (exactly, who knew?), and it was nearly snowtime. Making a sample snowflake in over 30 degrees and transporting it from our freezer up to the library without it melting was challenging - and like many experiments it took several attempts. The Rock lent us magnifying glasses to examine the snowflake – it was a bit soggy, but impressive enough. One student spent the whole session licking a giant ice cube made in an empty tin can. Other students just enjoyed stirring the bowl of artificial snow.
But everyone was most fascinated by what happens to the ice when salt is added. This led to an explanation and discussion about the effect of road gritters in Europe…hard to describe here in a country of red, murram roads and melting tarmac. But we can all talk about potholes. Another 'experience' lesson – even if the library table did end up covered in melting water. A different sort of snow day.
Meanwhile in Gulu, Melissa has been taking ‘hands on’ science onto another level with her next series on the Digestive System. These extra lessons give Layibi primary classes access to topics they have to know for the primary syllabus, but these are rarely covered in enough depth, due to a lack of resources and limited teaching time. The creative, interactive approach to presenting the lessons makes them memorable, effective and very, very exciting.
Class by class, day after day, they have investigated intestines, explored and experienced the eating and digestive process from top to…. bottom (so to speak). Even the skeleton acquired a knitted digestive system of its own. And then, of course, there was some rather realistic poo made from bread and ‘various’ liquids. Rather amusingly, the local word for this is ‘cet’, pronounced ‘chet’…. not that dissimilar from another familiar term.
Needless to say, a huge amount of work by Melissa and her team goes into the design and preparation of enough materials and resources. Group sizes that can vary from 40 – 70+ children. The end result is like a ‘Horrible Science’ book brought to life - and with audience participation. At least it wasn’t 'scratch and sniff'……
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”