My team of local life science teachers.  Plus one budding scientist.

My team of local life science teachers. Plus one budding scientist.

My housemates and I have said time and time again that the logistics of our South African assignment are tricky at best.  We are secondary school teacher trainers for eight rural schools, the closest of which is a one-hour, fifteen-minute walk along a cow path and the farthest of which is a one-hour, fifteen-minute drive on a bumpy back road.  The rides back and forth made me love the idea of a group workshop to bring my life science educators to me.

I fretted a bit about details:  picking a date and venue, providing food and transport, how involved my “supervisor” should be.  I heard a rumour of a life science cluster meeting in mid-February, so I bummed a ride with my host school teacher (also the deputy principal) to see what I could find out.  At the meeting I proposed a workshop, thinking we would settle on an Easter break date or even some time next term and maybe get the district higher-ups involved.  They decided March 7th, just us, at the most central school of the cluster.  Easy peasy.

I baked some corn muffins, gathered up my mud and construction paper DNA, and hopped in the deputy principal’s car with the trustworthy Colonel Tom in tow (because everybody should have a sidekick).

We talked about how to improve the students’ language and study skills, and when I got tired of hearing myself talk (30 minutes), we did the Mitosis Macarena (thanks, Joanna Green!).  The teachers did an excellent job acting as polymerases and amino acids in an elaborate RNA transcription/translation role play.  I even saw some light bulbs switch on. We made some play dough because, well, everybody should have play dough.  Then we busted out the mud and pop bottles to build Winogradsky columns for some long-term microbial ecology excitement.

What can I say?  Eggs are funny.

What can I say? Eggs are funny.

I am very lucky to be working with a fantastic group of teachers.  The more senior teachers have tricks up their sleeves to share with the younger ones, and the younger ones have more recent scientific and technological knowledge to share with their elders.  They are sharp, committed, and funny.  I wish they could observe each other teaching, because they all have some good techniques to share.

The Deputy Principal shows us how it's done.

The Deputy Principal shows us how it’s done.

I gave them a few hands-on activities using only locally available materials that they can share with their students.  I hope I also gave them some new approaches to creatively teach science and train their students to be better learners.

Ngiyabonga to Tom for making nucleotides and copies, keeping me organized, and providing moral support and encouragement.  Unfortunately, he didn’t make it in the photos because he took all of them.